Pope Benedict has created a new Vatican office to “re-evangelize” the West, aiming to combat it’s “secularization”. My immediate reaction on reading this was to wonder if by “secularization”, he is truly concerned about a loss of faith, or the precipitous decline of the Catholic Church in Europe? At USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman asks the same question: “Is it God or the Catholic Church facing ‘eclipse’ in the West?“.
There is no doubt at all that in Europe at least, loyal adherence to the teaching of Catholic Church is in free fall. Belgium is one dramatic example: once universally Catholic, it is now one of the most secularized countries in Europe. Only 7% attend weekly Mass, half of babies are not baptized, and three quarters of couples do not marry in church). In Austria, the number of people formally leaving the church annually, now at over 80 000, has doubled over the past two years – and this is a measure of formal resignation, not just of a gradual drift. A similar process of a steadily increasing rate of formal resignations, is similarly under way in Germany. In Ireland, which was once widely described as “priest-ridden”, many Catholics hold the institutional Church in open contempt. Read the rest of this entry »