... A more detailed look at the situation of the Catholic Church came in another report, published this summer by the Pastoral Research Center. Over a three-decade period Mass attendance has declined by 40%, according to a summary of the report published in the Times newspaper on July 4. The report covered the period 1963-1991. Over the same period baptisms were halved, while marriages and confirmations plunged by 60%. As well, first Communions declined by 40% and the number of adult converts fell 55%. According to the Times, more recent figures, from 2004, show little improvement in the situation. Numbers going to Mass on a Sunday in 1991 in England and Wales stood at 1.3 million, declining to 960,000 in 2004. The Web site for the Catholic Church in England and Wales also publishes statistics that reveal similar trends. The number of diocesan clergy fell from 4,755 in 1981 to 3,765 in 2003. Religious-order clergy fell from 2,266 to 1,363 in the same period. The number of marriages in Catholic churches fell precipitously, from 29,337 in 1981 to 11,013 in 2003. The Web site estimated weekly Mass attendance at 915,497. Last April 10 the Telegraph newspaper published a detailed article on the situation of Catholic monasteries and convents. Citing official figures the article said that only a dozen people entered monasteries in 2004, thus continuing a decline that has persisted in recent decades. Vocations to monastic orders were 107 in 1982. By 1990 this had fallen to 52, and in 2000 only 20 entered. The total number of monks in England and Wales now stands at 1,345, many of them elderly. The situation of nuns is similar. In England and Wales their numbers stand at 1,150, and vocations continue to decline. In 1982, 100 women entered convents; by 2000 this fell to 22. In 2004 there were only seven vocations, with a slight increase to 13 in 2005. An increasing number of monasteries and convents are being sold due to the declining numbers, the Telegraph reported. In Scotland the situation is no better. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop and metropolitan of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh, has published a plan involving closing many parishes. According to a report June 11 in the newspaper Scotland on Sunday, the number of priests could halve in some areas due to parish amalgamations. The average age of priests in Scotland is now above 60 and the number of active priests in the Edinburgh Archdiocese is expected to fall from the current 63, to just 34 in a decade's time. Scotland now has just over 200,000 practicing Catholics, a decline of 20% compared with a decade ago. The Church of Scotland, commonly referred to as the Kirk, now has a bit over a half-million who attend services, down from 1.3 million in the 1960s.
I put an article on this blog about a report by the Spanish Bishops about doubts and errors, they had the courage to look at their own issues, the analysis they came up with was profoundly Christological. They realised that the central problem lay within the Church itself, because they themselves had failed to ensure that a clear image of Christ was taught by the Church in Spain.
The solution to our problems in the UK lies with our Bishops, and those who are appointed in the future. I am certain it isn't about "managing" certainly not managing decline. What would the great bishops of the past have done? St Charles Borromeo for one, would have ordered days of penance and prayer, turning the whole problem over to Christ. By doing this he would have given a sign of hope, above all that we trust in God, that we are a Christ centred community and that our very purpose is Christ.
What is happening at the moment, is managing for decline, that simply gives the sign that we are are anxious about our own future, thinking our structures have value in themselves, this is an act of gross pride. We have no right to survive as a Church unless at our very centre is Jesus Christ. What purpose is there except Him.