Catholics all at sea over a ‘wave’ of church closures around the world

Catholics all at sea over a ‘wave’ of church closures around the world December 21, 2018

In the past 18 years more than 500 Catholic churches have closed in Germany – a third of which were demolished – while the remainder were sold or used for other purposes – such as an exhibition of pornography.

Meanwhile, more than 500 churches are due to close in the Netherlands over the next decade.

This fact emerged at a recent conference in the Vatican entitled, Doesn’t God Dwell Here Anymore? Decommissioning Places of Worship and Integrated Management of Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage.

Image via YouTube

Explaining the extent of the problem, Father Paweł Malecha, above, of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest judicial authority, glumly told delegates from 23 European countries and some from North American and Oceania, that:

The phenomenon is spreading.

Those in attendance were also dismayed to hear that churches closed for worship were being put to unholy uses.

Numerous cases, they were told, exist of closed churches being used as nightclubs, restaurants, a mosque or even, in the case of a deconsecrated 12th-century frescoed church in Cascia, Italy, for a pornographic exhibition.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that a former church can be “secularised but not desecrated.”

To make it into a pizzeria is blasphemous [but] it’s okay for it to be a museum or a meeting place …

Attending the conference from the United States was Patrick Hayes, an archivist for the Redemptorists in Philadelphia and a board member of the American Catholic Historical Society. He said the deconsecration and decommissioning of churches is happening with “vigour” and that:

There’s no drawing back from it. It’s a wave that just can’t be stopped.

He added :

It is possible to keep churches open, even older ones, even dilapidated ones, as long as there’s money and a will.

He said one reason for selling church property, especially after the sex-abuse scandal in Boston, when many churches were closed in 2004, has been to settle expensive lawsuits. But he was was surprised that the scandal was “never brought up in any of the public sessions by anyone” at the conference, despite, in the United States at least, the issue being:

The big elephant in the room.

Brody Hale, an American independent consultor on church preservation who also attended the conference, said he found the event “disappointing,” due to a lack of emphasis on what is being done to:

Actually save closed churches as sacred spaces.

Hale said he was concerned that some Church leaders seemed to have lost a “sense of the sacred” and was saddened to learn from many conference delegates that a large number of people are today thinking about “turning a church into a museum or a concert venue,” but they are not thinking enough “on how to keep it a church.”

In his message to the conference, Pope Francis stressed that ecclesiastical cultural assets are:

Witnesses to the faith of the community that has produced them over the centuries, and for this reason they are in their own way instruments of evangelization that accompany the usual tools of proclamation, preaching and catechesis.

In further comments, the Pope said the perception that “many churches” are no longer seen as necessary – either due to a “lack of faithful and clergy” or population shifts:

Should be welcomed in the Church not with anxiety, but as a sign of the times that invites us to reflection and requires us to adapt.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • adhoc

    “…said that a former church can be “secularised but not desecrated.”

    If you sold your property, you no longer get a say about what happens on the property.

  • I wonder how they’d react to what happened to one local Catholic church. When the congregation moved to a new, considerably larger building evangelicals bought the old building. I’ve always wondered what they had to do to “de-Catholic” it.

  • DingoJack

    Pizzerias are blasphemous?!?
    I thought they typically had pedo rings in the basement — just like your typical Catholic church…

  • Glandu

    I don’t get the thing about Pizzerias either. I can understand their sensibility being shocked by night clubs or porn exhibits(though once the building is sold, it’s not more their stuff), but pizzerias???

  • Stephen Mynett

    “It is possible to keep churches open, even older ones, even dilapidated ones, as long as there’s money and a will.”

    If money is an issue perhaps they could dip into the RCC’s cast resources, a percentage of the money the nasty Albanian Poison Dwarf conned out of people under the pretext it was helping people in Kolkata should easily cover the costs.

    Those bastards are always pleading poverty, despite the billions they have. A German friend had several visits from the local priest after she had stopped paying Kirchensteuer, along with the usual threats of eternal damnation etc there was also a plea not to stop paying into a fund that helped so many, although the priest was not exactly open about who it was helping.

  • Broga

    “The phenomenon is spreading.”

    I think he meant “This common practice is spreading faster than ever.” It certainly isn’t a phenomenon.
    Hasn’t Frankie called a big conference in February to tell them to stop the widespread practice of sexual abuse by the priests? He could have sent them an e mail or postcard for all the good it will do. Enforced celibacy invites sexual perversion.

  • kilda

    Pizza places, blasphemous. Porn exhibitions, blasphemous. Gays, unacceptable. Pedophilia, just a normal part of doing business. Sigh. they have no problem finding time and energy to be outraged at everything except pedophilia.

  • Broga

    Offer them a share of the pizzeria profits, but at least 50%, and the “sensibility about being shocked” will disappear.

  • Brummie

    Some of them would make great pubs, much more beneficial establishments for social harmony.

  • Jim Jones

    > Should be welcomed in the Church not with anxiety, but as a sign of the times that invites us to reflection and requires us to adapt.

    IOW, “Oh crap. We’re fucked”.

    The most prominent religion in Denmark is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, known as the Dansk Folkekirke (Danish People’s Church). Over 75 percent of Danes identify with the church, and most attend services for holidays such as Christmas Eve and Easter, even though weekly church attendance is quite low—around 2.4 percent.

    https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/religion-in-denmark

    “Record numbers leave Church of Denmark after atheist adverts.”

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/atheist-adverts-denmark-religion-christians-blamed-record-numbers-church-danish-a7230156.html

  • Jim Jones

    > although the priest was not exactly open about who it was helping.

    Did he drive there in a car?

  • Bubblecar

    “Hale said he was concerned that some Church leaders seemed to have lost a “sense of the sacred”

    The term “holier than thou” was invented for this kind of pious dickhead.

    He knows there’s nothing anyone can do to change the fact that fewer and fewer people have any use for religious make-believe.

    So he can safely play the role of “the only holy man in the room” and leave the practical side of re-purposing churches to others, while tut-tutting at them.

  • mordred

    They preached hatred for more than a millennium.

    They persecuted, tortured and slaughtered everyone not worshipping as they wanted.
    The blessed conquerors and slavers.
    They stood with the tyrannic kings of old and the fascists of the 20th century.
    They protected abusers and rapists in their rank and supplied them with more victims.

    What exactly could you do that would “desecrate” a Catholic place of worship?

  • mordred

    A friend of mine found out that he was a member of the German Protestant Church, despite not even being baptized when he started working and realized he was paying Kirchensteuer.

    He hurried to officially quit, so he promptly had the local priest at his door. The protestant cleric was more friendly than the Catholic in your example, but my friend was still pissed of.

    The priest had not once talked to him before and he could not remember the local church doing anything for him, his friends or his family – but now that he did no longer pay them, suddenly the were concerned for him!

  • Stephen Mynett

    They are all the same an Kirchensteuer is subject they do not like talking about because a lot pay it without realising and once they do know about it often opt out.
    The Protestant churches around the world were happy to see all the blame directed at the RCC but the truth is they are all nearly as bad as the others, as has been seen in the past few years. I know quite a few smug Anglicans who were very protective of a local Bishop I disliked intensely because he was a pervert, despite the fact I could provide genuine evidence with witnesses of how he and his evangelical friends used to visit local schools and found it necessary to go into the boy’s shower and changing rooms after rugby, football etc, although none actually took part in the games, they were just there to size up the talent.
    Oddly enough those smug Anglicans tend to steer clear of since Peter Ball, form Bishop of Gloucester and friend of the ponce Justin Welby was convicted of sex offences.

  • DingoJack

    Dedicate it to the concept of love?

  • DingoJack

    Was that the very thing that drove the Reformation? The indulgence of priestly greed?

  • DingoJack

    Perhaps they could send in DCI Gene Hunt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWT-2AzKc5Y

  • raymond metcalfe

    There is an amateur theatre in padstow cornwal. Its a former Methodist chapel when they sold the chapel they insisted that they couldn’t have a bar installed. As far as I know there is still no bar.

  • raymond metcalfe

    There is a former church here in Newport that is a witherspoons. A good use of a building pitty the beer isn’t up to much

  • Kitirena Koneko

    Considering how many of those “sacred” sites where churches were built on that were originally Pagan holy sites, the Catholic Cult hasn’t got any grounds to complain when the deconsecrated cult centers are put to better use afterwards–especially because they’re no longer being used to promote pedophilia, homophobia, and anti-science dogma.

  • DanD

    It is entirely possible to put a convenant in the deed, and such things must be respected. However, they must also be disclosed, and often lower the value of the property. That sort of thing is often used for home owners associations, which I’m not a fan of, but also historic preservation, which I am.

    (I’m aware of a Preservation group that maintains historic homes and properties. They get older homes donated from time to time, more than they can practically develop into historic sites. Those that are historically interesting but not unique or with enough interest to justify turning it into an open to the public historic site are often resold (assuming the donation allows it) with a historical preservation covenant. Typically the covenant restricts the new owner from demolishing the building or making major changes to the exterior appearance. The money they get from this sale (again, frequently less than they would if it was sold on the open market, but consistent with their preservation mission), goes to maintain and develop other properties.

    So yes, you can have a say about future use if you’ve sold it, but you need to have it written into the deed.