Pius XII and John Paul II
that the mourning for John Paul II has ended and he has
been laid to rest in St. Peter's, it is time to consider
the state of the church he led for 27 years. For, despite
his extraordinary life, his holiness and his critical role
in bringing an end to communist rule in Eastern Europe,
the condition of the church is grave.
years ago, Kenneth C. Jones of St. Louis pulled together
a slim book he titled "Index of Leading Catholic Indicators:
The Church Since Vatican II." As that church council ended
40 years ago this year, what good fruit did it bear? Since
-- The number of Catholic priests has fallen from 58,000
to 45,000. By 2020, there will be 31,000 and half will
be over 70.
In 1965, 1,575 new priests were ordained. In 2002, the
number was 450. Some 3,000 parishes are today without
Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians fell
from 49,999 to 4,700, a decline of over 90 percent. Two-thirds
of the seminaries open in 1965 have since closed their
-- The number of Catholic nuns, 180,000 in 1965, has fallen
by 60 percent. Their average age is now 68. The number
of teaching nuns has fallen 94 percent since the close
of Vatican II.
-- The number of young men studying to be Jesuits has
fallen by 90 percent and of those studying to be Christian
Brothers by 99 percent. The Religious Orders seem to be
dying out in America.
-- Almost half the Catholic high schools open in 1965
have closed. There were 4.5 million students in Catholic
schools in the mid-1960s. Today, there is about half that
-- Only 10 percent of lay religious teachers in 2002 accepted
church teaching on contraception, 53 percent believed
a Catholic woman could get an abortion and remain a good
Catholic, 65 percent said Catholics have a right to divorce
and remarry, and in a New York Times poll, 70 percent
of Catholics ages 18 to 54 said they believed the Holy
Eucharist was but a "symbolic reminder" of Jesus.
-- Where three in four Catholics attended mass on Sunday
in 1958, today one in four do.
that period, the number of Catholics and priests in America
doubled. The most visible prelate was not Cardinal Law,
but Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, whose TV ratings bested those
of Milton Berle, who cracked, "He has better writers than
I do." Parochial schools and Catholic high schools could
not be built fast enough to accommodate the baby boomers
of Catholic parents. Masses were full on Sundays, and there
were long lines outside the confessionals on Saturday.
papacy of Pius XII was a time of explosive growth in the
church, while that of John Paul II coincided with Catholic
scandal and decline. Was the Holy Father responsible for
the latter? No, but it is regrettably true that the decline
that began at the close of Vatican II continued unabated
through the papacy of John Paul II. Conceding his sanctity
and charisma, he was unable to stop it.
what was the cause of it? Defenders of Vatican II say that
blaming the council "reforms" they cherish for the decline
in vocations and devotion is a classic case of the logical
fallacy, "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc." After this, therefore,
because of this.
because a precipitous Catholic decline began with Vatican
II does not mean Vatican II was the cause, they contend.
Perhaps not. But there is no question but that -- measuring
what the council produced against what Catholics were promised
-- it was, in Jimmy Carter's phrase, "a limited success."
Neither Paul VI nor John Paul II was able to arrest the
spread of heresy, defections and disbelief that followed
the Second Vatican Council.
the church has maintained her numerical strength in America,
this is due only to immigration. As one Chicago priest said,
each week he buries a Lithuanian or Polish Catholic -- and
baptizes two Hispanic babies.
happened to Catholicism is what happened to America. Both
passed through a moral, social and cultural revolution that
has altered the most basic beliefs of men and women. There
has been a "transvaluation of all values." What was considered
scandalous or immoral not long ago -- promiscuity, abortion,
homosexuality -- is now considered progressive. It says
everything about our age that, were a judicial nominee in
America to echo the views of John Paul II on human life,
the Democratic Senate would unanimously filibuster his nomination
to death and denounce him as an extremist.
much of the church having succumbed to the heresy of modernism,
it needs an Athanasius. As good a man as the pope was, as
great as were his achievements, as noble as was his witness
for life, the Catholic Church still awaits that bishop.
2005 Creators Syndicate
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