The Stark Fruits of Vatican II
By Michael Davies
(Taken from the Appendix of the Liturgical Time Bombs)
The Incredible Shrinking Church In England and Wales
The most evident characteristic of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is that it is shrinking at an incredible rate into what must be termed a state of terminal decline. The official Catholic Directory documents a steady increase in every important aspect of Catholic life until the mid-sixties: then the decline sets in. The figures for marriages and baptisms are not simply alarming, but disastrous. In 1944 there were 30,946 marriages, by 1964 the figure had risen to 45,592-----but by 1999 it had plunged to 13,814, well under half the figure for 1944. The figures for baptisms for the same years are 71,604 (1944), 137,673 (1964), and 63,158 (1999). With fewer children born to Catholic couples each year, the number of marriages must inevitably continue to decline, with even fewer children born-----and so on. Nor can it be presumed that even half the children who are baptized will be practicing their Faith by the time they reach their teens. An examination of the figures for a typical diocese indicates that less than half the children who are baptized are confirmed, and a report in The Universe as long ago as 1990 gave an estimate of only 11% of young Catholics practicing their Faith when they leave high school.
Apart from marriages and baptisms, Mass attendance is the most accurate guide to the vitality of the Catholic community. The figure has plunged from 2,114,219 in 1966 to 1,041,728 in 1999 and is still falling at a rate of about 32,000 a year.
In 1944, 178 priests were ordained; in 1964, 230; and in 1999 only 43-----and in the same year 121 priests died.
In 1985, twenty years after the Second Vatican Council, bishops from all over the world assembled in Rome to assess the impact of the Council. This gave them the opportunity to admit that their implementation of it had been disastrous, and that drastic measures must be taken to give the Faith a viable future in First World countries.
Cardinal Basil Hume of Westminster insisted, on behalf of the bishops of England and Wales, that there must be no turning back from the policies they had adopted to implement the Council. A report in The Universe of December 13, 1985 informed us that the Synod had adopted Cardinal Hume's position without a single dissenting voice. The final sentence of this report must be described as ironically prophetic: "In the meantime the people of God have a firm mandate to further Exodus along the route mapped out by the Second Vatican Council." Change the upper case "E" of Exodus to a lower case "e," exodus, and this is precisely what has happened-----and the exodus will continue until Catholicism in England and Wales vanishes into oblivion within thirty years, if not sooner. Without a Divine intervention, the "Second Spring" of the Catholic Faith in England predicted by Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) will end in the bleakest of winters.
The Incredible Shrinking Church In the United States
In March 2003 there was published in St. Louis what is certainly the most important statistical survey of the Church in the United States since Vatican II: Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II, by Kenneth C. Jones. 1 It provides meticulously documented statistics on every aspect of Catholic life subject to statistical verification, and it is illustrated with graphs which depict in a dramatic visual manner the catastrophic collapse of Catholic life in the United States since the Council. With the publication of this book, no rational person could disagree with Father Louis Bouyer that, "Unless we are blind, we must even state bluntly that what we see looks less like the hoped-for regeneration of Catholicism than its accelerated decomposition." 2
Mr. Jones has given me his permission to quote from the
introduction to his book, but before doing so, I must quote: from a news story
in the March 23, 2003 issue of the London Universe. Under the headline "En
Suite Monastery," it reports: "A former Irish Carmelite monastery is
be turned into a country-club style hotel after its sale to a property developer. The Carmelite order had shut their house in Castle Martyr, Cork, last year after 73 years because of the downfall in vocations." This is but one of thousands of similar examples of the actual, as opposed to the fantasy, fruits of Vatican II. On page 100 of Mr. Jones' book there is a graph revealing that the number of Carmelite seminarians in the United States has decreased from 545 in 1965 to 46 in 2000-----a decline of 92 percent. This figure seems positively healthy when compared with the graph on page 99, relating to the La Salette Fathers, which reveals a decline in the number of seminarians for the same period from 552 to just 1. Figures and graphs for every major religious order are set out in the book, and it would be hard to disagree with Mr. Jones that "The religious orders will soon be virtually non-existent in the United States." In the introduction to his book he writes:
When Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the Catholic Church in America was in the midst of an unprecedented period of growth. Bishops were ordaining record numbers of priests and building scores of seminaries to handle the surge in vocations. Young women by the thousands gave up lives of comfort for the austerity of the convent. These nuns taught millions of students in the huge system of parochial and private schools.
The ranks of Catholics swelled as parents brought in their babies for Baptism and adult converts flocked to the Church. Lines outside the confessionals were long, and by some estimates three quarters of the faithful went to Mass every Sunday. Given this favorable state of affairs, some Catholics wondered at the time whether an ecumenical council was opportune-----don't rock the boat, they said.
The Holy Father chided these people in his opening speech to the Council: "We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand." Forty years later the end has not arrived. But we are now facing the disaster.
Even some in the Vatican have recognized it. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: "Certainly the results [of Vatican II] seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Pope Paul VI . . . "
Since Cardinal Ratzinger made these remarks in 1984, the crisis in the Church has accelerated. In every area that is statistically verifiable-----for example, the number of priests, seminarians, priestless parishes, nuns, Mass attendance, converts and annulments-----the "process of decadence" is apparent.
I have gathered these statistics in the Index of Leading Catholic Indicators because the magnitude of the emergency is unknown to many. Beyond a vague understanding of a "vocations crisis," both the faithful and the general public have no idea how bad things have been since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Here are some of the stark facts:
Priests. After skyrocketing from about 27,000 in 1930 to 58,000 in 1965, the number of priests in the United States dropped to 45,000 in 2002. By 2020,3 there will be about 31,000 priests-----and only 15,000 will be under the age of 70. Right now there are more priests aged 80 to 84 than there 1 are aged 30 to 34.
Ordinations. In 1965 there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood, in 2002 there were 450, a decline of 350 percent. Taking into account ordinations, deaths and departures, in 1965 there was a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, there was a net loss of 810.
Priestless parishes. About 1 percent of parishes, 549, were without a resident priest in 1965. In 2002 there were 2,928 priestless parishes, about 15 percent of U.S. parishes. By 2020, a quarter of all parishes, 4,656, will have no priest.
Seminarians. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700-----a 90 percent decrease. Without any students, seminaries across the country have been sold or shuttered. There were 596 seminaries in 1965, and only 200 in 2002.
Sisters. 180,000 sisters were the backbone of the Catholic education and health systems in 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000-----and of these, only 21,000 will be aged 70 or under. In 1965, 104,000 sisters were teaching, while in 2002 there were only 8,200 teachers.
Brothers. The number of professed brothers decreased from about 12,000 in 1965 to 5,700 in 2002, with a further drop to 3,100 projected for 2020.
Religious Orders. The religious orders will soon be virtually non-existent in the United States. For example, in 1965 there were 5,277 Jesuit priests and 3,559 seminarians; in 2000 there were 3,172 priests and 38 seminarians. There were 2,534 OFM Franciscan priests and 2,251 seminarians in 1965; in 2000 there were 1,492 priests and 60 seminarians. There were 2,434 Christian Brothers in 1965 and 912 seminarians; in 2000 there were 959 Brothers and 7 seminarians. There were 1,148 Redemptorist priests in 1965 and 1,128 seminarians; in 2000 there were 349 priests and 24 seminarians. Every major religious order in the United States mirrors these statistics.
High Schools. Between 1965 and 2002 the number of diocesan high schools fell from 1,566 to 786. At the same time the number of students dropped from almost 700,000 to 386,000.
Parochial Grade Schools. There were 10,503 parochial grade schools in 1965 and 6,623 in 2002. The number of students went from 4.5 million to 1.9 million.
Sacramental Life. In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms; in 2002 there were 1 million. (In the same period the number of Catholics in the United States rose from 45 million to 65 million.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms-----converts-----in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1965 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.
Mass attendance. A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.
The decline in Mass attendance highlights another
significant fact; fewer and fewer people who call themselves Catholic
actually follow Church rules or accept Church doctrine. For example, a 1999
poll by the National Catholic Reporter shows that 77 percent believe
a person can be a
good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday, 65 percent believe good Catholics can divorce and remarry, and 53 percent believe Catholics can have abortions and remain in good standing. Only 10 percent of lay religion teachers accept Church teaching on artificial birth control, according to a 2000 University of Notre Dame poll. And a New York Times/CBS poll revealed that 70 percent of Catholics age 18-44 believe the Eucharist is merely a "symbolic reminder" of Jesus.
Given these alarming statistics and surveys, one wonders why the American bishops ignore the profound crisis that threatens the very existence of the Church in America. After all, there can be no Church without priests, no Church without a laity that has children and practices the Catholic Faith.
Yet at their annual conferences, the bishops gather to issue weighty statements about nuclear weapons and the economy. Then they return home to "consolidate" parishes and close down schools.
As Cardinal Ratzinger said, the post-Vatican
II period "has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church." This
Index of Leading Catholic Indicators is an attempt to chronicle the
continuing crisis, in the hope that a compilation of the grim statistics-----in
a clear, objective, easy to understand manner-----will
spur action before it is too late.
-----Kenneth C. Jones, January 2003
Mr. Jones, I fear, is far too optimistic in hoping that the statistics in his book "will spur action before it is too late." In the post-conciliar Church today it appears that there is one, and just one, absolute, and this is-----to repeat the words of Pope John Paul II-----that the little seed planted by Pope John XXIII has become "a tree which has spread its majestic and mighty branches over the vineyard of the Lord," and that "It has given us many fruits in these 35 years of life, and it will give us many more in the years to come." I cannot imagine any bishop in the world, no matter how orthodox in his personal belief, no matter how generous to traditional Catholics in authorizing the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, who would have the courage to dissent from the insistence of Cardinal Basil Hume that there must be no turning back from the policies adopted to implement the Council.
As Mr. Jones has proved, we are witnessing not the renewal but the "accelerated decomposition of Catholicism." This is a fact and it remains a fact no matter how often and how insistently those in authority in the Church claim that we are basking in the sunshine of a new Pentecost. One cannot help recollecting how, in the years following the Russian Revolution, when the enforced collectivization of the land had brought Russia to the edge of starvation, official bulletins assured the Russian people week after week, month after month, year after year, that never before in their history had they enjoyed so high a standard of living.
In Liturgical Time Bombs I have alleged no more than was alleged by Cardinal Ratzinger when he wrote: "I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy . . . " (See p. 37.) In his address to the bishops of Chile on July 13, 1988, the Cardinal explained:
The second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest. This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy-----the form in which the liturgy was handed down-----suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited.
Every Catholic devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass must pray each day for our Holy Father, and pray that he will remove every restriction from the celebration of the rite of Mass which Cardinal Newman stated (in Loss and Gain) that he could attend forever and not be tired, and which Father Faber described as "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven."
1. K. Jones, Index of Leading Catholic
Indicators. Mailing address of Kenneth Jones: 11939 Manchester Rd., #217,
St. Louis, MO 63131. www.catholicindicators.com
2. L. Bouyer, The Decomposition of Catholicism (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 1970), p. 1.
3. Projections for the numbers of priests, priestless parishes, brothers and nuns in 2020 are provided by Dr. James R.
Lothian, Distinguished Professor of Finance at Fordham University, and are based
on historic figures plus current average ages and trends.