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May 02, 2005


John Heavrin

"to forge liturgies that will draw people in"

One shudders at what this might mean.

Perhaps a liturgy congratulating the populace on their prosperity, and on having emerged from the primitive, worshipful past would draw a nice crowd.

One shudders, but then one remembers the Pope just elected, and is confident no liturgical, or doctrinal, nonsense will be undertaken in the name of providing shinier attraction to the tepid Europeans.

Jesus foretold the narrowness of the path. Why are we surprised, let alone panicked, if almost no one follows it? Chagrined, yes...but eager to widen that path in hopes that more will skip along? Not a good idea, and not an idea that Benedict will entertain.


I'm seeing Fr. Fessio's name pop up here and there with greater frequency as I read these blogs. He sounds like a very wise man, and the Ave Maria is lucky to have him.

Has he published anything? Or does his occupation tend to occupy him? He certainly gets around the papers. I've seen him quoted so many times in the past month.

Amy- you're my hero. You were my favorite columnist at the OSV and now you're my favorite blog. Blogger. What's the correct grammar on that, I wonder?

John Heavrin

St. Benedict didn't embrace the world or congratulate it.

Horrified for his soul, he withdrew from it.

Nowadays, such a saint would probably be criticized for being insufficiently evangelical.

Benedict XVI took this saint's name, perhaps as a sign of what we're going to be required to do very soon, metaphorically at least.


There's certainly nothing wrong with evangelizing but chasing people down isn't going to work. I can imagine how the shock in Ireland of such a dramatic decline over such a short period is producing this kind of response but we who have lived with the decline far longer know that imitations of secular entertainment at Liturgy won't bring anyone back.


Anecdotal evidence supports the statistics given about Mass attendance in Ireland. I've visited Ireland 5 times, most recently in 2003, when I saw a dramatic difference in the makeup of the people attending Mass from our previous visit in 1999. On a Saturday evening Mass in a Dublin parish my children were the only kids in the entire church, and the homily was about the need to draw people back to the Church.

John Hetman

I don't pray for a world-wide catastrophe, but the secular world does even if it doesn't realize it.

There is an old pattern for so many societies that fall apart after a period of sustained prosperity. When calamities, massive tragedies, persecutions strike, churches fill up, and people become aware off just how fragile and short live really is. After recovering from these nightmares, they slip back into their old decadent ways.

We can look at the OT for a long history of how easily the Israelites left God for the comfort and the seductions of paganism. And the consequences of their desertion of the Lord.

In the history of man, after attaining prosperity and apparent security, one society after another, one empire after another collapsed. It's almost a law of physics.

Nothing lasts. Not the United States. Not the still relative prosperity of Europe. Indeed, "Heaven and earth will pass away."

The warning signs for Europe's imminent decline and destruction are already posted. But they could be flashed in neon lights and most people will ignore them...till it is too late, or almost too late.

With the horrors of the Twentieth Century having just passed, I fear the future for men who abandon God and thereby also abandon their cultures, their families, and ultimately themselves.

An empty Notre Dame Cathedral is sad. But empty souls are even sadder.


Desgraciadamente la situación de la iglesia en España es horrible, y tiende a empeorar, en mi parroquia hace 30 años havia una asistencia dominical de unas 1500 personas, ahora la asistencia es como mucho de 300 personas, lo peor es que el 90% de los asistentes tienen mas de 70 años y el resto mas de 50, los menores de 30 años son como mucho el 1 o 2%.
En el conjunto de mi ciudad la asistencia dominical es según un estudio reciente del 10% de los católicos, entre los menores de 30 años solo el 4% afirma asistir a misa mas de una vez al mes.
La situación es de muy dificil recuperación, practicamente no hay vocaciones en Catalunya donde hay 7.000.000 de habitantes del qual el 80% afirma ser católico solo hay 90 seminaristas y la edad media de los sacerdotes es de 68 años, francamente un desastre.
Rezad por nosotros y luchad para no llegar nunca a esta situación.


I'm from Europe myself and as much as I have to admit that it is true, Catholicism in Europe is struggling to say the least, I am often hurt as American sometimes tend to comment on that with some sort of self-righteous indignation ("luckily WE are much better than that").
Anyway, I am convinced that a big reason for Europe's loss of faith is not prosperity (as there is lots more emotional suffering) but the fact that most European countries had a "state church" - faith was practiced in this flag-waving club-member-type of way and in some it was combined with cruel dictatorship (Spain). That's why I shudder as well when there are American Catholics putting their faith in a political party to promote their values. That has a VERY. BAD. track record. Look at Europe. We have religous holidays made state holidays, we had religious ed in public schools. It didn't matter much whether your faith was personal, you went to church because that's what people did. That type of catholicism is empty and will die out in a matter of a few decades.
Nevertheless, there are still wonderful priests and good catholic parishes in Europe. I am actually glad it is turning into a sort of counter-cultural thing as opposed to the meaningless church herding of the past.

Tim Drake

I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again.

I'm reminded of a beautiful Sunday morning 10 years ago. My wife and I were staying with a friend near Bremen, Germany. We asked if we might go to church.

We set out on foot, walking a fair distance to go to church. From a distance, the church was quaint - a small, red-brick structure. We were told it was 900 years old and couldn't fathom having anything in our own country which could even compare.

When we reached the church, the doors were locked. Apparently, there were no Sunday services that morning.

Remember, this was 10 years ago. I wonder if the 900-year-old church is even owned by the church there today?


"Godliness begets industry, industry begets wealth, wealth begets ungodliness." I think it was John Wesley who said that, but I'm not 100% certain.

Of all the European countries I've been in, the one with the biggest turnout on normal Sundays which didn't involve weddings or confirmations was Russia. Granted, Moscow is not exactly packed with Roman Catholic churches, and if there was an Eastern Catholic church there I never found it. But it was interesting, nonetheless.


It seem as though Archbishop Martin is right when he says, "the relationship between the community and its parish has changed." What might the future of Christianity in Europe look like? I can briefly sketch two possible examples, which I'll pilfer from Grace Davie's Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (2000).

First, we can look at Communione e Liberazione. The group is obviously "conservative," without the sometimes facile optimism about modernity of earlier decades, but it has no intention of turning its back on the world - it is constantly looking for new modes of insertion into modernity. And its negotiations and confrontations with modernity thus take characteristically "modern" forms in the settings of the university world and political life, often using the mass media and the publishing world. The moral authority of the group comes from the charismatic nature of its leadership, not the legal structure of the hierarchy, or, for that matter, the bureaucracy of a state church. The concerns of the group are less institutional than focused on the development of a personal spirituality that can deal with the pressure of modern life; there is also an emphasis on a constantly reaffirmed sense of community.

Then, there is the Thomas Mass, originally celebrated by the Finnish Lutheran Church in Helsinki. Designed as a Mass for doubters, it incorporates traditional elements, including the celebration of the Eucharist and requests for intercessory prayer, with less traditional emphases. Recognizing, perhaps, that Christianity in post-Christian Europe is self-consciously chosen, the Mass, which can last for over two hours, allows more time for freedom of maneuver within its celebration, including "free" times when an individual can choose to participate in various group activities or even light a candle by herself. It also places emphasis on the *creation* of community through the singing together of Taize chants or other such music, and the sharing of the sign of peace. Lastly, the Mass hopes to help the perhaps half-believing attenders develop a spirituality; thus, instead of the Lutheran focus on the spoken word, the Thomas Mass has a great deal of silence and contemplation.

Just some ideas ...




I have to say though that there may be pockets of "resistance". I've been in Nuremberg last November and was gladly surprised when I got into the centenary St. Claire's on a Friday evening to find the small church packed for Mass. Most of the people were young and the priest had 2 young male aides (I couldn't tell if they were ordainedor not).

Of course it might have been a special occasion, which I wouldn't be able to tell for I don't speak German. But the sight of about 200 people attending Mass did impress me, blessed be God.


Let me throw this into the mix...

How does one account for the rapidly growing evangelical Churches in the U.S? We have all this "prosperity" here in the U.S. and they don't seem to have a problem attracting members. Many of these churches have great difficulty "planting" themselves or prospering in Europe 'cause they're almost "outlawed." Only mainline Christian churches are allowed, almost "sanctioned" by the State, as noted by Dinka above.

It's more than wealth and prosperity, folks. I think another part of it is meeting people's needs DIRECTLY. A lovely Latin mass ain't gonna bring back the lapsed. The parish needs to be more than an attractive Sunday liturgy.

The Catholic Church in the U.S. (and in Europe and now in Latin and South America) is being challenged by these evangelical Churches that meet direct needs. We're bleeding in Latin America. Bleeding...

Does PBXVI sees it which is why you're hearing him "preach" ecumenism so much?

Just some thoughts...


It won't be long before all those empty, old churches will be refitted as mosques.

Saint Benedict, pray for us!

Zhou De-Ming

Q: Where and when did the Church begin? (Hint: Pentecost).
A: Jerusalem, approx. AD 30.

Q: What happend to the place?
A: God used the Roman army to flatten the place, approx AD 70.

Q: What happened ot the Church?
A: Spread and grew all over the "known" world, in every direction.

Fast forward 1900 or so years. The Church is withering in Western Europe. What about other places?

Korea: "In 1978, the year of Cardinal Woityła’s election there were 1,160,000 Catholics in South Korea; now, there are more than 4,000,000." At the Mass for Benedict XVI in Seoul, "The Cathedral was packed with the faithful; those who could not be inside followed the function from a giant screen placed outside the building."

Hong Kong: Trappist Abbey, since 1999, with second Chinese abbot installed Jan 2005. “Monastic life is important to our church life,” Bishop Zen said.

Brunei. First bishop appointed February 2005.

Cambodia. Baptisms at Easter vigil: In Cambodia’s three ecclesiastical jurisdictions 174 catechumens are getting ready to be baptised on Eastern Sunday. Most of them are young and represent a sign of vitality and hope for Christianity in a country that experienced Communist persecution under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

Laos: Catholics celebrate Easter in new church: It is the first church built in this part of the country since its fall to Communist insurgents in 1975.

Thailand: First Thai Cardinal voted in conclave.


Perhaps in this millenium Europe is to have another "dark ages," and the Light of Life will shine more brighly in other parts of the world.

Of course, even in the dark ages the monasteries and cathedrals of Europe were intentional, serious centers of Christian life. As someone mentioned, it may be the communities of "movements" that keep the lights on in Europe, rathar than the general population. It is "cultural" or "easy" or "default" Catholicism that is dying in Europe, or losing to evangelicals in Latin America. "Non-practicing" is going to be a "non-starter."

John Hetman

The Catholic Church has been meeting both the spiritual and material needs of people for two milennia. It is the premier organization in the world for meeting needs. And it was the creator of just about every charitable institution in the wodern world.

Those who took away from Vatican Two the mistaken notion that we needed to keep up with the modern world rather than preaching Christ crucified and Christ resurrected, left us with the same tepid teachings that permeate the dying mainstream Protestant groups.

Having a Latin mass may indeed NOT fill up the churches gain, but having priests who know how and what to preach might be a good first step. People go to church to feed a deep spiritual hunger. If that is not being done in the Catholic churches which they attend, they will look elsewhere--to Evangelicals or to brunch with the New York Times and the ballet afterwards.

Donald R. McClarey

I think with Pope Benedict the re-Christianization of Europe will begin, and he will call upon the faithful in Africa and Asia to help in this task. The seeds of revival are already present for the workers to plant.

Sydney Carton

John: "There is an old pattern for so many societies that fall apart after a period of sustained prosperity. When calamities, massive tragedies, persecutions strike, churches fill up, and people become aware off just how fragile and short live really is. After recovering from these nightmares, they slip back into their old decadent ways."

You just described September 12, 2001 through October 12, 2001.

Rod Dreher

Tim Drake: Remember, this was 10 years ago. I wonder if the 900-year-old church is even owned by the church there today?

Julie and I went to Portugal for our honeymoon, in part to make a pilgrimage to Fatima. The first part of our honeymoon we spent in the Algarve, on the southern coast. We planned to spend an entire day in Tavira, known as the "city of churches" (there were something like 25 or 30, an extraordinary number of a municipality of its size).

So we visited, hoping to see some churches. Every single church except for one was padlocked. It was astonishing.

We went to Sunday mass at a tiny parish near the little fishing village where we were staying. There was a faithful remnant of grey-haired Portuguese there. They looked at us youngsters like we were space aliens. It was so very sad. This was a tourist area, so it wasn't like they were unused to seeing foreigners. It was the fact that we were young, and at Sunday mass, that shocked them.

John Hetman: Having a Latin mass may indeed NOT fill up the churches gain, but having priests who know how and what to preach might be a good first step. People go to church to feed a deep spiritual hunger. If that is not being done in the Catholic churches which they attend, they will look elsewhere--to Evangelicals or to brunch with the New York Times and the ballet afterwards.

Well, I agree entirely, and let me add, and underline, that lecturing Catholics who are starving for authentic spirituality and fidelity to Church teaching that maintaining their relationship with the Roman church in a "legal" sense is more important than whether or not they actually encounter Christianity there is not going to work for a lot of people. A lot of dissatisfied Catholics are going to look around and see that their Evangelical neighbors seem to have a much more active and fruitful and meaningful relationship with Christ, and wonder why they don't see that in their parish. And they might then reflect on the possibility that it has to do with being leaderless -- with having spiritual leadership that instead of offering the Gospel, runs the parish with this attitude:

Welcome to the world of St. Gerard Majella! We're a happy world. We're an always smiling world. We're a caring world. St. Gerard is a work in progress for its own sake and for people like you. We're a community of some of the nicest people you could ever meet - all of us moving along the journey of life together. Sure we stagger and stumble at times but we, more significantly help each other to get up, brush ourselves off and get back on the road with our eyes on the prize. If you're searching why not give us a try. You'll be glad you did.

Your friend,
Fr. Mac - The proud Pastor of St. Gerard's

That is the "welcome" message from the website of a church in the Archd of Boston. Where is Jesus in that? Do you think any young men are likely to see that kind of Stuart Smalley nonsense and want to take up their cross and follow Him in the ordained ministry?

To be clear, going Evangelical is not an option for me. But for people who aren't as well-catechized or as convicted about the necessity for apostolicity and sacraments, it will seem a lot more compelling. A good friend of mine left the Greek Orthodoxy of his youth when he was in college, and is not a committed Evangelical. As he tells me today, "The church I came out of was dead. For me, I could have the living Christ, or I could have the dead church. I wanted Jesus. I needed Jesus. I knew I wasn't going to encounter him in any meaningful way in the Orthodox Church."

I've talked to him about Jesus in the Sacraments, but it doesn't make a difference. All he knows is he now worships with people for whom having a living relationship with Christ means everything. They're not going through the motions.

I think that far too many priests and bishops simply don't believe in Jesus. I mean, they have lost faith in the power of the Catholic faith, really lived, to change lives, and to attract people to it. It kind of reminds me of the business I'm in, journalism. News executives are always looking for the next gimmick to bring readers back or attract new readers; meanwhile, they forget to serve the readers who have been faithful to the printed word. There might be something to be said for this strategy, if we were attracting new readers, but we aren't.

Anyway, nobody goes to Hell for not subscribing to the newspaper.

RP Burke

An old rule of thumb:

Two things bring people to church, good music and good preaching.

This doesn't mean pandering pop-style music and feel-good preaching.


" faith was practiced in this flag-waving club-member-type of way and in some it was combined with cruel dictatorship (Spain)."

I think that's the main reason. Expanding on that, perhaps when membership in the club is mandatory, it's just not valued. Or worse, considered another oppressive requirement in a land of any number of oppressive institutions, i.e. Europe.

Rod Dreher

I think that's the main reason. Expanding on that, perhaps when membership in the club is mandatory, it's just not valued. Or worse, considered another oppressive requirement in a land of any number of oppressive institutions, i.e. Europe.

Kierkegaard said that when everybody is a Christian, Christianity therefore ceases to exist.

Tim Drake

Rod: I appreciate your friend's honesty regarding a "dead" Church vs. a "living" one. Every one of us can identify those particular local parishes around us that are either living or dying.

I'm able to tolerate a lot liturgically, but I want my children to be fed. I don't take the place where they will receive the majority of their sacraments lightly. I want it to be a place of life, not of death. They're confronted by enough death in the culture at large...every time someone at the grocery store asks, "Are they ALL yours?" or "Do you run a day care?" It's amazing the rapidity with which we've embraced a culture of death - one generation.

So, in looking at our local parishes, we do our best to find a place that is alive - where we and our children may be fed by the living Word of God, the example of other holy men and women, and by Our Eucharistic Lord. In some locales I imagine that such a Church is hard to find. We Catholics, right or wrong, Church-shop in our own way. I know faithful Catholics who travel as far as 30-50 miles to find a place they feel will sustain them. Given the happy-slappy drivel of the Boston church you cite, Rod, it's not surprising that folks feel forced to either jump ship completely, or travel great distances to practice their faith.

Let the reform of the Reform begin!

John Prangley

Being one of the grey haired Europeans who still go to Mass, and therefore having lived through the times when far greater numbers used to attend, I can only point to one glaring explanation for the increasing defection. It started with the blow that Humanae Vitae was to the Church's credibility among the young in the 60s and the generations which followed. Until then Vatican 2 had been an inspiration to many of these same people. The Church seemed to be regaining an intellectual and spiritual leadership, and there was a great surge of hope and optimism. Many people were gravely disappointed, and not just for selfish reasons. I think that that encyclical is the elephant in the room that no-one alludes to when they seek explanations for the decline of the Catholic Church in the West. Evangelicals do not, I believe, have the same problems.....

Zhou De-Ming

Dear John Prangley,

Glad to hear you still go to Mass. I asked a question of you on April 29 following your comments on another thread. Perhaps you could answer?
Dear John Prangley of Europe,

Are you the same John Prangley who "said he was ashamed to be Catholic," as reported 17 November 1999, in regard to the closing of a certain school?

Just wondering.

Posted by: Zhou De-Ming at April 29, 2005 02:16 PM

Sr Lorraine

Europe is losing its Christian faith because it has lost its Christian culture. Faith on a large scale can't be maintained without a culture that supports that faith. There will always be the faithful remnant who will tenaciously live their faith no matter what. But not the majority. They follow the culture. That's why it is so important to foster Christian elements of culture. It's why John Paul was so concerned about the proposed European constitution that did not even allow Christianity to be mentioned as a formative force in Europe.
People maybe spend one hour in church, even if they go to Mass every week. How many hours of TV do they watch each week, absorbing the media culture that is often at odds with Christian values? That's the real problem.

Zhou De-Ming

Further to John Prangley,

In that thread on April 29 "What it Means," I wrote:

The period from the cry of "Aggiornamento!" on January 25, 1959, to the crying over "Humanae Vitae" July 25, 1968 (9 years, 6 months) is, I believe, the "incubation period" for the current Catholic Church in America. After that, a lot of folks just took a walk. Many of those that stayed, decided to re-form the church in their own image.

You seem to indicate that the same might apply to the UK, and maybe other parts of Europe.

I am certainly not ignorant of, nor afraid of "Humanane Vitae." Also, at least in the US, more evangelicals are beginning to see the wisdom and spirituality of "Humanae Vitae." For example:

"For more than three decades, Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics have been waging war on the practice of abortion. Evidence indicates the war is being won." (Agape Press, Jan 19, 2004)

"Few realize it today, but before 1930 all Christian churches opposed contraception as an unnatural and thus impermissible interference with God’s design for human sexuality.
That changed when, at their 1930 Lambeth Conference, Anglicans began permitting the use of contraception on a limited basis; .... In recent years, as the prolife mindset has grown strong in Evangelical circles, some are even reconsidering the issue of contraception and are rejecting the contraceptive mindset. In doing so, they are returning to the historic position of Christianity and the position of their own Protestant forebears." (This Rock, April 1977)

"A growing number of evangelicals are rethinking the issue-and facing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies. Several developments contributed to this reconsideration, but the most important of these is the abortion revolution." (Contraception: A Symposiom, reported in First Things, 1998.

I really don't think you can say that "Humanae Vitae" is the great blow to the Church's credibility, a great disappointment, and the Evangelicals don't have "a problem." From the "First Things" article above:

Thus, in an ironic turn, American evangelicals are rethinking birth control even as a majority of the nation's Roman Catholics indicate a rejection of their Church's teaching. In this light, a new evangelical assessment of Humanae Vitae is in order, and its thirtieth anniversary is an opportune moment.

Best regards,

Dave Mueller

Why was Humanae Vitae a blow to the Church's credibility?

Wouldn't it, rather, have been a fatal blow to the Church's credibility if the Church had suddenly reversed Her constant teaching on artificial contraception?

By the time HV actually came out, people, having already antipicated the allowance of contraception in advance, were using it, had become slaves to the sin and other sexual sins, and were no longer willing to hear the truth. THAT'S the truth of it.

There is no credibility issue here. The Church remained constant in Her teaching. The problem was an administrative one in that it was stupid to have a publicly known commission, which falsely raised hopes of people who wanted to capitulate to the sexual revolution. See the following article for more details:


Chris Sullivan

Rod: We have a friend just like yours. Raised Catholic. Never found Christ in the Catholic Church. Left and found Christ in a Baptist Church. I just rejoice that she found Christ.

Many left the Catholic Church because they never found Christ in it. They simply found an institution with rules and dogmas and rulers.

Rod writes :-

I think that far too many priests and bishops simply don't believe in Jesus. I mean, they have lost faith in the power of the Catholic faith, really lived, to change lives, and to attract people to it.

I'd be very careful about projecting ones frustration with certain actions of certain priests and bishops into an assesment that their interior life has been snuffed out.

God Bless


The problem as I see it is that the Bishops and the hierarchy just don't admit that the for intents and purposed the Church in Europe (Western and Central) anyway is dead, dead, D-E-A-D and that instead of "saving it", they should be re-evangelizing it, proclaim it "mission territory", break down the hundreds of dioceses in Western Europe since the numbers don't support it. Stop giving the Europeans (even the Italians) all the red hats and curial jobs (why does France have more Cardinals than the Phillipines?). Basically Rome and the rest of the Church should treat Europe as they did American in the 1800s and Africa in the 1900s instead of trying to reclaim a lost Christendom that will never be again.


The problem with the Church in Europe is that it has become a welfare Church dependent on the state for resources. European countries subsidize the Church with tax money. The church no longer needs a faithful, vibrant message to attract members and money.


Simply to sit around decrying the state of European belief is to ignore some of the very real problems. For example, one major reason why the Church in Ireland has all but died out is that they were involved in huge sex abuse scandals. However, what made it even more damning than in America was that they were in government-sponsored orphanages, not the sons and daughters of believers. There've been other entanglements with the govt and other scandals, and Ireland has tossed the Church in favor of what seems to them to be the modern and progressive way of mainland Europe - embraced it so well that their economy and standard of living surpasses most if not all of Europe at this point. Of course, to me it seemed like crass materialism when I visited, but I never had to live in poverty.


Rod: as it happens, I was at a funeral Mass in St. Gerard Majella in Canton, Ma. last month. Let's just say I am thankful my own funeral Mass will not be there. Very sad, very watered down as witnessed by each of the five senses (lent = no holy water fulfilled the tactile sense). Pretty representative of a lot of parishes 'round here. Not much to challenge a soul. Not much tradition. Not much to keep a kid filled with the awe of God after he turns of age.

Among my parents, sibs, aunts and uncles, cousins and distant cousins, not one of those baptized Catholics attend Mass beyond maybe Christmas and Easter. Too many fast changes for the older ones (shook their faith), too little catechisis beyond being a 'good' person amongst the younger ones (faith and justice faith requires being nice and kind) who are now raising their own kids (who are not brought to Mass).

Joseph D'Hippolito

Rod and dinka have made the most sense. Rod says that the Church has leaders who no longer truly believe the Gospel (if they even know what it is); dinka attributes decline to the link of institutionalized Christianity to the state in the form of an established church (European Protestants also have this problem).

Perhaps the ultimate problem can be best put thus: The Church no longer effectively preaches Christ crucified, resurrected and ascended. How many Catholics -- including some of the most devout bloggers -- really know what the Gospel is? How many really know what it entails? How many realize that the Mosaic Law (which so many contemporary Christians ignore) expresses the fundamental truths about atonement and redemption that Christ fulfilled?

For too many devout Catholics, faith consists of liturgy alone, sacraments alone, and a blind adherence to papal authority. Now, I'm not criticizing the sacraments or liturgy. But there's a balance between Word and Sacrament. If the Protestants overemphacize the former to the near-exclusion of the latter, Catholics do the complete opposite.

Where are the Bible studies in our parishes and dioceses? Where are the courses on Aquinas, Augustine and other theological giants? Where are the attempts to engage the faithful in a manner that doesn't insult their intelligence?

The answer is obvious. Our priests and bishops are more interested in adhering to intellectual and sociological fashion, and in fostering blind deference than in the Gospel. The late rock star of a pope was more interested in promoting his own theological and geopolitical agenda than in the Gospel. Don't believe me? Then why are Europe's Catholic churches nearly empty after one of the most popular papacies on record?

You can only spew cant against "materialism" for so long. You can only get away with mediocre (at best) homiletics for so long. You can only foist guilt trips on the faithful. You can only get away with superficial sentimentality for only so long.

The question isn't why is European Catholicism deteriorating now. The question is why it hadn't deteriorated earlier.

Perhaps it had and nobody wanted to notice because the shell looked so pretty.

Joseph D'Hippolito

I should have said in the last post, "You can foist guilt trips on the faithful for only so long."


"Europe is losing its Christian faith because it has lost its Christian culture. Faith on a large scale can't be maintained without a culture that supports that faith."

Sister is absolutely right. My grandparents were raised in the "state supported" churches and maintained a vital, living faith that found them at Church every Sunday and informed how they lived their lives. They were raised in an era in which the wider culture was very supportive of their faith. They passed that faith on to their children, my parents, who in turn nutured it in my sister and me.

To say that Catholics can't find Christ in the Catholic Church is ludicrous. I've said it before and I'll say it again, until parents take a more active role in the formation of their children's faith instead of leaving it to any institution to foster (and witness Rod Dreher and Tim Drake, who obviously take their responsibility to be the domestic church very seriously) we will continue to have generations of poorly formed Catholics.

I'd be the last to disagree that the hierarchy needs to do a better job these days. But the primary responsibility for faith formation still lies with parents. We have too many poorly catechized Catholic parents who need to develop their relationship with Christ first before their children can "catch" the faith.


"How many realize that the Mosaic Law (which so many contemporary Christians ignore) expresses the fundamental truths about atonement and redemption that Christ fulfilled?"

The Mosaic law is essentially fulfilled every time the Eucharist is celebrated, Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

Evangelicals are very fond of the Old Testament's precepts. The New Testament calls us to the much more difficult -- and higher -- living of the Beatitudes.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Christine, if Evangelicals are very fond of the OT's precepts, perhaps it's because they realize that the OT is just as divinely inspired as the NT. Neither contradicts the other; besides, Jesus Himself said that neither jot nor tittle of the law shall pass away.

Your view mirrors the contemporary Catholic contempt for all things OT.

Also, perhaps Evangelicals have such a fondness because they're generally more biblically literate than most Catholics.

Moreover, if your grandparents' faith was ultimately based on state support for and cultural reinforcement of Catholicism, how strong would it be if it didn't have those supports?

John Prangley

For those of you who refuse to accept the theory that Humanae Vitae was a blow to the Church's credibility at least in Britain, I recommend that you read David Lodge's book, entitled in the UK, 'How far can you go?' There were reports from all over the English speaking world that the book encapsulated and mirrored the experience and feelings of so many people at the time. As a teacher I saw how Humane Vitae did not impress convince or persuade and how suddenly the numbers of children appearing in the Catholic system fell as a result of mass disobedience which for many was the start of their lapsation. It is a widely held perception that the Church lost credibility. You may not like it, but it happened.

Dave Mueller

John P.,
Baloney. Hardly anyone actually even read HV. They just heard from the media that the answer was "no", and then went and had a tantrum.

Anyway, as Catholics, we don't believe the truths taught by the Magisterium because they successfully impress or persuade us. We believe them because we have the guarantee of Christ that the teaching will be protected.

Thus, Paul VI may have given the stupidest illogical reasons ever in support of the teaching, but the teaching itself would still be protected from error. Note that I don't think the reasons were stupid, but that is not, ultimately, why we believe it.


Joseph --

One set of grandparents were Catholic. The other set were Lutheran. Their faith was based on Jesus Christ, not the state or the fact that the Church received financial support from the government. My maternal grandmother was one of the kindest, most charitable Christian people to have ever graced this earth. Her Christian joy was evident in every day of her life.

I won't even bother to address your comments on the Old Testament and the New. I've been nourished in my upbringing by the writings of the finest Biblical scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, that the Church has ever produced. You are entitled to your opinion. As for Evangelicals being more Biblically literate, knowing what verse and chapter to quote doesn't automatically bring Biblical literacy.


Dave Mueller,
You may well be right that many did not read the whole of Humanae Vitae, but it would take more than newspapers to persuade those genuinely conscience-bound, as many were. I do not know about any tantrums.
Paul the 6th was careful not to make the teaching a matter of infallibility and many Bishops and priests at the time acknowledged that fact.
People do need to have reasons for belief and obedience if a matter is not infallible.
John Paul the second discouraged the use of violence even against the nazis. As he grew older his teaching on the evils of war became more and more heartfelt. I am very drawn to his teaching about non-violence as I believe it is far closer to that of the Jesus of the Gospels than the development of a laxer teaching in later centuries. It is clear from earlier postings that JP's teaching is considered by many to be not only non-infallible but downright wrong. That is perfectly permissible.

Zhou De-Ming

Dear John Prangley,

Your mention "those genuinely conscience-bound."

May I ask, "bound by what?" By Scripture? By Tradition? By moral law? By ecclesial law? By natural law? By love of God? By love of neighbor?

By what where those consciences genuinely bound?


Just to dispell some rumours:
Evangelical churches are not "almost outlawed" in Europe. Their situation, as regards to legal matters, is just the same as in the US. Yes, mainline churches are supported (sanctioned, I guess, is the wrong word) in some countries in various ways, but that is the main difference to the US, not that Evangelicals are outlawed.

They are just much smaller and Only mainline Christian churches are allowed, almost "sanctioned" by the State, as noted by Dinka above


please ignore the last paragraph, I forgot to remove it.


Dear John Prangley,

though HV is not infallible definition (few things are), it is authoritive nonetheless.

"People do need to have reasons for belief and obedience if a matter is not infallible."

Yes, people do need reasons, but even if a matter is infallibly defined. Do you think those critical of HV would have cheered it, if it had been "infallibly defined"?

(Though it probably would have helped to be less apoligetic about it, less emphasizing its not being infallible. This line of thinking has bred the view that everything not "infallibly defined" is optional.)

But HV was a bit of a shock to the church-society relationship. It was the end of the honeymoon of both the post-war period and the Council.

During and after the Council the Church was generally applauded for the reforms taken and many developed the view that everything will be fine from now on (a la "everlasting progress") and there will be no more conflict between the church and society at large.

HV ended this honeymoon and this also coincided with the fact, that 15 or 20 years after the war people were now adjusting to the newly won prosperity and thought the church to be less important - in sharp contrast to the years immediately after the war.

Also HV, I think, was the first unread encyclical. Not that they were read that much before, but since HV, at least in Germany, papal pronouncements are discussed a.k.a. dismissed without actually reading them completely. It happened with Dominus Iesus in 2000 and with "Women document" last year. The media opposed to the church has done a good job of deafening the ears of prospective listeners.

Dave Mueller

I am curious about HV being described as "non-infallible"....well, yes, but that misses the whole point. If Benedict XVI issued an encyclical stating that suicide was wrong, but did not phrase it infallibly, does this mean we can dissent?

Absolutely not ON TWO ACCOUNTS:
1) Lumen Gentium 25 states that we owe religious assent even to non-infallible Papal teachings. "In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will."

2) Many doctrines, such as the evils of contraception and suicide, have been consistently taught since the beginning of the Church. Thus, it is extremely likely that both of these doctrines ARE infallible under the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, even though perhaps not taught infallibly in any one document.

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