Posts filed under: european

One secret to being happy in Europe

Why is church attendance dropping so rapidly in European countries where Catholicism used to thrive? (France, Switzerland, Germany, etc) - Anonymous

It’s a very sad situation, definitely. Actually, it’s dropped even faster in European countries which tended more towards Protestantism, which is the case of much of Switzerland and Germany; Scandinavia, Holland and England are practically post-Christian at this point.

The number of factors involved is really staggering. Part of it comes from long-term effects of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment: The Church there was so identified with power structures that anyone who sparked a rebellion against any regime was also going to target the Church and faith in general, so that’s why movements as disparate as France’s Revolution, Italy’s Risorgimento and the Communist tendencies of the 20th century were anti-Catholic to a violent extent that’s almost unthinkable for us nowadays in the US. In Ireland, most of the recent drastic erosion has happened thanks to fallout from abuse scandals, since priests had been placed on such a high pedestal there. 

But there are literally hundreds more factors, including the moral relativism that began to take hold after WW2, the oddly different way in which the 1968 revolution happened there, the much closer relationship between Church and State (like Germany’s church tax), etc.

If it’s a subject that you want to get a deeper grasp of, you might really appreciate George Wiegel’s The Cube and the Cathedral. This is also an interesting article, and then of course there are fascinating books by Pope Benedict like this one and this one.

So folks from the Near East evangelized Southern Europe, Southern Europe evangelized Northern Europe, Ireland helped re-evangelize parts of both afterwards, then Spain and Portugal evangelized the Americas, sporadic efforts were made by various powers to evangelize parts of Asia and Africa, and now you see more and more often that Africans and Americans are returning to Europe to re-evangelize it. Funny how that works. Cycles of birth, death, rebirth.

God bless you, and let’s pray for Europe!

- Father Shane

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