Catholicism

Italians — not as Catholic as they used to be

 Italy may be the spiritual home of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, but a new poll shows only 50 percent of Italians consider themselves Catholic

The poll, published in the liberal daily L’Unita, challenges long-held perceptions that Italy is a ”Catholic” country, despite the popularity of Pope Francis and the historic role of the Vatican City State in the heart of Rome.

In addition to the 50 percent who consider themselves Catholic, the poll found 13 percent defined themselves as “Christian.”

Of the 1,500 respondents, 4 percent said they were Orthodox or Protestant, 2 percent were Buddhist, 1 percent were Jewish and 1 percent were Muslim.

A surprising 20 percent said they were atheist, while 8 percent said they were religiously unaffiliated.

Italy has witnessed a weakening of religious faith over the past 20 years and a growing trend toward personal spiritual inquiry.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they did not feel part of a religious community. Of those, some said they believed in destiny, horoscopes, reincarnation, Tarot readings and miracle cures.

Australia closes 1,000 churches

Istock 000002406681SmallA friend of mine received a flyer in his letterbox last year from the church across the road.

It was an invitation to church. No, it was a plea for help. The letter came from concerned members of the congregation pleading the community to “please attend their church” or they would face closure.

Twelve months later the bulldozers moved in and demolished the church building.

In 2001 there were 10,447 Protestant congregations in Australia, Between 1991 and 2001 there was a 6% decline in number of congregations resulting in a 3% decline in overall weekly attendance. If my maths are right that's a loss of 627 churches in ten years. In fact, we lost more when you factor in the number of new starts during that period.

According to the NCLS, one denomination lost a staggering 22% of it's congregations in this ten year period. That's not decline, that's disaster.

If the overall decline has continued, the number of congregations today is probably just over 10,000, with a corresponding drop in weekly attendance. That means in the last fifteen years we have lost over 1,000 churches throughout Australia. We'll know for sure when the National Church Life Survey 2006 is released.

In 2005, there were 1363 Catholic parishes in Australia. I'm not sure if that number is increasing or declining but the number of priests and membership in the Catholic orders are is serious decline: Where have all the Priests gone? My guess is the Catholic church will be reluctant to close parishes but numbers of active Catholics are in decline.

The Protestant mainline is shutting churches down and declining in regular attendance. That trend will not go away. The evangelical-pentecostal-charismatic churches are planting churches and growing but not at a fast enough rate to stem overall decline of the church in Australia.

The Emerging church is a relatively new phenomena in Australia and I'm not aware of accurate research on it's impact. We don't really know how many Emerging churches there are or how many people are actively involved. We do know that Emerging Christians love to blog.

Ruth Powell from the NCLS is currently researching the Emerging church in Australia: NCLS Seeks All Things New: new project maps fresh expressions of church

My impression so far is that most of the Emerging growth has come from migrations out of existing churches and the movement is not yet seeing significant evangelistic growth.

What's the best way to turn this reality around? Plant healthy missional churches. One thousand would be a good start. Who wants in?

Vanishing Priests

Werribee Mansion Gardens-1 Still thinking about Werribee Mansion and Catholic decline in the West. A few observations:

  1. As a movement you could be at the height of “success” but a decade away from serious decline. It's the “failure of success” syndrome.
  2. In fact, when the world changes it is the institutions with huge investments in buildings and in outmoded educational models that have the most to lose and are the last to change.
  3. The decline in numbers training for the priesthood cannot be explained by external factors alone, such as the secularism of the West. The turnaround was not gradual. It was sudden. At the same time other Christian movements were growing. There are internal factors at work. The same internal factors that are at work in the demise of Catholic religious orders in the West were impacting the recruitment and retention of priests.

Vanishing Priests

Werribee Mansion Gardens-1 Still thinking about Werribee Mansion and Catholic decline in the West. A few observations:

  1. As a movement you could be at the height of “success” but a decade away from serious decline. It's the “failure of success” syndrome.
  2. In fact, when the world changes it is the institutions with huge investments in buildings and in outmoded educational models that have the most to lose and are the last to change.
  3. The decline in numbers training for the priesthood cannot be explained by external factors alone, such as the secularism of the West. The turnaround was not gradual. It was sudden. At the same time other Christian movements were growing. There are internal factors at work. The same internal factors that are at work in the demise of Catholic religious orders in the West were impacting the recruitment and retention of priests.

Where have all the Priests gone?

Werribee Mansion Just returned from a weekend away with Michelle at the Werribee Park Mansion. A gift from friends or our 25th wedding anniversary.

It was built in the 1870s by Thomas Chirnside, a Scotsman who sold up in the mid 1800s to come to Australia and build a pastoral empire. The family motto was “Do or Die”. He did and then he died. Achieved his dream and then took his own life.

In the 1920s the estate was purchased by the Catholic church and turned into a seminary—Corpus Christi. Over the next 50 years 753 priests passed through its doors.

Each student spent eight years under Jesuit supervision training in Philosophy, Theology, Scripture, Church History and Humanities. They rose early for prayer and then studies. They ate their meals in silence and worked on the farm in the afternoons. Evenings were given over to private study in silence.

They lived a monastic existence.

At its peak the college housed 186 seminarians. When the Werribee Mansion could no longer cope with the demand, a new college was built at Glen Waverley on 70 acres to accommodate 200 students. It was opened in 1954.

In the early 1970s both the Werribee and Glen Waverley sites were sold due to collapsing student numbers. Today Corpus Christi has 36 seminarians undertaking the seven years of training required for the priesthood. They are doing a lot better than the Irish Catholic Church but still, the decline continues.

I wonder why?

Catholicism

Where have all the Priests gone?

Werribee Mansion Just returned from a weekend away with Michelle at the Werribee Park Mansion. A gift from friends or our 25th wedding anniversary.

It was built in the 1870s by Thomas Chirnside, a Scotsman who sold up in the mid 1800s to come to Australia and build a pastoral empire. The family motto was “Do or Die”. He did and then he died. Achieved his dream and then took his own life.

In the 1920s the estate was purchased by the Catholic church and turned into a seminary—Corpus Christi. Over the next 50 years 753 priests passed through its doors.

Each student spent eight years under Jesuit supervision training in Philosophy, Theology, Scripture, Church History and Humanities. They rose early for prayer and then studies. They ate their meals in silence and worked on the farm in the afternoons. Evenings were given over to private study in silence.

They lived a monastic existence.

At its peak the college housed 186 seminarians. When the Werribee Mansion could no longer cope with the demand, a new college was built at Glen Waverley on 70 acres to accommodate 200 students. It was opened in 1954.

In the early 1970s both the Werribee and Glen Waverley sites were sold due to collapsing student numbers. Today Corpus Christi has 36 seminarians undertaking the seven years of training required for the priesthood. They are doing a lot better than the Irish Catholic Church but still, the decline continues.

I wonder why?

Catholicism

Death of the Catholic church in Ireland?

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Under Patrick and the Celtic missionary movement, the Ireland once exported the monks who led the way in the conversion of Europe.

See: Can anything good come out of Ireland?

Modern Ireland is a different place today according to: The Irish Church vocations crisis. Vocations to the priesthood have collapsed and the seminaries are almost empty.

In 2003 there were nine ordinations for the whole of Ireland, eight in 2004 and eight in 2005. In 2005, for the first time in its history, the Archdiocese of Dublin, with of over 1 million people, didn't have a single candidate for ordination, and in the whole Archdiocese there was a single priest under the age of 30. In a country that once used to export thousands of priests and nuns and brothers, African and Vietnamese priests are now a familiar sight.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Dublin Archbishop, presented a paper within months of his arrival, and the title of the lecture was “Will Ireland be Christian in 2030?”

There have been the scandals that discredited the priesthood. But they are a symptom, not a cause of the decline. The only way forward is to go back. Make an innovative return to tradition. Rediscover the founding Kingdom dream that birthed the church in Ireland under Patrick and reinvent it for today.

Not just for Ireland, but for the world.