Numbers down in England and Wales

A depressing bit of news from not-too-Catholic-friendly RNS:

Roman Catholics decline in England, Wales

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) The number of Roman Catholic adherents in England and Wales fell by more than 90,000 in 2012, despite a wave of immigrants from Poland and other Eastern European countries with historically Catholic backgrounds.

Prominent Catholics say the recent wave of sex abuse scandals involving priests and children is responsible for the decline. [Prominent Catholics?  Uh huh.  I wonder which flavor koolaid they drink.  Anyone wanna guess?]


Read the rest there.  There is even some ol’ fashioned class warfare worked in.

I wonder if the real reason there are declining numbers is that people don’t hear much clear Catholicism, hard-identity Catholicism from the Church’s pastors.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Hard-Identity Catholicism, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Maria says:

    I have been visiting Carmarthen, Wales, UK almost every year since 2001. The church I went to had only one mass on Sunday. In 2001, it was barely half full, 60% Filipinos and 40% Welsh. Last year, the mass is overflowing and standing even to the entrance. This time it its mostly Filipinos, Polish and Welsh. The church is now noisy due to Filipino and Polish children and from 1 alter server to 7. The priest is from India.

  2. mamajen says:

    I’ve not been over since 2007, but in general it seemed to me that the Catholic churches where I was (South Yorkshire) were doing quite well. There were lots of young families with kids. My in-laws’ sleepy little Anglican parish, by comparison, has so few members that I’m not quite sure how it remains open, and most of them are older.

    I agree about hard-identity Catholicism in any case. We lost a lot of the weaker Catholics over here due to sex abuse scandals.

  3. anilwang says:

    I do think that the sex abuse scandals do play a part…as both a cause and an effect.

    It’s obvious that the mindset the caused the sex abuse scandals was already at work in seminaries and education long before they were exposed, and that played a big part of weakening the faith of priests and laity in the Church’s sexual teachings, which burst forth in the Humanae Vitae rebellion

    After the Humanae Vitae rebellion, priests became as Cardinal Dolan put it, gunshy about discussing sexual sins, but some did talk about them. Unfortunately, the sex abuse scandals provided opponents of the Catholic Church to shut down the few faithful voices by saying that priests are hypocrites that need to stop doing illegal sexual sins before they counsel people about legal sexual sins (which in their minds aren’t sins, since they might have prevented the illegal sins). So an whole area of hard identity Catholic morality became taboo, and replaced by a more worldly “we’re just animals and can’t control ourselves” narrative. As such abstinence of any sort became quaint, unnecessary, and harmful and the remaining hard identity dominoes fell, except for the liturgy. But given that the strength of Marriage defines the relationship between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:22-33), that last hard Catholic identity marker was greatly wounded.

    But it’s clear to me that the only way to undo the damage is getting back to teaching the unpopular basics. If you get those done, penance and abstinence make sense and are palatable. If they’re then practiced in all aspects of the faith, we have our hard Catholic identity back. If marriages get strengthened, the liturgy is also strengthened.

  4. St Donatus says:

    From what I read above, it is mostly those who were CINO Catholics that are ‘officially’ leaving. I am afraid that so many listen to the media and don’t look beyond. They don’t know that the media rarely makes a big deal about a teacher that is a pedophile, or the school that hides them. But if it is a Catholic priest, they place a prominent target on their heads and shoot away. A well covered up statistic is that the rate of public school teachers involved in pedophilia is many times higher than for Catholic priests. Sadly, priests are sinners just like the rest of us.

    God Bless the Catholic Church and her priests.

  5. Vincent says:

    Mah, I know not what the reason may be..

    I can only imagine the lack of new priests and the continual cutting of parishes might have something to do with it? My parish at home (Shrewsbury Diocese) has been closed, as has one of the two parishes that my parish priest served. So we no longer have a parish priest, we’re “served” by the next biggest town, poor man. He could do with prayers – there’s no Holy Water in the entrance, nor is there a crucifix on or behind the Altar (table) – at least one person in the village switched to the Anglican church because “it’s the same thing anyway”.

    However, in York, the churches are going strong, with full two full Masses on Sundays in most churches across the city. This time, I have no idea what the reason is, that one has me stumped. Perhaps because St Margaret Clitherow is working on us very hard.

    Even so, there are a lot of young Catholics who really haven’t been formed well in terms of their beliefs – not believing in transubstantiation for one.. I can imagine that’s also a problem as well, as they no longer bother going to church after they’ve left home. England is a country that has struggled with Catholicism since the days when it was banned, and has at least for the last two hundred years relied on people to immigrate and bring the Faith – my family is relatively unusual in that we do have a strand that kept the Faith throughout the Reformation. However, even then we have been kept Catholic through marriage with Irish families. It’s unsurprising then that we’re reliant on Filipinos and Poles. In England it’s so important that the Faith is taught properly, as it’s our line of defence against a cultural and historical anti-Papism.

  6. Muv says:

    Hello Fr. Z,

    I have just nipped over to RNS hoping for a bit of a giggle at some hackneyed old class warfare. Unfortunately, what it says about middle class baptisms of convenience to get children into Catholic schools is true.

    References to class in this country do not necessarily denote warfare.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, but anyone who leaves because of sex-abuse scandals is leaving for another reason. Our faith is not dependent on the sins of others. I have personally, in the past three years, never heard anyone in Wales (where I stayed twice) and England (where I lived on and off for twelve months) People have left because of the Church’s stance on divorce and remarriage without an annulment, the growing popularity of atheism and agnosticism, and overwhelming number of Catholics who support contraception and even abortion.

    To use the sex scandals for an excuse is just that, an excuse, for not following the moral laws of the Church.

    Another huge siphoning off of faith is the prevalence of real Marxist materialism-in other words, the denial of an afterlife.

    Catholics in America do not understand the real danger of the growth of materialistic socialism and communism in Europe, which, in my mind, is way more of threat to the Church than Islam.

    Well, just remember the Pope Emeritus’ prophecy from 1963 on the lean and mean Church-smaller but more orthodox.

  8. lsclerkin says:

    The remnant will be so much smaller, everywhere, than I ever thought.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    Yes the remnant will be smaller if only due to the demographics of the current Church population. If you go into most masses today you see a sea of gray and white heads, hardly any young people. At least that is the case here in the Northeast US. The only exception to this is when you go to the TLM where you see a mixture of old and young. It’s especially heartening to see the young families come in with 3 or 4 children sometimes more in tow.

    For another vision for what a future church might look like I have to mention Supertradmum’s series “the hourglass” that she has been running at her site. A combination of an atheistic world government, a nuclear exchange, and natural events result in much devastation and the Church having to go underground to serve the few faithful Catholics that remain. Definitely worth reading.

  10. pmullane says:

    “Prominent Catholics say the recent wave of sex abuse scandals involving priests and children is responsible for the decline. ”

    Well its handy to hang your faults on the peg of someone else’s sins, however its utterly and totally hogwash.

    Catholics in Britain are abandoning the Church because they have fell out of love with Christ. Catholics are not evangelising anyone in the UK, not their neighbours, not their families, not their children. If you dont evangelise someone for Christ, then someone else will evangelise them for something else. Put it this way, a parent will never talk to their child about Jesus, about why the Catholic Church is right, about living for Christ, about discenring a vocation, but the parent will happily sit the child in front of the BBC and other mass media who will preach to them (explicitly or implicitly) about how the Church is wrong, how Jesus didnt exist, how religion is silly credulous superstition, etc. Dragging them to Church to sit bored in front of a priest going through the utterly familiar yet entirely unknown incantations week after week (or on the weeks where we can be bothered) isnt really going to change the daily brainwashing of the culture, a daily brainwashing that we do nothing to counter. Catholic parents grew lazy and relied on catholic schools to teach the Faith. Catholic schools cant teach children to read and count, let alone become saints.

    The people left with their spirit before they left with their bodies. They were freed the burden of confessing their sins, so they stopped confessing their sins. Why would a Cathlolic who loves Christ and hates sin stop asking for his mercy, stop asking for forgiveness and to be washed clean of the thing that hurts his beloved? Catholics fell out of love with Jesus, and fell into love with the world. They could keep up the old pretence of the faith, going on a Sunday morning, as far as they could be bothered. But they stopped going to confession. The 6-7 children became 2-3 Children. They didnt have to fast or pray any more. They didnt expect any of their children to find a vocation, thats no life for their children. And they have kept moving, peice by peice, away from the light. Then something happens (new girlfriend, fell out with the priest, split up with the wife, etc etc) and their spirit had already left, so their bodies followed.

    We dont produce saints, we dont produce Nuns, we dont produce Monks, we dont produce priests, we dont produce Catholics.

  11. jaykay says:

    pmullane: I couldn’t agree more with you, and your analysis applies equally well to that soggy island lying just to the west of you! Except, you have to add that in the case of Ireland it’s more than just the sort of disillusionment/bad catechesis/laziness you have described. Added to that already toxic mix is the almost schizophrenic hatred (sort of a self-hatred, really?) of everything connected with our rich Catholic heritage, and the gadarene rush to distance oneself from it and become just another mid-Atlantic consumer drone with any genuine sense of what really distinguished our culture (hint: it began with C and ended with c) well and truly eliminated.

    Yet another example was seen just two days ago when the Paper of Record chose to give front page headlines to our former President, Mouthy (oops, sorry, Mary) McAlesse, venting off in spectacularly ill-informed fashion about “the Church’s” (and no, it wasn’t the Primitive Methodists she was on about) attitude towards gays. Agenda journalism or what? But that the soi-disant premier paper of the country, catering for what passes for the educated classes, chose to feature this hissy-fit rant speaks volumes as to where we are.

  12. Per Signum Crucis says:

    My diocese (Nottingham) is in the same position as Vincent’s due to a projected shortage of priests even allowing for new seminarians: the near future is expected to consist of parish mergers and working better together. But the factors cited by other posters are relevant too. A lack of formation, of devotions, of practicing hard-identity Catholicism both as parents and parishioners and, yes, of evangelisation have all played their part. That isn’t to say that the will isn’t there – undoubtedly the process of disaffection that pmullane describes has also had an effect; and all these things together have had greater impact than the abuse scandals – amongst rank and file Catholics and some clergy. But we need leadership and inspiration and faith in Christ and His Church at every level to emerge from the imminent lean period in a healthier state.

  13. I’m originally from Eastern Europe, I have lived in the UK for over 9 years and I am convinced that the Catholic Church in England is weak because access to the sacraments is hugely restricted. In my native country anyone, with any job could easily go to Mass every day – and people did. In the UK you have to be either rich, retired or a religious if you want daily communion due to weekday Mass times (in Eastern Europe no one has ever heard of having a Mass at 10 am on a Wednesday – why would a priest want to deliberately exclude people with jobs?). Also, where I come from there is no weekly bulletin for Mass times: Mass is at x hour on a weekday, every day, every weeek; Masses are not dropped just because it’s half-term, or the 17th day before Christmas or the Moon is in the seventh house or whatever. The same with confessions: in the UK it seems that for some strange reason Saturday is the day when you can go to confession. In my native country priests sat half an hour in the box before every Mass. (Before Mass. It’s another thing I’d never seen before coming to the UK: confessions after Mass. Why would you want confession after you could not receive and the next Mass is a day away?) Meaning confession was available every day. Faith is nurtured by the sacraments and priests were ordained for two things: to celebrate Mass and hear confessions. Everything else they are involved in could be done by others, laypeople. But here in the UK so many things seem to be higher on the priority list.

  14. Ben Kenobi says:

    Yes, confessions after mass would be fantastic but they are hard to find.

    @ Vincent

    “However, in York, the churches are going strong.”

    That surprises no one who’s studied their history. ;) The Percy’s and all.

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