Catholic

Religion and Europe's Young Adults

5 key findings from a report to Catholic Bishops into the faith of young adults in Europe:

  1. The proportion of young adults (16-29) with no religious affiliation (‘nones’) is as high as 91% in the Czech Republic, 80% in Estonia, and 75% in Sweden. These compare to only 1% in Israel, 17% in Poland, and 25% in Lithuania. In the UK and France, the proportions are 70% and 64% respectively.
     
  2. 70% of Czech young adults – and c. 60% of Spanish, Dutch, British, and Belgian ones – ‘never’ attend religious services. Meanwhile, 80% of Czech young adults and c. 70% of Swedish, Danish, Estonian, Dutch, French and Norwegian ones ‘never’ pray.
     
  3. Catholics make up 82% of Polish, 71% of Lithuanian, 55% of Slovenian, and 54% of Irish 16-29 year-olds. In France, it is 23%; in the UK, 10%.
     
  4. Only 2% of Catholic young adults in Belgium, 3% in Hungary and Austria, 5% in Lithuania, and 6% in Germany say they attend Mass weekly. This contrasts sharply with their peers in Poland (47%), Portugal (27%), the Czech Republic (24%), and Ireland (24%). Weekly Mass attendance is 7% among French, and 17% among British, Catholic young adults.
     
  5. Only 26% of French young adults, and 21% British ones, identify as Christians. Only 7% of young adults in the UK identify as Anglicans, compared to 6% as Muslims. In France, 2% identify as Protestants, and 10% as Muslims.

download the report

How to destroy Christianity in Europe

Looking for an effective way to render the church in Europe impotent? No need for fierce persecution. Here’s the plan — give the church social recognition; turn the clergy into government employees; shower the church with money.

In 2013 the Catholic Church in Germany received almost €5.5 billion ($6.2 billion USD) via taxes levied by the government on the church’s behalf. (The Lutheran and some other Protestant churches benefit from the same arrangement.)

Here’s the result:

An unprecedentedly low number of Catholic priests in Germany are being ordained, new figures show, as a crisis appears to be engulfing the Church in that country.

Only 58 men joined the clergy in 2015….

The number of ordinations has dropped by half in the past decade: In 2005, a total of 122 diocesan priests were ordained, and five decades ago, in 1965, the number was 500. Today, there are 14,000 Catholic priests active in Germany, down from almost 20,000 in 1990.

Meanwhile, only 96 new seminarians – trainee priests – were registered in 2015, the lowest number ever. At the same time, 309 priests died, and 19 left the priesthood.

The new figures for priests being ordained are the latest element of what appears to be a crisis in the German Catholic Church. In July, it emerged that almost 200,000 Catholics left the Church in Germany last year… 

read on

The movement principle — don’t feed the ducks!

Catholic orders disappearing

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The monastic and religious orders are the foot soldiers of the Catholic faith. They are one of the most enduring and influential movements in human history.

In Australia, and the western world generally, they are in serious decline.

Numbers have halved in the last 25 years. The median age is 73. The death rate vastly outstrips the number of new members.

Many of the 161 orders of nuns, brothers and priests will be extinct within 15 years - some have only two or three members - and they have closed or transferred more than 100 hospitals, schools or aged-care facilities.

Australia has 8422 members of Catholic religious orders - 5927 women, 1611 priests and 884 brothers - down from a peak of 19,413 in 1966. Only 8 per cent are under 50, while 74 per cent are over 65 and 27 per cent are over 80.

In the 12 years to 2009, the orders recruited 401 new members, of whom three-quarters were still there last year. But 2531 members died and 483 left in the same time.

I'd be interested to know how many of the new recruits came from the global South.

Some thoughts on why the decline and how some orders are bucking the trend.

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.

Beer mat ads to recruit priests

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor Of Westminster
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor Of Westminster

According to the BBC, the number of priests is in serious decline in the UK. The Cardinal of Westminster has seen numbers of priest in his diocese slump from 850 in 1990 to 600 this year. The number is expected to decline to 470 over the next decade.

But we have a solution.

The Church is launching a recruitment campaign that will use beermats in pubs and posters on the London Underground to promote the priesthood.

If a few posters and beermats don’t fix the trend let me suggest some other ideas.

1. Look back. Find a parallel time in history when the numbers and quality of those in the priesthood and religious orders was in serious decline. 2. Learn. Look for the underlying causes of decline and the case studies that reversed the trend. Distill the enduring principles. 3. Make an innovative return to tradition. Apply the lessons in a contemporary way.

Start with the story of The Ignatius Loyola and the birth of the Jesuits. Rather than posters and beer mats he used intense prayer and reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus to call thousands into service all over the globe.

Check out Disappearing Nuns and Reappearing Nuns.

Reappearing nuns

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Despite the devastation of the last thirty or more years (see “Disappearing nuns”), there are some signs of renewal and hope for religious orders. Those signs are evident among the newer orders that have remained true to their spiritual tradition and are still making the traditional demands of religious life. Those orders are successfully recruiting new members. Both DiIanni and Wittberg have described how the thriving communities are re-establishing an emphasis on “intense community life” and “communitarian living.” Nygren and Ukeritis have found that the orders that are most healthy have reinstated monastic practices and a sense of clarity about their life and work.

Traditionally, before taking final vows, members of orders are required to successfully complete an extensive four-stage formation program. Before Vatican II, formation programs were normally conducted within the religious order, thus reinforcing its unique “charism” or unique spiritual identity and mission. However, with the declining numbers that followed Vatican II many orders moved to intercommunity formation. A characteristic of the newer and revitalised orders is that they conduct their own formation programs and thus successfully impart their unique charism to new recruits.

Dilanni has observe three aspects that characterise the religious orders that are thriving in the post Vatican II world:

1. Explicit religious goals. They are committed to Christianity as classically understood rather than a vague faith that has died the death of a thousand definitions.

2. An intense community life. They are committed to a common life and to the practices that sustain community. The founder’s values are given community expression in oft-repeated symbols and practices.

3. A passion for an explicit worldwide evangelisation. They attract young people who are willing to minister anywhere on the globe and whose priority is evangelism.

Thriving orders make high demands on their members, they hold to traditional doctrine but are innovative in method. These growing orders have made an innovative return to their tradition, interpreting and reapplying it in a fresh way. In doing so they have sought “to make their mission relevant to the surrounding culture without being a part of the culture.” In the modern and now postmodern world they have become the legitimate heirs to a religious heritage that has known decline and rebirth throughout the whole of its eighteen hundred years.

Digging deeper:

Albert Dilanni, Religious Vocations: New Signs of the Times. Review for Religious, 52 (1993), 745-63.

Roger Finke, “An Orderly Return to Tradition: Explaining Recruitment of Members into Catholic Orders”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Mar. 1997, 36:2, pp218-230.

David Nygren and Miriam Ukeritis, “Future of Religious Orders in the United States,” Origins Vol 22 number 15 (24 Sept, 1992), 271.

Patricia Wittberg, The Rise and Fall of Catholic Religious Orders: A Social Movement Perspective (Suny Series in Religion, Culture, and Society)