April 18, 2006

Church out of step with the times

A reader of the Catechism dialogue blog wrote to the editor.

"If Catholicism is not convenient as you say it is because the RC imposes ideas out of step with the present times...."
"... I suspect Americans (used to the idea of democracy) feel it's time for the people in the pew to have a say in what is decided."

I respond.

Jesus was out of step with his time.

Jesus did not give the people in the pews of his day a say in what is decided. Rather, he told them off.

On the following page (link) from the "Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate"
Catholic Numbers
you will see that since 1970 the amount of the world's population that is Catholic has stayed at 17 or 18 percent.

During the same period, the worldwide number of priests has stayed on average at about 405,773. (Meaning, among other things, that the number of priests who leave or die annually has been about the same as the number of men who receive ordination annually.)

Those two sets of statistics mean the total number of ordained priests, though somewhat stable, is a shrinking number because the number of Catholics has continued to grow with the world population.

However, the big, big news on that page of statistics is the number of "Graduate-level Seminarians" (men studying theology as candidates for priestly ordination).
In 1980: 33,731
In 1985: 43,476
In 1990: 51,603
In 1995: 54,154
In 2000: 55,968
Meaning that since 1980 the number of candidates has grown faster than the total number of Catholics. The number of candidates in the year 2000 is a growth of 165.92% over the number in the year 1980.

Now for the big, big, big news. What kind of men are choosing to be candidates for the priesthood?

In 1998, here (in the following link) is what the New York Times observed.
Orthodox Seminarians

In 2004, the Los Angeles Times (in the following link) observed the same thing.
New Breed of Priests

The reader I have quoted at the top is proposing a model of church life that the Episcopalians are already using. The results of using that model? Here (in the following link) is what the Episcopalians are reporting in their own newspaper.
Church shrinking


Blogger Laura H. said...

"God did not intend for eternal Truth to be determined by a democratic vote."

Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger

12:55 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

"The Church of England Newspaper", December 17, 2005.

US Church Shrinking

The American Church has suffered its largest decline in attendance at its services for decades, new figures have revealed.

The Church’s Office for Congregational Development reported that last year, the number of churchgoers fell by 23,623 (three per cent) to 823,017, which is double the rate of decline of the previous year. The record decline coincides with ECUSA’s decision to consecrate Canon Gene Robinson as the Anglican Church’s first practising gay bishop.

It is a loss equivalent to the size of four dioceses, as the median Average Sunday Attendance of the American Church’s domestic dioceses in 2003 was 6161. The Church has declined by nearly a third in the last three decades.

In the 1990’s the Episcopal Church saw a steady increase in attendance and in financial support from its members. From 1995 to the end of 2000, the Church grew five out of six years. In 2002, however, ASA nationwide declined by 1.4 per cent from the prior year. While parochial income grew last year, the drop in numbers is the largest since the 1970s.

In 2003 only 13 of the Church’s 100 domestic dioceses saw growth in attendance, while over the preceeding 10-year period, 45 of the US Church’s domestic dioceses grew in attendance.

One of the dioceses hardest hit by declining numbers in 2003 was New Hampshire, where Canon Robinson was installed as bishop, which saw the greatest decline in attendance of any state in the Northeast at six per cent.

The stagnation in growth was not confined to liberal dioceses, as several conservative dioceses halted their steady growth of prior years in the wake of evangelical secessions following the Robinson consecration. The diocese of Dallas, which grew 19 per cent between 1992 and 2002, declined by 2.7 per cent in 2003, while Central Florida, which grew 14 per cent in that same period, declined by 2 percent and saw three of its parishes secede to the Anglican Mission in America.

The Church’s decline in membership by almost a third in the last 30 years office lay partially in the lack of Episcopal fecundity, according to the Rev Charles Fulton of the Church’s Congregation Development. “Our growth or decline over decades has closely mirrored the birth rate,” he said. “What’s a little different is we’re not keeping our own kids in church,” he said.

The failure of Episcopalians to reproduce and replenish the Church was taking its toll Fulton stated. “Demographics tell us that new members are not going to come significantly from the Anglo population. The Gospel calls us to widen the call to all people.”

America’s largest parish is Christ Church in Plano, Texas. On an average Sunday, 1975 Episcopalians worship in the suburban Dallas parish led by Canon David Roseberry, a leader of the evangelical American Anglican Council. The median ASA across the US was 77 with 247 of America’s 7220 parishes reporting an ASA of less than 10 last year.

A rise in share prices and real estate valuations increased the total investment of American parishes by 12 per cent between 2002 and 2003 to £1.877 thousand million: a total that does not include the investments and trust funds of the National Church offices in New York City. The average pledge to the church also increased between 2002 to 2003 by 4 per cent to £932 with parochial giving rising to £641 million overall.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

The stats on seminarians are encouraging. It must be stressed, however, that the increase is confined largely to aggressively orthodox—or what the media would call "conservative"—regions and dioceses, mostly in Africa and Asia. The same is true in the U.S. The difference is that in the U.S. and other developed countries, such dioceses are the minority because such bishops are the minority. That's what needs to change.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


However, in my diocese, San Diego, there has been some "improved" awareness among the priests.

San Diego is the SECOND TO THE LAST dioces of the United States in terms of the ratio of theologate seminarians to the number of Catholics in the diocese. This has been reported now in at least two national periodicals since the first of the year.

The result is that our priests are talking, and they know, like it or not, which dioceses are vocation rich, what works and what does not. Reality is sinking in.

2:10 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Click HERE to go back to the front page of this blog.