Thought Experiment: A post-apocalyptic Church


A good number of us are familiar with the post-apocalyptic fiction genre, in which the human race is suddenly and vastly diminished (could due to be zombies, nukes, meteors, whatever) and the survivors have to adjust to a new way of life.

So, I’ve been thinking: how would the Church be able to adjust to such a world? There would be several implications:

  1. There would be far fewer people, and even fewer priests; who would ordain new ones if there were no bishop around? And what about the vows of celibacy? Stay or go?
    1.5) How would sacraments be administered? Would it be like during the French Revolution, in which laypeople gathered and had a “dry Mass” (no Liturgy of the Eucharist without a priest)?
  2. Would efforts at evangelization be set back due to having to return to more primitive communication methods? And with that, would communication with the diocese and the Holy See be set back as well?

These are just some thoughts. Yours?

Addendum: Let’s assume that around said catastrophe, the Second Coming isn’t happening anytime soon, and this is just another event in human history.


I actually thought about this as I watched “the walking dead” series.

Think about it; a group of devout catholics following a fellowship of priests thats leading them on a crusade through the zombie infested earth to find a new promised land. What an amazing plotline. It would have been pretty awesome. Imagine the bond and trust between the group, everyone strong in faith and boosting each others morale. Still observing the “old” traditions like sunday mass and confessions. They would have such a drive just by having a purpose in life other than just surviving.

But what would the higher ups do? The pope and vatican… very interesting…

Im so glad that someone else made this thread as I would have screwed it up :rolleyes:
Looking forward to see if any interesting responses will show :popcorn:


Have you ever heard of A Canticle for Leibowitz?

:popcorn: :bible1:



This is spot on…


I can see a band of American Catholic survivalists like in the Television series making their way to a haven of Christianity. Not easy to find in America, perhaps south to Mexico. Saying Mass when they come across a mendicant Franciscan {who must have issues of doubt as in all the good plots.) Just after the Gospel they are attacked by the zombies or vampires and have to rely heavily on their massive supply of silver bullets; head shots or holy water whatever works. There would be the reflective discussions on whether zombies or vampires have souls and the rights of those bitten but not yet transformed. All from a Christian perspective.
Great Plot. The makers of Noah should have a field day.


Obviously it all depends on the details of the scenario, but I could imagine a situation in which small communities of survivors persist with little contact with each other. In some cases the community would not have a priest and so would have to do without most of the sacraments, although baptism would still be possible and I think there are provisions for marriage if no priest is available. In other places priests and even bishops may have survived and may attempt to re-establish contact with the clergy-less communities.

The Pope may head one of the surviving communities of the Church, but once he dies (or if he died in the initial catastrophe) it would be difficult if not impossible to elect another, and we would enter a sedevacantist scenario. This is the reason why in my opinion there ought to be alternate methods of electing a Pope. It is, unfortunately, really not that far-fetched that terrorists (for example) could attack the Vatican during a conclave and kill every Cardinal eligible to vote in a Papal election. There ought to be a backup plan, or a series of backup plans, for such extreme possibilities.


Sounds like somebody needs to read some Michael O’Brien (or perhaps has read too much Michael O’Brien and needs a break)


I think there are people on here who are forgetting Christ’s promise: “I will be with the Church until the end of time.”

We can be assured that we will have a valid Pope after the current one dies, and that we will never loose our bishops and priests, so that we may keep the sacraments.


I am in agreement with this. If we trust the Lord’s promise, then I consider the OP’s scenario of a post-apocalyptic Church to be farfetched.

However, a reasonable scenario may be if an epidemic or other disaster befalls a community and there is a dearth of priests for a fairly long amount of time (months or so).

Here are some possible solutions: have a deacon lead communion services (in the Latin Church) until the sacred Hosts are run out, or in the Latin or Eastern Catholic Churches, have a deacon or layperson lead prayer services such as vespers, matins, etc. A Roman Catholic deacon, I think, can preside over burial services, and if need be, a layperson.


The Church might have to bend a few rules: Allowing priests to say three Masses a day, and five Masses on Sundays and Holy Days; giving Byzantine priests faculties to say Mass; greater permission for outdoor Masses.


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