Sigh. UPDATED 4/24

New record for the number of Catholics leaving the church in Austria within a quarter: slightly over 30,000 in this past January, February, and March. This is 42% more than in the same period a year ago – but that had also been a new record, in the wake of the disaster with the St. Pius X bishops and after Pope Benedict XVI appointed the controversial Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner to be auxiliary bishop of Linz. Among many other things, Wagner had said that Katrina was caused by people’s sins (especially sexual, especially homosexual). He was eventually persuaded to decline the nomination. More typical losses to the Austiran church have been 40,000 or less per year – c. 10,000 per quarter. Austria has been hit hard recently by abuse revelations in several monasteries, schools, and parishes. Because the government collects tax monies for the Church from those who still belong, this means the Church will lose 7 million euros (roughly $ 9.3 million) per year from the lost sheep. Of course the spiritual loss is immeasurable.

UPDATE 4/24: Dioceses in Germany are reporting the number of those leaving the Church in March. In Osnabrück and Cologne it’s double from the same month a year ago. For other dioceses, here are the typical numbers from previous years and the number for March 2010:
Bamburg: 200-300 / 1400
Würzburg:  407 / 1233
Regensburg:  c. 40 / 193
Rottenburg-Stuttgart:  1400 / 2676
Freiburg: 1058 / 2711.
Augsburg, where Bishop Mixa recently submitted his resignation, has had 4,300 leave since since January 1. In Berlin the inner city has seen a three-fold increase for March, but the diocese as a whole has not seen an increase.

54 comments

  1. We’ll see how it goes in Austria. I am sad to say that I’ve seen a growing indifference among bishops and clergy to the defections of their people here in the U.S. It doesn’t seem to cause them grief or pain. Instead we hear rhetoric of a “smaller, purer church.” If there is a response it is completely defensive and “sour grapes”—i.e., you must not have had faith anyway, so good riddance. Some even urge people to leave if they disagree with Church teachings. This attitude needs to change. Pastors ARE responsible for their flocks. The pastor is one who will “lay down his life for the sheep.” Saint Augustine once said to his congregation in Hippo “I refuse to be saved without you!” Where has that spirit gone?

    1. What exactly is the context (or at least full quote) of Benedict/Ratzinger in which he mentioned a “smaller, purer church”? I’ve yet to find those words in a quote from his mouth. The best I’ve found is:

      At another point, in an interview published in 1997 in “Salt of the Earth” (Ignatius Press), he explained it this way: “Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the church’s history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intense struggle against evil and bring good into the world – that let God in.”

      1. It’s still a poor expression of the mission Cardinal Ratzinger and the rest of us were charged with by the Lord in Matthew 28. Other Catholics have taken this SCGS meme (Small Church, getting smaller) to more of an extreme, actually celebrating defections and taunting other believers to leave who disagree with them on peripherals.

        A mustard seed is a great metaphor … for a time when Jesus’s followers were a small subset of a religion in a backwater district of an empire. We need new ideas for this “different kind of epoch,” ways to inspire Gospel living in believers who may be less than passionate, and good examples within Christianity to inspire a more compassionate, evangelical spirituality.

        I read this quote from the future pope, and I can’t but echo the thread title.

      2. Todd and Rita – have you read “Salt of the Earth”? Do you see the context in which Ratzinger’s reference to the “mustard seed” is made? He speaks of it five or six times in the course of the whole interview.

        The particular quote I pasted above is preceded by the sentence, “Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures.” This is not a comment about PRODUCING or FORCING a “smaller, purer church”. He’s describing the situation, not creating it.

        I apologize for any times in which I “celebrat[ed] defections” or “taunt[ed]” others, but I am resolved to stand up against dissent from the truth, especially when it is presented to others as truth.

        Finally, if I were to go claiming Dom Ruff said something that people took offense to and requested a source, I’d produce it or retract. Where’s the accountability here? There’s a sigh for you.

    2. And whatever happened to leaving the faithful flock behind to seek and save the lost?

      Anything that smacks of a “smaller, purer church” is heresy. We used to call it Donatism. It needs to be named for what it is, not tolerated (much less commended) on account of the one(s) holding it.

      1. Please, someone produce the quote from Ratzinger about a “smaller, purer church” or stop the claims that he supports or promotes or desires it.

        How do we know bishops and priests and deacons and religious and laypeople aren’t trying to seek and save the sheep that are departing? How successful are their methods? How receptive are the lost sheep?

      2. As I don’t have a working knowledge of most of the Ratzinger Corpus, I was careful to qualify my remark as “anything that smacks of…” — I know there are people (on both sides of the nave, as it were) who have ascribed this notion to the Pope for their own ends. I do find it interesting, though that if one Googles the phrase, every time it appears, the pope’s name is nearby.

      3. I find it interesting that I’ve never seen HIM quoted as saying “smaller, purer church”. I can’t find the quote. It seems like someone wrote a poor headline and other people have latche onto it and associated the headline with the pope. That’s the power of the media for you. 😐

  2. Fortunately we live in a country where you can express your displeasure by continuing to attend services, just cease to pay for them! In sociological jargon, that’s called the free rider problem.
    There are about as many Catholics who pray daily but do not go to weekly Mass as those who do go to weekly Mass. I have suggested a “If you pray daily, worship with us this weekend” campaign. It approaches people in a positive way, and there is a lot of evidence that people are motivated to behave consistently.
    But I get the impression that religious professionals do not want to face the fact that people are unhappy with religious professionals rather than having problems with God

    1. It just seems to me that if people, meaning clergy and laity are oriented to Jesus at Mass, at home and at work, they can just about weather any kind of storm in the Church and outside of it. But as soon a false gods come and steal their true faith, whether it be a particular theology, a bad priest, a sour institution or scandal, they are like seed sown on rocky ground, they can’t take the heat and wither and fade. Jesus had many people who hated him, disliked him, found him altogether too much and they left him, some went so far as to kill him. He let it happen, didn’t try to package his message according to the advertising game of the time. So I wonder, did the renewal of Vatican II really happen or not in Austria and if it did what the hell went wrong when trial came to test the people’s faith and so many leave? I would hope adult Catholics would be responsible enough for their faith, lack thereof and their decisions for good or ill.

      1. It would be very helpful too, if statistics were given as to who these Catholics are who are leaving the Church. Are they the ones who go to Mass every Sunday? Contribute to their Church, understand the nature of Catholic marriage and Christian family as the “church in miniature”? What is their theological point of reference? Have they joined Protestant communions? Are they forming a schismatic Catholic communion or joining one of the many that already exist? If these Catholics who are departing are simply by-products of Europe’s move to godless secularism but now being honest about it by formally leaving the Church, that would tell us something very important indeed.

  3. Fr. Alan is raising a legitimate point. Church officials have often said that many people who leave during a scandal were already pretty alienated from the practice of the faith, and the scandal prompts them to take the final step. Others probably lessen or stop their invovlement with the church because of scandals, but we don’t know how many. Bishop Kurt Krenn of St. Poelten Austria, an extreme conservative who was removed in 2004 amidst scandal, once famously said that it’s just shaking the tree so the dead leaves can fall off. That wording didn’t go down too well.
    awr

  4. Some even urge people to leave if they disagree with Church teachings.

    Rita;

    If someone disagrees with Church teachings, why do they need to be urged to leave the Church? What would define someone who is within the Church if not adherence to her teachings?

  5. Jeffrey, on a purely factual level, whether you or I like it or not, some 80-90% disagree with the ban on artificial contraception. Are you saying we should urge all them to leave, or are you saying that they should all leave without having to be urged? Either path would be, uh, rather interesting.
    awr

    1. It certainly sounds as though the people who disagree on the ban on contraception are utilizing the old (and still refreshingly new!) action of “reception”…if a rule, doctrine, whatever, is not received by the faithful, it is not operative…the sensus fidelium does still have standing, although quite a few among the hierarchy would like to deny it.

      Many of us have studied & read theology for years on end…we are no longer the “dumb & docile” flock…we are able to see the cognitive dissonance between what we are told is final truth and what we know to be true…we will no longer be treated as silent partners.

  6. I’ll tell you how I view this exactly.

    If I disagree with the ban on artificial contraception, then I disagree with it. No problem there. If I practice artificial contraception, that is a different issue from disagreeing…that is living in opposition to your faith. Is that sin, or would you argue that it isn’t? As Catholics, we may be free to disagree with teachings, but we are obligated to follow them nonetheless. If this weren’t so, then what would be the meaning of “obedience”? Is it “obedient” to do only those things that you feel are necessary? Or do we have to follow even those teachings that we find difficult? I would contend that we do.

    So perhaps I need to clarify what I meant by “disagree” with Church teachings. Those who are not following and practicing the faith do not need to be “urged” to leave….they already have. That is not the fault of the Church, is it?

  7. Jeffrey,
    First of, there is a long tradition which says you must obey conscience, even an eroneous one. Aquinas would NOT say you must follow a teaching you disagree with, he would say you MUST follow your conscience.
    I believe some 90% of those Catholics affected (ie in a marriage, of child-bearing age) are practicing artificial birth control. So you’re saying that all these people have already left the Church? A lot of them are coming to Communion every Sunday (and probably coming to my chant workshops, for all I know). Do you really think they’re all supposed to leave the Church formally and stop coming to Mass? Or do you think that, if presented the options more clearly, many of them would stop practicing artificial birth control and keep coming to Church? Frankly, I just don’t know what to think about many things, and I try to accept that there’s going to be a certain amount of confusion and ambiguity inherent in being a Catholic in today’s world. It all seems much clearer to you.
    awr

    1. Excellent point about following conscience. Conscience has to be properly formed. Far too many people in the Church have been improperly formed. Is that their fault? Well, maybe partially in that the didn’t seek the truth. But I would say most of the fault goes to the Church, in the person of official representatives (bishops, priests, religious, catechists) who not only didn’t teach them correctly but in fact taught them to sin. When Fr. Smith, Sr. Jones, and Mrs. McCoy the DRE all told me that contraception (insert any other topic) was not only not sinful but perfectly fine, you see why we are in the problems we are.

    2. I agree with this. The laity, largely, aren’t at fault here because the Church is failing them.

      I have never heard artificial contraception preached on at Mass around my diocese except for at one EF-exclusive parish. It is rarely listed (maybe seen it once) in those examination of conscience pamplets found near confessionals. I went to RCIA at a different parish a few years back, and it was never mentioned there. There were cohabitating soon-to-be-spouses (another common problem these days) attending the same RCIA class so they could be married in the Church, and it was never brought up or explained to them. I have heard stories from the pre-cana programs that when couples mention that they are currently or will contracept nobody says anything further about it.

      The solution to this would seem to be the one for many problems within the Church – catechesis. But how does that happen when everyone in a position to instruct is scared to do so (or won’t for whatever reason)?!?

  8. Then we get into the question of whether you have to follow a teaching which either a)you don’t even know about. – or – b) a teaching which you don’t fully understand. In either case I think that your conscience would then not be properly formed and thus “erroneous”. So in that sense, I would agree with both you and Aquinas. But what about issues where there is much less ambiguity than the contraception issue?

    Take for example the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics continuing to receive communion. I think there is very little ambiguity in the minds of those affected by this issue, and it is not a particular imposition on such Catholics to refrain from receiving communion such as is present in the contraception issue. And yet many continue to go to communion, well aware that they are in conflict with the Church’s teachings on this issue simply because they think it should be OK, and therefore they justify their actions falsely. What to do in this case?

    1. I too wonder “what to do” with remarried persons. A friend of mine fell away from the Church many years ago after he was divorced and an annulment was denied. After remarrying and having two children with his new wife, and many years passing, he had a reawakening of his faith and wanted to return to the Church. Now what should he do, abandon his new wife and children so he can reconcile with the Church? Long story short, his pastor finally said that he saw no solution and suggested that he go to another denomination. Is that the best we can do? Have we painted ourselves into a corner with absolutes?

      Without denying the permanence of the marriage bond, we need some way to receive people back into the Church who are in irregular marriages.

      1. Scott, I would hope that they would exhaust every external forum in terms of an annulment and convalidation. But there are many Catholics who can’t receive Holy Communion, but they come to Mass faithfully every Sunday and live very holy lives. So apart from exhausting the external forum and then on their own seeking an internal solution that really puts them in the position of making a moral decision that is between them and God and therefore makes them not the priest responsible for the consequences (and if no public scandal is involved) there are solutions. The church is not a cult, we can only teach and lead, but ultimately we can’t control people and act as moral policemen in every situation. If they want guilt free solutions that the Church can’t formally or externally grant, then that’s another issue altogether.

      2. Scott;

        I know what you are trying to say, and it is a serious problem….and that is my point. Going to another “denomination” is not a solution. As a divorced Catholic you cannot receive the Eucharist, correct? As a Lutheran or UCC member or Methodist, you can’t receive the Eucharist either. What then is the difference between remaining in the Church and resolving to not receive the Eucharist, and “changing denominations” which is, essentially the same thing? The fact is, changing denominations doesn’t reduce the seriousness of the sin, does it?

      3. I’m not sure what the answer is, but countless well-intentioned people have been turned away or turned off because of marriage issues that can stretch back decades. Can we imagine the parable of the prodigal son where the father advises the son to hire a lawyer, go back over his past actions, carefully document every detail, interview relevant witnesses, present the case to a court, and then, pending the outcome, he may or may not be received back into the family roughly 36 months from now. [I know, apples and oranges, forgiveness of sin/validity of a sacrament, but both are about reconciliation.]

        The annulment process is healing in many cases. In many other cases, not so much.

      4. Any priest who advises someone to leave the Church needs to do some serious soul searching as to what and who he is.

  9. It’s the old tripole of “Pray, Pay and Obey”. People are still praying, and still paying, but in some areas they are no longer obeying. The Church has grown up, and people are now used to thinking for themselves as intelligent human beings who will no longer just take everything they are told on trust but will analyse it for themselves.

    I also think they perceive that there is a difference between belief in core doctrine, which one might term “faith”, and belief in purely disciplinary laws, which one might term “adherence to administrative policy”. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is one thing, adherence to an administrative policy which with very few exceptions the members of a papal commission decided was no longer tenable in our time is something else.

    (ctd)

  10. (ctd)

    If they can accept 90% of the Church’s teachings while rejecting the other 10%, they consider themselves still to be Catholic, and so do I. I think the Church does, too, otherwise expressions like sensus fidelium would not be in our repertoire.

    This, incidentally, is why the new Missal is an issue: for many, it’s definitely in the realm of “admin policy” rather than “faith”.

    I await accusations of supporting Cafeteria Catholicism, otherwise known as the smorgasbord approach. That is not what I am saying. But to say “you have to take the whole package or none of it” does not fit well with a journey in faith, to give just one example.

  11. I have a feeling that Jack Rakowski, had it about right. It would seem in Austria, that the only way to stop having to pay a tax which goes to the church, is to formally declare you are no longer a Catholic. Then you can become a “free rider” in another parish, with not an Austrian penney in the collection basket, until the Church, in your opinion, cleans up its act.

  12. Fr. Allan,

    You’re assuming that these folks have given up on God, when there’s no clear evidence of that. I invite you to consider another point of view: They have withdrawn from an earthly institution that they find unworthy and have no reliable means of influencing. That the institution insists it is, no matter what, the ONLY place with total access to The Truth, is not necessarily relevant to them. In short, they don’t buy it.

    1. Lynn, I really don’t know about these people in Austria who want a disembodied Christ and Church and unless you have some real information from the scene you don’t know either.I suspect there is a great deal of gnosticism in those who leave the Church but are “spiritual” or new age. But I do think that it does have something to do with paying a church tax all the more reason for “Catholic” countries to move toward what we do in the USA in terms of stewardship. But I know that my Italian relatives in Livorno don’t go to Mass and it has more to do with the Church involved in politics, an anti-clericalism and just plain laziness about Sunday Mass. But that’s Italy.

  13. “The Church has grown up, and people are now used to thinking for themselves as intelligent human beings who will no longer just take everything they are told on trust but will analyse it for themselves.”

    If you accept what the Church teaches because you find it acceptable, then I don’t understand where faith comes in. Conscience must be formed by the Church’s teachings – it does not stand in judgment over them.

    The teaching against contraception is not simply a matter of “administrative policy” or “discipline.”

    Yes, I don’t understand how this is different that “cafeteria Catholicism.”

  14. It’s a leap of faith to agree that Jesus was the Son of God, let alone the Saviour of the world who redeemed humankind through his death on the cross. It’s something quite different to say that contraception is against the natural law, when a large percentage of all acts of intercourse never result in conception and never even have the potential of resulting in conception. That’s the Church defining what the natural law is, even though our understanding of nature has changed out of all recognition since the time when the Church’s opinions (for that is what they are) were first promulgated.

    The Church has in fact changed its attitude to these things (Casti Connubii did so in 1930, and Humanae Vitae could have done the same in 1968 but didn’t) over the centuries. It is human-made law, not God’s law. We have to be able to discern the difference.

  15. I suspect there is a great deal of gnosticism in those who leave the Church but are “spiritual” or new age. But I do think that it does have something to do with paying a church tax all the more reason for “Catholic” countries to move toward what we do in the USA in terms of stewardship. But I know that my Italian relatives in Livorno don’t go to Mass and it has more to do with the Church involved in politics, an anti-clericalism and just plain laziness about Sunday Mass. But that’s Italy.

    Allan, I find this rather judgmental. Most people leave the Church because they’re fed up with the institution, not because they have found another religion. Why pay when those running the structure are corrupt? would be the argument. And if that leads to irregularity in practice, then who is to blame? But I don’t think we can jump to the conclusion that these people no longer have Christian values or are in some way defective or lazy. That way lies “holier than thou”, etc.

    1. Paul, It is a fallacy to say that one cannot judge behavior, certainly we can, but we can’t judge salvation, except if the Church canonizes someone as being in heaven. But the Church never “canonizes” someone as being in hell. But my point is that if we want a faith and belief system based upon a disembodied Christ and a disembodied Church, meaning we don’t have to deal with the flesh or the material, the institution or its “minions” then we’ve moved to gnosticism and think that our direct line to knowledge unencumbered by the flesh, blood, warts and sins of an institution is the best way to go. In reality, I would hope these people who leave do join some other community and find Utopia there. But I suspect they’ll be disappointed with faith communities based upon the “Incarnation.” The poll results below in Fr. Anthony’s comment is helpful, but we’re still in the heat of things. In the USA we were making great strides at healing and reconciliation since 2002. Emotions are raw now and skew poll results.

  16. @22 – Father Allan, I never said I _knew_ anything. I invited you to consider another point of view that I could imagine. You’re quite correct, I don’t have meaningful evidence to prove anything. But, I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I agree with you that being taxed to support the Church is unlikely to encourage people to stay.

    1. Lynn, I didn’t mean to come across as accusing you of anything, but with the whole issue of people leaving the Church in such numbers, we really do need context and history and when you are forced to pay a church tax and you don’t practice your faith, but there is pressure to declare your baptism, I think a good scandal can give you good reason to just admit you don’t belong anymore. But people leave the Church for a variety of reasons today, some reasons are understandable but other reasons are rather vapid.

  17. Father Allan,
    I didn’t feel accused; you’ll have to work harder than that. Just a bit of academic-type debate going on.

    Maybe it’s just that I’m up too late, but what’s a ‘good’ scandal? Oh, heck, you can have that word in the sense of ‘sound’, but with respect to recent events, there’s nothing by way of uplifting or beautiful qualities about it. And that’s entirely too much philosophy for one late night.

  18. The poll-takers have some data for us from Germany. 23% of all Catholics there have considered leaving the church in recent weeks. For those who seldom or never attend church it is 38%, which means that many regular church-goers have considered leaving. Only 16% believe there will be a full, open accounting of what happened, and 77% have the impression that the church seeks to cover up when it can. 64% percent believe that the damage to the image of the church will be long-term, not temporary.
    http://www.sueddeutsche.de/,tt3m1/panorama/196/509329/text/

  19. “Leaving the Church” is a very vague concept. Some people say they are Catholic because their families are Catholic, or their cultural is Catholic, or they attend Mass on Sunday, or because they pay the poll tax in their country, or any combination of these and other reasons. In the USA, where Mass attendance is high and seen as a key marker of Catholic identity, a person who ceases to attend Mass may say they have left the Church, or are a “non-practicing Catholic. In Germany Mass attendance is much lower, but the tax identity is a key marker. German Catholics who don’t attend Mass may be deciding to give up the tax identity because they no longer want to support Catholic schools and Catholic charitable institutions. In this country we have parents who want their children religiously educated even though they themselves aren’t very “religious” if this is defined as Mass attendance However parents may still consider themselves as Catholic and want their children raised…

    1. I wonder too, in terms of the tax and getting out of it, if the economy has something to do with it. Isn’t Europe being hit harder than the USA in terms of the economic downfall we have and are experiencing? All the more reason to want to save money and not pay the tax.

      1. Oh I suppose there could be all sorts of reasons, including the economy. But you gotta wonder, when the economic collapse set in about a year and a half ago, but the “Kirchenaustrittte” numbers skyrocketed exactly when the church scandal set in. Fr. Alan, you seem anxious to prove, against all evidence, that there’s not a negative judgment of Church authority afoot. You’re over-reaching, big time.
        awr

      2. Not at all am I looking for outs but confirming them, all of them. I think it is the perfect storm Fr. Anthony and certainly the scandal has much to do with their departure. But is it just a judgment against authority or does it go much deeper? I still think that those who are or were people of faith can begin to believe that it is really God who is responsible for the mess not just the people God created. Is there a God?–if not, that would be a good reason to leave. Is there a loving God? IF so why did God allow His chosen ministers and hierarchy to do this? Or is God just as complicit as the authorities of the Church and just as guilty? I think one could easily assess blame on God and lay it at His “Feet.” I’m afraid the secularists of Europe and of the USA know how to use a “good” scandal to undermine not just religion, but faith in God and thus shunt it off to the private and personal and out of the political and social arena. The dictatorship of secularism then can reign “Supreme.”

  20. The problem is not that people are leaving for disembodied, non-institutional religion. Catholics are simply getting religion in many more embodied personal groups and places than before. From more non-Catholic family members, Christian women bible studies, small Christian communities, attending Protestant churches with family members, attending ecumenical study classes, talking to non-Catholics at work etc. There are many smaller institutions and opportunities around. In 2002 much of the talk was about accountability and transparency on the part of bishops and the clergy. Meanwhile people have seen financial scandals, parish and school closings. There is not much hope in the bishops or turning around the big institutional church. Today talk is about small Christian communities, serving the poor, the environment, etc. both within and outside the institutional Church. People are seeing smaller organizations, some Catholic and some not, as a place where they have more opportunities.

    1. How do you explain the gravitation to the humongous mega churches and non-denominational churches? These are congregationalist and allow for autonomy–that’s where our Catholics have usually gone in the south and are more than happy to say they are ex-Catholics. Most go because of spouses who are not Catholic, divorce and remarriage and music and worship that is more like a participative rock concert. It has more to do with the theology of positive thinking and getting ahead in the world, self-improvement. Helping the poor might be there, but not like in the 1960’s. I’ve yet to have anyone in my parish leave the church solely based on the scandal, but some “converts” could have “reverted” to their previous affiliation over this, but no mass exodus. I have an ex-parishioner in Tennessee where an elderly priest was recently arrested and sent to North Carolina for trial–I’ll try to find out what happens there.

      1. The mega churches generally have many different groups that caterer to various interests, secular as well as religious. The idea is to get relationships going first, rather than making appeals to values and ideas. The Mormon’s use a similar tactic by having Mormon families invite new, isolated families to a Mormon home for ‘family night.” That is where the family discusses how it is doing as a family in a relaxed religious context. All the evidence is that religious groups grow through personal relationships. The Mormons get less that one in a thousand from their ‘cold calls’ on people’s homes. That missionary endeavor is an initiation ritual that builds solidarity among Mormons. Rumor has it they get one in three persons from their family night strategy. Over course they do target vulnerable people, e.g. new to community without many friends, or much religious commitment, etc. Remember its about love of God, and love of neighbor.

    2. I have a few musician friends, ones who have tirelessly served the Catholic Church for years, who are now flirting with Episcopal, Lutheran, and other liturgical traditions. Each person’s reasons are his own, but they include abuse/coverup and the impending translations–both as symptoms of what they perceive as a broken system of governance. I hear comments that every time they hear another story of abuse and coverup the protestant church across the street looks better and better. One friend of mine considers herself “in exile” in the Episcopal church until such time that she feels she can return to the Catholic Church. These are not lukewarm people, but very active & engaged folks who feel alienated from the Church that they love.

  21. The disestablishment of Christian churches in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere is inevitable. Secular concerns often fuel disestablishment debates.

    The Canadian church-state relationship is not as thorough as the American model. Ontario still wrestles with its funding of Catholic schools and the question of provincially-controlled curricula. While Canada has no church tax, Ontario taxpayers inevitably support sectarian education regardless of their convictions. Perhaps the perpetual debate over the privilege of Catholic education in Ontario resembles some aspects of personal disestablishment in Germany and Austria. Must non-Catholic or secular citizens pay for others’ catechism or ministry?

    Fr. Ruff’s comment [#12] suggests that “personal disestablishment” often follows a long period of functional secularity. Sex abuse sparks, but does not fuel, citizen discontent with the compulsory support of religious bodies through taxation.

  22. Remember smaller, purer–some 40 comments ago?

    If there’s support to be found that Benedict seeks a smaller, purer Church, then it’s not to be found in the Salt of the Earth quote. Why not?

    Because there Ratzinger is making a call on what one more or less likely historical outcome might be, given present trends. It’s not a case of him revealing to Seewald and us his idea of what ought to happen. It’s not a case of him saying, “it would be kinda neat to have fewer people letting God in; it would be, you know, more pure.” It’s not even a case of complacency. One can’t argue from an absence of lament in the quoted passage to complacency unless one holds that people say at once everything that’s relevant about a situation as they see it.

    Evidence to support the claim that Benedict seeks a smaller, purer Church or is indifferent to its coming to be just isn’t here. If it’s somewhere else, fine.

    Ok, now back to Vienna, Humanae Vitae, and the megas.

  23. I don’t think that Benedict seeks to create a smaller, purer church.. the point is that he sees it as inevitable. And it seems we are seeing it as well now.

    A bit frightening to be sure, but there is hope. This has happened before (remember “and you my disciples…will you also leave?”). I think it was said that the number of Jesus’ followers fell substantially that day. Different reason, but the Church continued nonetheless.

  24. I’m returning to this thread after being out of town for a while, and I must admit, I don’t see what set off the cry for the exact remarks of the pope. I said we hear “rhetoric.” I was thinking of bishops and priests and so on. Perhaps representatives of the church think they are taking their cue from the pope and are wrong; but this hasn’t been demonstrated. Note, and I point it out sorrowfully, no one in authority has stopped them or corrected them.

    As for the difference between predicting something will come and advocating it, I completely agree there is a difference. It is a pity that church officials don’t take the same view. I know of a careful, moderate, Catholic writer who was banned from speaking at a church because in a book he predicted the Catholic Church would someday ordain women. He did not advocate it; he was talking about social changes in large scale. He was banned anyway. Would anyone in authority care if he left the church tomorrow? Of course not. ctd.

  25. And this is what I mean. We are getting a smaller church, smaller by the minute. (Thank you, Anthony, for the numbers from Germany.) But is it purer? Or only more intolerant and rigorist, less pastoral, and more like a sect?

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