". . . with the notable exception of Poland"

Altar-in-Notre-Dame.jpgI have been meaning, for the past day or so, to point GetReligion readers toward a withering Boston Globe report by Charles M. Sennott on the state of the Roman Catholic Church in postmodern Europe. (Hat tip to Amy Welborn, of course.)

The statistics on the collapse in the pews are amazing, even without taking into account the fact that church attendance numbers are always inflated.

And then there is this amazing paragraph about the crisis at the altars: “The decrease in the number of men entering the priesthood across Europe, with the notable exception of Poland, is equally dismaying for Catholics. In Ireland, for example, the Archdiocese of Dublin ordained only one priest last year. This year, for the first time in what historians say is hundreds of years, the diocese says it does not expect to ordain a single priest.”

Has anyone seen a quality MSM report with a less bleak point of view?

Once again, this is an angle of the Benedict XVI papacy that is going to be fascinating to watch. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was known for his candor, when it came to discussing the dark side of the modern Catholic Church. I always agreed with the critics who said Pope John Paul II struggled to grasp the icy reality of Europe, because he viewed it through the lens of his experience in Poland.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • winston7000

    Western Europe has entered its twilight years. First came the social breakdown, the religious apathy, the pervasive doctrine of amorality. By now, we almost all know that Western Eurpoeans are simply not having children, and thereby ensuring their demise. What will follow will be economic collapse. Germany has a dreadfully stagnant economy–thanks to the Social Democrats (not unlike our own Democrats). Poles rather than Germans are actually buying land in former East Germany.

    Western Europe may still reverse itself if the situation deteriorates to the point of rebellion against the EU bureaucratic masters and the pervasive politically correct irreligion. People seem to be growing more restive and less inclined to buy the mush of modernism.

    But, no matter, Western Europe is America’s canary inthe coal mine. We have a huge bloc of people and politicians here who would like nothing better than to have us commit the same massive suicide as our Western European brethren. Many of them sit on their cassocks at USCCB meetings.

  • xray

    Winston7000: “Western Europe is our canary in the coal mine.” That is the weakest metaphor I have seen all morning.

  • ECJ

    “Western Europe is our canary in the coal mine.” That is the weakest metaphor I have seen all morning.

    Is there an argument in there somewhere or simply condescension? Because everything Winston7000 said outside of the metaphor you so dislike is true.

    Europe is breeding itself into extinction. It’s birth rates started falling in the mid-fifties, and fell below replacement about 35 years ago. This decline is directly related to the secularization of Europe, and it will cause economic collapse. No one has a model for economic growth in the absence of population growth. That is why the Europeans are so scared of these trends.

    And if you think there aren’t large numbers of people who want to make the US into “Europe West”, then you didn’t read the NY Times in the first week of November last year. That exact metaphor was being used by NY Kerry voters who felt more affinity for Paris then Kansas.

    The social forces which have been tearing Europe to pieces are also located in the US. But the US has never had a state church so religion is much stronger here. Even so, religious believers in the US are a declining minority. The fight will be harder here, but the outcome the same.

    So if you want to see your future, then look east across the ocean. You will see nihilism and despair. Europeans believe in nothing. So they narcotize themselves with money, sex, and pleasure. But only wait until that lack of belief collides with economic deprivation. It’s coming. It probably can’t be stopped anymore.

    At some point the trends become irreversible.

    ECJ

  • xray

    ECJ: I meant that comparing Europe to a canary and the US to a miner is silly. But your post is way more egregious than Winston’s. I question whether you have ever been to Europe and I question whether you have ever met a liberal. Just because you assert things about an entire continent doesn’t make you right. It just shows you don’t know how to argue.

    “Because everything Winston7000 said outside of the metaphor you so dislike is true.” Really?

    “This decline is directly related to the secularization of Europe, and it will cause economic collapse.” Prove it.

    “And if you think there aren’t large numbers of people who want to make the US into “Europe West”, then you didn’t read the NY Times in the first week of November last year. That exact metaphor was being used by NY Kerry voters who felt more affinity for Paris then Kansas.” Now who’s being condescending?

    “But the US has never had a state church so religion is much stronger here.” Finally, you got something right.

    “Even so, religious believers in the US are a declining minority.” Prove it.

    “So if you want to see your future, then look east across the ocean. You will see nihilism and despair. Europeans believe in nothing. So they narcotize themselves with money, sex, and pleasure. But only wait until that lack of belief collides with economic deprivation. It’s coming. It probably can’t be stopped anymore.” Thank you for summing up the belief systems of 300 million people with such empathy and accuracy.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    Could it be that Western Europeans have such a bleak outlook and have stopped reproducing themselves because they were caught squarely (in a geographic sense) between two superpowers aiming nuclear weapons at each other?

    I think I’d have a pretty bleak outlook and be less than willing to bring a child into a landscape that could easily have been ground zero.

    I suppose the failure of the church in Europe was to present a credible, hopeful word to people cowering under the gun. Although what that word might have been that people would have heard what with their fingers firmly plugging their ears against the Big Bang is beyond me. I imagine the faithful were cowering right along with the rest of them. I suspect it would be hard not to.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    Could it be that Western Europeans have such a bleak outlook and have stopped reproducing themselves because they were caught squarely (in a geographic sense) between two superpowers aiming nuclear weapons at each other?

    I think I’d have a pretty bleak outlook and be less than willing to bring a child into a landscape that could easily have been ground zero.

    I suppose the failure of the church in Europe was to present a credible, hopeful word to people cowering under the gun. Although what that word might have been that people would have heard what with their fingers firmly plugging their ears against the Big Bang is beyond me. I imagine the faithful were cowering right along with the rest of them. I suspect it would be hard not to.

  • ECJ

    xray

    Look, if you don’t believe me then try here:

    http://www.policyreview.org/feb05/kurtz.html

    Or maybe here:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/27/world/main546441.shtml

    Or perhaps here:

    http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=2670627

    It’s amazing what you can find with Google. I could go on. But do I really need to prove that religious belief is dead in Europe? Are you really not aware of that fact?

    As for the rest… I guess you didn’t notice that you didn’t make any arguments in either post. Please find one if you think I am wrong. You simply sneered and asserted things like the metaphor was “weak” because it was “silly.” Yeah, I’m convinced. So please remind me tomorrow to be very, very concerned about your judgment regarding my ability to argue.

    ECJ

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    “Europeans believe in nothing. So they narcotize themselves with money, sex, and pleasure.”

    Unlike in the USA, of course. Indeed, I understand that Europeans so morally debased that they even have free hospitals and half-decent unions! Worse, they believe in giving kids a science education that hasn’t been corrupted by Creationists, and thay go on about so-called “human rights” and “environmentalism”. They even think American TV evangelists are laughable!

    Modern Europe was founded on the post-Holocaust principle of “never again”. You can argue with certain cultural drifts if you want, but this ignorant, self-righteous rhetoric from some Americans is just too much.

  • francis

    Like so often, some people like to paint with a big brush:

    “Western Europe has entered its twilight years.”

    Sounds a bit apocalyptic. But is it dusk or dawn?

    “First came the social breakdown, the religious apathy, the pervasive doctrine of amorality”, so unlike America.

    “… the pervasive doctrine of amorality”

    Yes there’s something like that, especially in the Netherlands (unfortunately they don’t say “never again”, but rather “we have always been the frontrunners of progress, so let’s kill some more), but also in other countries, but if you look at the reality I don’t see that Europe contains more amoral/bad acts than the US (crime rates, abortion figures, stem cell research laws). If Europeans seem less “morally engaged” than Americans, that might be because we haven’t been challenged as much as Americans yet.

    “Western Eurpoeans are simply not having children” is simply untrue. Some countries do have rather high reproduction rates (e.g. France), while other don’t (e.g. Italy and Germany)

    “Germany has a dreadfully stagnant economy–thanks to the Social Democrats”

    So it’s all the government’s fault? It rather was the stagnant economy that resulted in the SPD winning the elections in 1998. Though it’s true that their success has been as limited as their predecessors. And despite all this talk about how bad the situation is (we Germans love to oscilate between either bewailing our supposedly gloomy situation -that is the problem right now- or jubilating about how we are the greatest), Germany is still the third largest economy in the world and Europe is also strong.

    But maybe you don’t mean “Social Democrats” not as a political party but as a broader political approach including other parties as well? But then you should decide whom to blame: is it social democrats or is the so-called “EU bureaucratic masters” (a rather small bureaucracy that is), that are quite the opposite of social-democratic in their economic policy.

    To equate Social Democrats with the American Democrats with American Democrats is really comparing apples and oranges. Yes, both are fruits and sweet and might sour your mouth, if you don’t brush your teeth once in a while, but that’s about all.

    That “Poles rather than Germans are actually buying land in former East Germany” is a strange rumour I never heard before.

    There certainly is immorality and ignorant, self-righteous rhetoric on either side of the Atlantic.

  • xray

    ECJ: Next time I am at the little protestant evangelical church my girlfriend attends in Madrid, should I tell them to stop wasting their time because they are nihilists or because they don’t believe in anything? Where did all those pilgrims in Rome last month come from? I did not bother to argue with your generalizations because your imagined knowledge of the beliefs of every single European is laughable. As others have pointed out, your logic could be used to make equally silly generalizations about all Americans, but only the anti-Europeans on this thread are willing to wander into the world of stereotyping and asserting bizarre opinion as fact.

  • Maureen

    If the drop in birthrate and church attendance was caused by fear of nuclear war, then logically I should have had very few classmates or people in my church’s pew when I was growing up a mile away from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. When I was born, it was a SAC base and had been for years. (Planes _carrying_ nukes, for those who don’t know the implication.) When the SAC base went away in the mid-seventies, it was still the top base for logistics and many other secret programs, so it was still a first wave target. In addition, at least two other sites in the area were second and third wave targets.

    And yet, in Dayton, Ohio and surrounding areas, everyone continued to marry and have kids and go to school and go to college and invent things and work and marry and have kids at a heckuva clip. And we still do, although actually it’s slowed down a bit since the fall of Communism.

    So either we were happy at the thought of getting instantly vaporized; people in Europe just spent way too much time brooding about things they couldn’t help; or… you’re wrong about the reasons behind this trend.


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