On the Catalan Daily website, La Vanguardia of December 24, 2022, we learned that the number of seminarian in Church in Spain has dropped by 40% over the past 20 years. At the end of the Council, in 1965, there were 8,000 seminarians, in 2000 there were still 1,737, in 2020 there were only 1,028.
The Archdiocese of Barcelona, which has 2 million Catholics, has only 26 seminarians. In the same Catalan province, the diocese of Girona has just over 100 priests, whose average age is 73, to serve 394 parishes, and in the diocese of Vic, 144 priests have died since 2003, and only 15 have been ordained.
At the European level: from 2000 to 2019, Spain went from 227 ordinations to 125; Germany from 140 ordinations to 55; France from 150 to 94; Italy from 520 to 310.
An article from the Luxembourg site Wort on February 16, 2023 shows the dramatic spiritual decline in Luxembourg between 2008 and 2021. While 75% of residents believed or practiced a religion in 2008, they number only 48% in 2021.
Conducted at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, this inquiry by the European Value Survey relayed by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (STATEC), reveals that among those questioned, 59% said they never go to places of worship. While 4% go there once a week and the same proportion once a month, 15.5% only attend a religious service on great feast days or ceremonies.
While in 2008 only 39% of residents said that “God was not important in their life,” this proportion has exploded to reach 60% in 2021. It should be noted that the share of residents without religion rose from 35% to 44%, while the share of atheists rose from 10% to 18%.
However, since 2011, the Archbishop of the Grand Duchy has been the Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of COMECE, the episcopal commission to the European Union, and general rapporteur for the next synod on synodality.
From 1990 to 1994, Cardinal Hollerich, well known for his ultra-progressive ideas, was the spiritual guide of Luxembourg seminarians and the person responsible for the pastoral care of vocations in Luxembourg. It is therefore with these eloquent results that the general rapporteur of the next synod will provide pastoral proposals for better evangelization.
On the Quebec site Estrie plus of January 24, it was reported that the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke is selling three more churches, because of the dechristianization which forces the closure of places of worship: “Three other churches in Estrie will close their doors. St. Ephrem Church, in Fitch Bay, St. Malo and St. Hermenegild, in the municipalities of the same name, are starting the request for proposals process.
“The objective will be to find a new buyer for these buildings while ensuring that they can remain at the service of the community.” Already last November, the archdiocese sold the Church of the Resurrection of Christ for 1.2 million Canadian dollars to the city of Sherbrooke, which will build a child care center and public housing there.
Faced with this acceleration of church sales in the once Christian West, many are questioning their reassignment. The Vaticanist Sandro Magister on his site Settimo Cielo on February 14, writes: “Thousands of churches in Europe suffer from abandonment. With even fewer Catholics at Mass, they find themselves empty. And so they are being closed.”
“In Germany, in Holland, in Belgium, the figures are dizzying. But in Italy as well there is a growing number of churches in disuse. Here, at least, the churches are not state but ecclesiastical property, and therefore enjoy spontaneous and lasting protection on the part of their respective diocesan and parish communities.”
“But when these communities dwindle and disappear, for their churches it is the end. They are at serious risk of going under and ending up on the market, perhaps turned into supermarkets or dance halls, or in any case into something contrary to the purpose for which they arose.”
This is why, continues the Italian journalist, “in the Vatican they have tried to study how to remedy this. At the end of November 2018, the Pontifical Council for Culture, headed by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, organized a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University with delegates from the episcopates of Europe and North America, entitled: ‘Doesn’t God live here anymore?’”
“This produced ‘guidelines’ advising against ‘commercial reuse for speculative aims,’ and instead encouraged ‘reuse for aims of solidarity,’ with ‘cultural or social’ purposes: museums, conference halls, bookshops, libraries, archives, art studios, Caritas centers, clinics, soup kitchens, and more. Still leaving the option of ‘transformation into private homes’ in the case of ‘more modest buildings with no architectural value.’”
But it is clear that “the number of abandoned churches is growing rapidly, with an even stronger need to identify sensible reuse criteria.” Sandro Magister quotes an article by Fr. Giuliano Zanchi, entitled Diversamente chiese, la posta in gioco [From churches to other uses, what is at stake] which appeared in the latest issue of Vita e Pensiero (2022, n°6), a magazine of the Catholic University of Milan.
According to the Roman Vaticanist, “there are two criteria that Zanchi suggests be followed in the reuse of churches that have ceased to be such but want to ‘relaunch themselves in civil life with the function of cultural crossroads and spiritual threshold.’”
The first criterion, he writes, is that which “harnesses the artistic dignity normally connected to historical sacred buildings, which in this particular spirit of the time, defined as ‘post-secularism,’ has universally taken on the faculties of acting as indicator of transcendence.” [sic]
“The second criterion, Zanchi continues, instead consists in ‘that typical need of the contemporary city’ to have liminal areas, thresholds, ‘capable of steering toward the profound and the transcendent, which in the absence of anything else are identified in theaters, museums, libraries, and other places of non-utilitarian ulteriority.’” [re-sic]
With the same sociologizing jargon, the author affirms that “in order to achieve this, the ‘essential precondition’ is that there be in the Church ‘a pastoral vision that is spiritually free and capable of imagination, that has a sense of perspective, the talent for creativity and a fraternal vision of its own presence in the world.’” [re-re-sic]
We propose to Fr. Zanchi reassignment criteria using much less jargon than his own: some of these churches being threatened with decommissioning, for lack of faithful and priests, could be entrusted to communities attached to Tradition who would then celebrate there the liturgy for which those churches have been built.
The misfortune is that today it is Rome which, with Traditionis custodes, persists in disaffecting not the churches, but indeed the Tridentine Mass, and in promoting a reformed liturgy which further empties the churches and the seminaries. To get out of this vicious circle, they would have to allow the “experience of Tradition” to take place, which supposes extracting oneself from a conciliar ideology, which has become de facto suicidal.