The Economist: The Fate Of Catholic Europe


“On closer inspection French Catholicism is not dead, but it is splintering to the point where the centre barely holds. The brightest flickers are on the fringes: individuals like Abbé Pierre, founder of the Emmaus movement for the homeless; “charismatics” whose style draws on Pentecostalism, and traditionalists who love Latin rites and processions. Meanwhile, the church’s relatively liberal mainstream is almost in free fall. As conservatives like Abbé Francis see it, it is largely the liberals’ own fault: “They keep selling and closing properties, while we [traditionalists] are busy building and restoring.””

“But in many European places where Catholicism remained all-powerful until say, 1960, the church is losing whatever remains of its grip on society at an accelerating pace. The drop in active adherence to, and knowledge of, Christianity is a long-running and gentle trend; but the hollowing out of church structures—parishes, monasteries, schools, universities, charities—is more dramatic. That is the backdrop against which the paedophile scandal, now raging across Europe after its explosion in the United States, has to be understood.”

But Italians are less pious than they pretend. A study of central Sicily, published this year, found that only 18% of people actually went to church, although 30% said they did. And the Eurispes study of Italy found that 66% backed liberal divorce laws and 38% supported euthanasia. Only 19% favoured abortion on demand, but 65% could accept the practice in cases of rape”.

“The pope’s defenders—like Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano—would insist that Pope Benedict does believe in human freedom: he would prefer a small church of freely committed believers than a giant flock herded in by custom or constraint.”

Hat Tip:

Anecdotal, no doubt, but here in Quebec, there are two Trappist and one Benedictine men’s monasteries, in addition to one Cistercian of the Common Observance.

I know the largest of the Trappist abbeys, had to transfer to a smaller monastery due to dwindling numbers. The Benedictine, of which I am a secular Oblate, has had many new vocations in the 8 years I have been affiliated with it. This year two young monks will have made solemn, lifetime professions and there are two more to come (one is older, a converted former Anglican priest), whereas the Trappist one has only had 1 vocation in the same time, and it is an older vocation.

The difference between the Trappist and Benedictine houses? Gregorian chant. Although both are OF Masses, the Benedictine uses Gregorian chant for the Mass, Lauds and Vespers with French plainchant for Vigils, the small hours and Compline (with the Gregorian hymn though and the Gregorian antiphon to Our Lady at Compline).

My spiritual director tells me that the Benedictine houses that abandoned Gregorian chant in Europe, are starving for vocations while those that maintained it, are thriving, relatively speaking.

The traditionalist orders such as the FSSP and the Institute of Christ the King will save Catholic Europe from extinction. It is my personal belief that a return to traditional Catholic practice and discipline will save the Church in the modern world. Pope John opened the windows hoping to find fresh air. What he got was pollution and the stale stench of the culture of death. It is time for us to close the windows and return to the traditional ways. Only by doing so will the Church recover. As Catholics, we must recover our identity before we can effectively change the world for the better. Remember what Father Z often says: Save the Liturgy! Save the world!

Catholic Europe is in much trouble because they stopped having children. That is not the way to maintain a group of people.

Returning to the true faith is their only hope and that would take time of course. It is a very difficult situation and in need of God’s Mercy and Grace.

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