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The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church

The decline of the Catholic Clergy in the U.S.A.

Between 1930 and 1965, the number of priests in the United States more than doubled to 58,000. 
Since then the number has fallen to 45,000. 
By 2020, there will be only 31,000 priests left, and more than half of these priests will be over 70.

In 1965, 1,575 new priests were ordained in the United States. In 2002, the number was 450.

In 1965, only 1% of U.S. parishes were without a priest. In 2002 this number is 15%.

Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700. 
Two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have now closed.

Religious Orders.
In 1965, there were 179,954 women in Catholic religious orders. By 2002, that had fallen to 75,000, in 2005 it was 68,634 and the average age of a Catholic nun is today 68.

In 1965, 3,559 young men were studying to become Jesuit priests. In 2000, the figure was 389.

With the Christian Brothers, the situation is even more dire. Their number has now shrunk by two-thirds. In 1965, there were 912 seminarians in the Christian Brothers. In 2000, there were only 7.

The number of young men studying to become Franciscan and Redemptorist priests fell from 3,379 in 1965 to 84 in 2000.

The decline of the Catholic Laity in the U.S.A.

Catholic schools.
Almost half of all Catholic high schools in the United States have closed since 1965.
The student population has fallen from 700,000 to 386,000.
Parochial schools have suffered even worse. Some 4,000 have shut down,
and the number of pupils has fallen from 4.5 million to just under 2 million.
Catholic Marriage.
Catholic marriages have fallen in number by one-third since 1965.
The annual number of annulments has soared from 338 in 1968 to 50,000 in 2002.
Attendance at Mass.
In 1958, a Gallup Poll reported that 74% of Catholics then attended church on Sundays.
In 1965, it seems that 65% attended, according to a recent Fordham University study.
In 1994, it seems that 27% attended church, according to study by the University of Notre Dame.
In 2000, the rate was 25%, according to the Fordham study.
Indicative beliefs
70% of all Catholics in the age group 18 to 44 believe the Eucharist is a "symbolic reminder" of Jesus.
90% of lay religious teachers reject church teaching on contraception.
53% believe a Catholic can have an abortion and remain a good Catholic.
65% believe that Catholics may divorce and remarry.
75% believe one can be a good Catholic without attending mass on Sundays.
In a profile of America's Catholic population, released in advance of Pope Benedict's 2008 visit to the US, the Pew Forum calls attention to a demographic shift, with younger Catholics less likely to remain active in the Church, while Hispanic immigrants replace many of the "cradle Catholics" who no longer practice the faith.
"No other major faith in the U.S. has experienced greater net losses over the last few decades
as a result of changes in religious affiliation than the Catholic Church,"
the Pew report notes. Citing the extensive survey undertaken for the "Religious Landscape Survey" that was released earlier this month, the Pew Forum explains that 
"roughly one-third of those who were raised Catholic have left the church,
and approximately one-in-ten American adults are former Catholics."
Only 41% of self-identified adult Catholics attend Mass each week, the Pew study found. That number is lowest among young adults, with just 30% of Catholics aged 18-29 attending Mass weekly (by comparison, the figure is 63% among those over the age of 65) - a figure that suggests still greater decline in the number of active Catholics in coming years. Despite the wholesale exodus of "cradle Catholics," the Catholic proportion of America's overall population has remains constant, thanks to the large number of Catholic immigrants, primarily from Mexico. Hispanics now account for 29% of the Catholics in the US, and nearly half of those under the age of 40. Among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, 60% say that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances and 42% oppose research that entails the destruction of human embryos.
A survey from the Cardinal Newman Society's (CNS) Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education of 506 students (251 current students and 255 recent graduates or attendees under 30 years of age) finds that:
  • Only 64% of practicing Catholics said they agreed that the fullness of God's truth is found in the Catholic Church. 
  • Only 66% agreed that "the communion bread and wine at Mass" truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. 
  • 61% agreed that women should be allowed to become Catholic priests. 
  • About 50% agreed that abortion should be legal, that premarital sex "with someone you really care about" is not a sin and that same-sex marriage should be legal.
  • 70% disagreed with the idea that using a condom to prevent pregnancy is a serious sin.
"What is clear, however, is that current students... are also leaving the Catholic Church. Among current students who say they were Catholic at some point during their studies, four percent report that they are no longer Catholic. The percent of Catholic students leaving the Church over the course of a Catholic college education (usually four years) may actually be larger than this, because the current students who responded to the survey are of different ages, and most of them still have one or more years of study before they graduate."
The full survey, titled "Behaviors and Beliefs of Current and Recent Students at U.S. Catholic Colleges," may be viewed at

The decline of the Catholic Church in Latin America

Halfway through the synod on the Eucharist held in the autumn of 2005, Cardinal Hummes said:
"The number of Brazilians who declare themselves Catholics has diminished rapidly, on an average of 1% a year.
In 1991 Catholic Brazilians were nearly 83%, today and according to new studies, they are barely 67%. We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country? 

In conformity with this situation, it has been found that in Brazil there are two Protestant pastors for each Catholic priest, and the majority from the Pentecostal Churches. Many indications show that the same is true for almost all of Latin America and here too we wonder: how long will Latin America remain a Catholic continent?"

Mexico still Catholic, but number of atheists on the rise

Mexico's National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information Technology said this week [Mar 26 2008] that the number of atheists grows annually by 5.2%, while the number of Catholics grows by 1.7%.

Mexicans "are increasingly more involved in the new religious movements that are gaining ground in the ambit of the faith, mainly in rural zones, poor urban areas and indigenous communities," the report indicates. "These faithful are characterized by two things: high rates of illiteracy and low income."

A recent study by the Mexican Institute for Christian Social Doctrine asserted that among Catholics, "there is really no commitment to the faith they preach" and most have become nominal believers who attend baptisms and marriage but not Sunday Mass.

The Decline of the Catholic Church in Europe

In 1952 the Spanish Church had 7,052 seminarians. In 2002 it had 1,797.

In1980 the French Church had about 35,000 priests. In 2000 this had declined to 19,000.

The mother of a friend of mine, an opera singer in Lille, died yesterday. What makes me angry, is the unedifying circus act put on by the modernists in their supposed concern to give "pastoral care" to the sick and especially the dying.

When my friend's mother entered the hospital, it was not easy to find the chaplain. Once the chaplain was finally found, the question arose: "what should he 'do' to his mom?" He was told that as the old lady hadn't received Holy Communion for a couple of years the chaplain didn't want to give it her now, because if he gave her the viaticum, she might mistake it for Extreme Unction. Moreover as, since the liturgical "reformation" Extreme Unction had been abolished, the best thing to do would be to simply recite the Lord's prayer.

I mailed a traditionalist priest who used to serve in Lille. He told me that he didn't do so anymore, but immediatly spoke by phone to another traditionalist priest from Lille. This second priest was prepared to go at the hospital; to confess the old lady, to communicate her and to give her Extreme Unction. In the meanwhile, the traditional priests said that the family should ask the hospital's chaplain to give her at least an absolution, in case she died before she could receive the traditional last rites.

It was impossible to find, the chaplain yesterday morning, because he had a mass to celebrate outside the hospital. Eventually he was contacted and suggested that he send a layman to give the old lady absolution and the anointing of the sick, in order to prevent the traditionalist from coming. I told my friend that a layman is not allowed to perform these sacraments, and that they should therefore ask the traditionalist priest to go to the hospital. Faced with this dilema my friend didn't know what to do. He remembered that it had been told them that whosoever doesn't accept Vatican II is backward. So he stalled and waited for a "miracle" to happen. Inevitably, the old lady died yesterday, without receiving the last sacraments. [A lay correspondent (27th Oct 2008)]

The decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland

A survey conducted by the RTE broadcast network in 2006 found that 13% of Irish people attend daily Mass, and another 35% go to Mass every Sunday. The total of 48% attending Mass at least weekly represents a sharp drop from 1990, when a survey put the figure at 81%. However, RTE reported that a steady decline in Mass attendance over the past 15 years appears to have leveled off. The survey showed that 60% of respondents identified themselves are "religious." 

A survey conducted in 2007 for the Iona Institute, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and the Evangelical Alliance of Northern Ireland uncovered a lack of religious knowledge among both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. It found that Catholics in Northern Ireland show the same level of religious knowledge as those in the south. Overall, only 42% of the poll respondents (Catholic and Protestant) knew that there are four Gospels, and just 54% could name the persons of the Trinity. The survey uncovered a striking decline in religious knowledge among younger respondents. Catholics scored substantially higher results, however, only 21% of those aged 16- 24 knew the number of the Gospels, and only 33% could identify the persons of the Trinity. This indicates that the Christian faith is becoming less meaningful to those under twenty-five years of age and the idea that Christianity is being transmitted through the culture from one generation to the next is invalid.

Only 16 men entered seminary in Ireland in 2010 - down from 39 in 2009, and over 150 during the average year in the 1980s. Ireland currently has 99 seminarians, while England and Wales have 150. The number of priests in Ireland is expected to fall from 4,700 to just 1,500 by 2028 - down by 2/3 in just 18 years. The average age for a priest in Ireland in currently 63 whilst clergymen over the age of 70 currently outnumber those under 40 by ten to one. The true extent of the crisis was laid bare in 2008 when the Irish church admitted that 160 priests had died that year with only nine new ordinations.
Original Artical

The decline of the Catholic Church in Scotland

Edinburgh, Jun. 12, 2006 (CNA) - 

The Cardinal Archbishop of Edinburgh has announced the need to close parishes in light of a significant priest shortage and declining church attendance. "The fact remains: we are not producing enough home-grown Scottish priests. That is the root of the problem," he said. The number of active priests in the Edinburgh diocese is expected to fall from 63 to 34 in 10 years. The average age of priests in Scotland is above 60, and there are very few new vocations.

Furthermore, religious practice has dropped. The number of practicing Catholics is a little more than 200,000; down 20 percent since the mid-1990s. In the last decade, the number of Catholic couples in Edinburgh baptizing their children has also dropped, from 1,910 to 1,075. 

The decline of the Catholic Church in England and Wales

It is manifest that the practice rate started to drop at exactly the time that the Novus Ordo Missae was introduced, and has continued to decline at the same steady rate ever since. My figures were taken from the official website of the Church in England and Wales. These numbers are no longer published on the Web. I wonder why. At the present rate of decline, the number of people attending Mass on Sundays will drop to zero in 2035.

According to the Right Rev. Ambrose Griffiths, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, the situation is dire.

"In our diocese, church attendance has been going down 
on a straight-line graph for the last 25 years."
Extrapolating from that, the Catholic church in his diocese would cease to exist by 2028.
The official Catholic Directory of England and Wales 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 2003 it  had plunged to 11,013, little more than one third of the figure for 1944. The figures for baptisms for the same years are 71,604 (1944), 137,673 (1964), and 56,180  (2003). 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. 

A study carried out by Anthony Spencer of the Pastoral Research Centre covering period from 1963 to 1991 has found that:
  • Mass attendance has slumped by 40 per cent, 
  • Baptisms by 50 per cent, 
  • Marriages by 60 per cent,
  • Confirmations by 60 per cent,
  • Convertions fell by 55 per cent 
  • First Communions by nearly 40 per cent.
It describes these figures as the "greatest pastoral and demographic catastrophe" since the Reformation of the 16th century. Mr Spencer collated the figures from statistics gathered by parish priests and dioceses, and published by the Church since 1911.
In a separate publication, a former senior press officer for the Catholic Bishops' Conference has called for better strategic thinking to lift the Church out of crisis in this country. In "The Future of the Catholic Church in Britain", Tom Horwood said: 
"The Church in Britain is suffering from a terminal decline in membership, irregular commitment among the remnant, and, in the wake of persistent child abuse scandals, a leadership of bishops and priests that has toppled from its pedestal with a mighty crash."
Mr Horwood's book calls for "fundamental changes of attitudes and behaviour" and more effective leadership. It accuses Bishops of an "inability to set a clear direction", and emphasises the need for "straight-talking honesty".
"It is clear that if the Catholic Church in Britain is to successfully communicate its messages and persuade an increasingly secular and cynical audience it must change its approach. Reactionary, defensive tactics have failed. The Church needs to become more of a proactive and positive force for building community in fragmented, 21st-century British society."

With more than 23.5 million members in 201 (down from 27.5 million in 1996) Catholicism is the largest single religious group in Germany, comprising 29 percent of the population. Yet people are leaving the Church in droves. In 2015, 181,925 people apostacised, 2,685 people became Catholic, and 6,474 were reconciled to the Church. In 2016 162,093 people apostacised, 2574 people became Catholic and 6461 were reconciled to the Church.

In 1995 the German Church baptised 260,00 babies; in 2016 only 171,531.
In 1995 the German Church conducted 86,465 weddings; in 2016 only 43,610.
In 1996 the German Church conducted 286,772 funerals; in 2016 only 243,323.
In 1995 Mass attendance was 18.6% of the population; in 2016 10.2%.

In 1989 the German Church had 297 priestly ordinations. In 2002 it had 131.
In 1989 the German Church had 1,667 seminarians. In 2002 it had 1,035.

In 2016 537 parishes closed. Over the past two decades, over 3,000 parishes have closed, with the number declining from 13,329 to 10,280.
In 2017 there are 13,856 priests in Germany, down from 14,087 the previous year. 

Despite these alarming numbers, the head of the bishops' conference issued an upbeat appraisal of the situation: "The statistics show that the Church in Germany continues to be a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted. There obviously not only is an interest in, but also an active desire for the sacraments of the Church, as the slight increase of baptisms and marriages proves", Cardinal Marx said in a statement issued by the German bishops' conference.

Never before have so few Catholic priests been ordained in the Church in Germany: a total of 58 men joined the clergy in 2015, according to official figures published by the German Episcopal Conference this week. The drastic decline is set to continue, judging by the figures: last year also marked the first time in history that the number of new seminarians dropped to double digits. Only 96 new students were registered in 2015. The crisis of vocations to the priesthood is not just one of sheer numbers. A recent academic study showed that amongst the current clergy, more than half – 54 percent – go to confession only “once a year or less.”

Further official numbers, published in July, confirm that the precipitous decline of the faith is not just restricted to the number of vocations: average church attendance in Germany is down from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015. The number of people departing the Church has increased within the same time frame, having peaked at over 200,000 annually in recent years.

With over 23.7 million members, Catholicism is the largest religious group in Germany, comprising 29 percent of the population. However, people are leaving in droves: In 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed according to official statistics published in July.  By comparison, 2,685 people became Catholic, and 6,474 reverted to Catholicism. [Munich, Germany, Aug 18, 2016 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).] 

The World (2014)

At the end of 2014 Europe saw an alarming decrease in the number of its priests (-2,564). 
To a lesser extent, America (-123) and Oceania (-86) also experienced a decline. 
On the other hand, Africa (+1,089) and Asia (+2,128) are making progress.

The number of major seminarians, both diocesan and religious, decreased worldwide by 1,312 candidates to the priesthood, out of a total of 116,939. 
Increases are noted only in Africa (+636), whereas the number of major seminarians decreased in America (-676), Asia (-635), Europe (-629) and Oceania (-8).

The number of male religious who are not priests declined worldwide by 694, making a total of 54,559. Increases are noted in Africa (+331) and Asia (+66), whereas the decreases are reported in America (-362), Europe (-653) and Oceania (-76).

The worldwide decline in the number of nuns proves to be even greater this year than that of the preceding year (-10,846). 
The increases are noted in Africa (+725) and Asia (+604), whereas the decreases affect America (-4,242), Europe (-7,733) and Oceania (-200).