Monday, October 31, 2005

The Springtime of Vatican II Report #2

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Author Kenneth Jones Provides Statistical Evidence of Post-Vatican II Decline in the Catholic Church
8/12/2003 2:28:00 PM
By Karl Maurer - Catholic Citizens News Service

Kenneth Jones’ statistic research work first appeared in Latin Mass magazine in the Nineties. As a CPA working in the investments industry at that time, I was already immersed in charts, graphs and financial reports comparing projections and actual results. I knew the decline in the Church had been precipitous since the Sixties, but when I was faced with page after page of glaring bar charts, the awful truth really hit home. A picture says a thousand words, good or bad. It occurred to me then that the quantitative approach to charting the post-Vatican II declines would make a good book someday, and that day has come.

Mr. Jones addressed the Catholic Citizens of Illinois monthly lunch forum on August 8th (held on the second Friday of every month at the Chicago Athletic Association) discussing his new book, The Index of Leading Catholic Indicators (Oriens Publishing, St. Louis, MO.) He could have easily subtitled this work with any number of clever by-lines, but showing a lawyer’s restraint, he delivers the numbers straight up with simple charts and tables covering the period 1920 to 2000, and with projections through 2020 in most cases, based on the trends since the Sixties. His sources of data are independent and credible. The approach to evaluating data (specifically in the area of survey bias in determining Mass attendance numbers) is scientific and accurate. The results are bleak and depressing.

Mr. Jones is a very personable speaker, which was an asset as he recounted the grim statistics in Catholic vocations, beliefs and education to a scandal wearied crowd of traditional Catholics. From 1920 to 2000, the Catholic population in America grew from around 18 million to over 60 million, a 360% increase. From 1920 to 1970, the number of priest steady rose, to a peak of 59,000. By 1970, there were 161,000 nuns and sisters. But in the years that followed, vocations to the priesthood, sisterhood, and holy orders collapsed. There are one tenth as many seminarians today as in the Sixties. The nuns as most of us remember them - teaching and loving - have been cut by more than half. Everywhere there is a lack of, or loss of faith in Catholic teachings.

What could have gone so terribly wrong to produce such declines?

Jones believes, as do many Catholics, that the Second Vatican Council, and the implementation of various reforms immediately following that Council, are directly responsible. “No reasonable person looking at the evidence could come to any other conclusion. The beginning of the declines in all categories commences after the Council, and it’s been all down hill since. Yes, I believe there is a positive correlation.”

Yet in spite of the post-Council wreckage, church leaders continue to insist that the Second Council was a smashing success, and the reforms should continue, in spite of the results. The disconnect between the causes and effects of the decline was the motivation for writing the book, which Jones hopes will help Catholics distinguish between the myths and realities of Vatican II.

The statistics related to Catholic attitudes on core Catholic values have changed dramatically in the last forty years. They reveal that since Vatican II, there are tens of millions of self-proclaimed Catholics in this country who aren’t Catholic at all.

Though the results in several polls vary, Jones believes that Mass attendance in America is currently at 25% (if you think that’s bad, most of Europe is in single digits.) Catholicism of the 1920’s was characterized by huge urban Cathedrals and tightly woven very ethnic and very Catholic parishes. Not surprising, Mass attendance was high, as high as 80% in some areas, but always a majority of the parish members. Attendance began to crash in the Sixties, falling by double digits annually in the early Seventies to one in four Catholics today.

There are no lines at the confessionals either, because no one is going. In one survey, Jones noted, one in three Catholics today claim to go to Confession once a month. “All you have to do is look around on Sunday to know that something’s not right. It’s called survey bias. We suspect many Catholics surveyed knew they had to make an annual confession to remain Catholic, and they gave information that was not true.”

A 1994 New York Times/CBS poll showed that 70% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 44 have lost faith in the Eucharist, believing instead that it was a “symbolic reminder” of Jesus. The same survey revealed that 51% of Mass going Catholics believed that the Eucharist was symbolic! If the majority of modern Catholics had their way, noted Jones, we would have woman priests and married priests, and all prohibitions on birth control would be lifted, including abortion. Jones traces the increasing gulf between Catholic actions and beliefs to the Second Vatican Council.

Faced with dwindling religious order teachers, and poor catechism and education quality, the numbers of Catholic schools and students declined dramatically from 1960 to today. But there is good news: private Catholic schools (non-diocesan) have been increasing as orthodox home-school families have banded together, hired teachers and converted buildings.

Jones concludes that the Second Vatican Council wasn’t so much a spark that lit a dry forest, but a force that broke a dam which held back oceans of dissent and heresy. The application of the reform of Vatican II says Jones, combined with the social and technological changes going on in the world, has been a complete disaster. It is difficult for Jones and many Catholics to reconcile the optimism of the pope, who lavishes praise on the many fruits of Vatican II that are, in the Holy Father’s words, spreading their branches in the New Pentecost. “If this is renewal,” said Jones wryly, “I don’t want to be around when the decline sets in.”

What to do about it? Jones suggests that Catholics resort to the most powerful and plentiful weapon within their grasp - prayer. Prayer for our families, our country, and most importantly for our priests and bishops, that they make the right decisions and provide faithful leadership.

The second thing to do is evangelize, joining groups such as Credo, which Jones helped found in St. Louis in 1996, or like Catholic Citizens of Illinois (also founded in 1996.) “Through forums, newsletters, websites, phone calls, conferences, videos, tapes and TV the voice of authentic Catholicism is being heard.” Jones encouraged restoration oriented Catholics to keep the truth alive and in front of the Catholic laity and clergy, and not to be afraid to defend the Catholic faith, and the truth, when it is challenged.

It’s hard to argue with Jones’ numbers, but it is possible to look at them in different ways.

We all know that there are many millions of inactive, self-described Catholics who ask nothing of their parish and give nothing in return. In the 1920’s two out of three Catholics went to Mass weekly, a number that was sustained though the early Sixties, then crashed to one out of four Catholics today.

If we exclude non-Mass attending Catholics from the mix, the numbers across the board look different. Besides, in evaluating the workloads of priests, churches, and schools, it is unreasonable to include Catholics-in-name-only, who show up at Church to be “hatched, matched, or dispatched” never to be seen of again.

The priest problem doesn’t look as bad when compared to the number of Catholics who attend to Mass. In fact, it shows improvement. From 1920 to 2000, the number of Mass Attending Catholics per priest declined from 500 to 350. Conversely, during that period, the number of Total Catholics per priest nearly doubled, from 843 to 1,429, supporting the thesis that there is a “shortage” of priests.

I would argue that a priest is primarily going to minister to the needs of Catholics who go to Mass, and have little to do with the 75% who don’t show up for Mass. While the projections get worse going forward, but by 2020, estimates show there will be one priest for every 500 Mass Attending Catholics, which are no worse than the levels experienced in the 1920’s.

The good news is that in spite of the collapse in vocations in the old-line religious orders, there are new orders of priests that are booming with seminarians. The Legionnaires of Christ, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society of St. John Cantius, for example, are highly orthodox and thriving communities. Even the bleak landscape of diocesan vocations is dotted with hope in unexpected cities like Denver and Lincoln, Nebraska, where orthodox men are being attracted by orthodox bishops.

In spite of the decline in Catholic education at the elementary and high school level, vocations are being created in great numbers as the number of orthodox universities increases. The greatest number of vocations recruitment up to the 1960’s was done in Catholic Universities. The collapse in the number of seminarians is mostly due to the collapse of faithfulness to traditional Catholic values in places like Georgetown, DePaul, and other universities that today are entirely secularized. With the rise of private colleges like Thomas Aquinas in California, Christendom College in Virginia, Franciscan in Steubenville, and now Ave Maria in Florida, there are increasing numbers of authentically Catholic universities, and the consequence, as before, will be increasing vocations coming from them.

The decline in the number of Catholic schools and students is not entirely driven by Vatican II, though the collapse of authentic Catholic curriculum and catechism in these schools can find little other cause. Affordability of Catholic education has been adversely impacted by taxes on working families, which rose from 15% of gross income to 45% of gross income today, all taxes (federal, state, and local) included. Under these circumstances, most Catholic families can’t afford to send their children to a private or parochial school, and without any other choice, are forced into public education and the propaganda that comes with it, reinforcing the secular and skeptic beliefs that plague us today.

The numbers of sisters, many of them teachers, declined from 138,000 in 1945 to 75,000 today, forcing Catholic schools to hire lay teachers and pay them competitive salaries. Not only was this more expensive, but many Catholic parents reacted by sending their kids to the public schools if brothers or nuns weren’t teaching anymore at their parish school. During his talk, Jones correctly pointed out that the tragic demise of the sisterhood worldwide needed to be better appreciated by Catholics. In spite of heroic popular saints like the Therese the Little Flower, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the orders of sisters have been co-opted by feminists and dissenters to an astounding degree.

Fortunately, just like in the priesthood, the orders of sisters that are growing and thriving are those which have clung most tenaciously to tradition and orthodoxy. The great orders of tomorrow are being founded before our eyes by the courage and faith of women like Mother Assumpta Long, TV evangelist Mother Angelica, and Mother Teresa. Just as the priesthood of the future will be populated by men of orthodoxy and faith, the liberal sisters of the 80’s and 90’s will soon have run their course, and the restoration will be aided by orthodox nuns.

Kenneth Jones has provided a wealth of information on the decline in the Catholic Church. What remains to be seen is whether the bishops will act on it, or continue to perpetuate the myth that everything is fine, and the fruits of the Second Council are continuing to unfold, when in fact, the exact opposite is true.


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