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People are walking away from Catholicism because they do not understand it

If anything, New Atheists only help a faith in decline across Europe

By on Friday, 22 June 2012

Statio Orbis

I had lunch the other day with an influential member of the Anglican communion, who I really ought to see more of. He told me who is going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, and more importantly, who is not. Then the conversation moved to matters of general concern, chief of which is why are so few people going to church these days, whether that church be Catholic or Anglican. Was it true, for example, that Catholic practice in Ireland was falling sharply?

The truth of the matter is that religious practice is everywhere in retreat, even in Ireland, even in Malta, even in Poland. And why is this? Well, it is nothing to do with anti-Christian campaigners like Richard Dawkins. If anything they help the cause of Christianity by keeping it on the agenda. So, thanks to Professor Dawkins, rather than otherwise, but he cannot really take credit for the decline in Catholic practice, or Anglican practice either.

Are the scandals to do with child abuse, or the other scandals, the ones to do with P2, the Vatican Bank, Roberto Calvi, the Pope’s butler, the supposed murder of John Paul I, are these to blame? Again, I think not. Both of us agreed that the real reason for the falling off was not rejection of the faith but rather ignorance of the faith. People are walking away from Catholicism and Anglicanism not because they reject it, but because they do not understand it.

The ignorance is gross. And this seems to be a widespread phenomenon. Have a look at this posting by an American priest, here. These sentiments are not uncommon, nor are these examples that are cited of gross ignorance of the faith and the practice of the faith isolated ones.

Once upon a time people did know about the faith, and as I have said before, people were able to understand some quite sophisticated concepts, like transubstantiation, purgatory and the communion of saints. But then two things happened: the collapse in educational standards, and the change in approach in catechesis; that these two things happened more or less at the same time spelled disaster for the transmission of the faith.

In some parts of the world the picture is different: Africa, for example, where, as far as I could tell, great care was taken with catechetical materials, and there was good teaching, and, much more importantly, good learning. When I was in Nairobi I quite often used to be asked to do weekends and days of recollection for young people, and frequently they would ask me to speak on things like the resurrection of the body, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and so on – the sort of interests that you associate with the less frequented paths of theology, or with a great interest in knowing all that there is to know about the faith. But I fully accept that people in Nairobi are different to people in the West. They have fewer distractions, are less materialistic and are more interested in metaphysical subjects.

What then must we do? The first thing is surely to look again at the matter of catechesis, and to encourage the catechesis of adults and children alike. In this regard the recent Eucharistic Congress in Dublin and the World Youth Days point the way forward. And we need a national edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Kenya has one. Isn’t it time other countries followed suit?

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal


  • nytor

    If the Catholic Church has “nothing to teach you”, why are you commenting on a Catholic site?

  • nytor

     “to admit that women were very much involved ‘at the altar’ in the early days”

    There is no respectable scholarship which suggests anything of the sort, and as for your “move with the times” nonsense – forget it. The Church is in the mess it’s in BECAUSE of Modernism. More modernism is definitely not the answer! The Church is here to teach the world, not to adopt its errors. On the subject of errors, stop peddling the idea that women can or should be ordained. They can’t. It would invalidate all the sacraments. It is an impossibility. It will never and can never happen.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal


    “When the Pope himself helped cover up the p-phile priest scandal… ”


  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal



  • Martin

    I taught  Religious Education for two years in a ‘liberal’ ‘tolerant’ Catholic High School. Thankfully the Head of the RE Department was a faithful Catholic and those teaching the subject likewise.  However, the person in charge of ‘Faith Development’ in the School set his mark on everything and undid a lot that we were trying to do in the classroom - especially when it came to School Masses and ‘retreats’.
    Someone here made a comment that the dire state of the liturgy in recent decades has had some impact on the understanding of the faith.  And his is undoubrably so.  While the Mass is not primarily didactic – it is worship – the saying holds true – Lex Orandi Lex Credendi – the manner in which we worship (what we do when we gather for worship) is an outward expression of what we believe.
    Of course – when – as so often happens in Catholic schools – the Mass is seen as an opportunity to ‘fiddle with something’ – you will have very real instances of things being done and said which do not express what the catholic Faith holds.  especially when those organising and oreparing school Masses include the usual beyond middle age people with a chip on the shoulder about the Church – and – as was the case in this school – non practicing catholics – and even non catholics organising the liturgy.
    There were times at school masses and certainly on school retreats when I could not go to Holy Communion because these ‘liturgical experts and authorities on what ‘participation in the liturgy mean’ according to their constantly stated understanding of Vatican II meant (incidently – none of them had read the documents when I asked them if they had!) – and so we had non christian students reading the Gospel hymns sung that sounded like the choir had rubber bands around their throats or the members were having a difficult time on the lavatory (since when does church music in our schools have to ape American Idol? and it must always be the hurdy gurdy fair ground school of music).
    Studets distributing communion – who never went to Mass thems elves – and laughed and joked with their friends as they administered the sacred species.
    While preparing my own class, yr 11 students – none of whom went to Mass each Sunday – I would ask them every Monday morning - never a hand went up  - and when I began to  tell them the need to be in the state of grace before receiving communion – and this may require going to confession before hand – one student asked (and i doubt if he was atypical) “Communion?  Is that the bread thing?  I think I did that when i was in Grade Three.  I think I did. Can I do it again?”
    Of course the damage is done by the time they get to Seniour School.  One group of children at the local primary school were prepared for Confirmation – opps – Reconciliation – by being told they had to be friends with each other in the playground and not hurt each others feelings ( I guess it’s part of it) – and at an evening session with parents – every bagged their first experience of ‘the box’ and shared their dreadful, hurtful experiences of guilt and fear.
    I was educated by Dominican Sisters – and back in the 50′s experienced none of these things – but the loving kindness of my Saviour Jesus Christ.  Am I alone in this and was my experience in a Catholic School unique back then – when I was taught and came to know a loving God?
    I will set the cat among the pidgeons and ask – what I have wanted to ask for decades – why have angry and ignorant women in Catholic schools been given so much power and have destroyed so much in recent decades.  because the majority of  RE teachers are women and they appear to me to be angry, bullying and ignorant.  And they have done a great deal of harm to souls. And their few male fellow travellors – especially the priest who have tagged along – ar more than equally guilty of a profound injustice towards many children.
    Last Easter – while travelling – I attended the main mass in a city church – not in the UK – and it was womin’s liturgy – silly, unedifying, distracting and sloppy. 
    Thankfully this lot are getting on in nyears – like me – and I hope to see brighter things before I die.
    Meanwhile on my travels I am staying with a young niece at the moment , and along with her children we are having some interesting discussions about the Faith of which they know little.
    “But Uncle, isn’t the Catholic religion obsessed with sin and guilt?”
    “Sin?  In a way.  You see, St Thomas Aquinas tells us that ‘sin’ is any thought word or dead that harms us.  So , like a loving Mother, the Church does not want us to self-harm.  As for ‘guilt’.  Not really – the church want;s us to experience remorse.  Guilt is more self-centered and is an immature form of repentence and the Church wants us to move on to consider how we have harmed others and ourselves by experiencing remorse.”
    “That makes sense.  I never understood it that way before. Why didn’t anyone explain it like that to me at school?”
    There you go.

  • HapHarris

    Pope St. Pius X warned us the modernists would take
    away our faith, and so they have. They have done this by using Catholic terms
    and terminology, but then; they gave them new definitions until the “original
    defined Traditions Doctrines, and Dogmas” were forgotten [except by a few
    Traditionalists] and have taken on completely new meanings.  “It was St. Pius X who condemned, in a fiery
    apostolic letter, the very idea of a brotherhood of the different religions,
    calling it a miserable effluent of the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church.”  Today, in Rome, one can smell the stench
    of Freemasonry as he looks on with disgust at the last three gatherings of all
    the false religions of the world at Assisi. 
     “And it was he, the only canonized pope in the
    past 470 years, whose body lies incorrupt in St. Peter’s Basilica, who
    forcefully reminded the world of an essential fact of history which the Vatican
    of today seems to have forgotten: that the only “civilization of
    love” the world will ever know is Christian Civilization.  

  • Honeybadger

    Excellent answer, as always!

  • Sweetjae

    Your accussation of “modernism” against VII and the present Church is NOT the
    same type of “modernism” that the past Popes condemned. The contradiction you
    think existed between the past thepresent Magisterium is highly DUE to your
    flawed interpretation of the past documents appealling to your falible human
    opinion of Sede Vacantism, nothing more.

  • Honeybadger

    Oh, for the love of -!

  • Claudia

    I can say why I left the church; as a child I found the hippie acoustics guitars, the ugly auditorium like church and abstract 60′s art to be depressing. My parents were not against it at all but as a child I didn’t like any of the the modernist church ritual, decoration, or vestments; nor did I like the typical boring abstract sermons. As a generation Yer I do not relate to 60′s culture and would be happy to go to a church that reflected eternal values and culture rather and that had a clear and concise message.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal


  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal


  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal





  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal




  • Patrickhowes

    Spot on my Friend!Any organisation can only be as good as its members and I wholeheartedly agree about the quality of catechism matched with a general state of apathy.When do you see a picture of The Pope in schools nowadays.I remember there was always one on every blackboard.Who teaches children to love the Church when the chapels and Churches resemble gymnasiums?Our Masses are now referred to as services in many Parishes,It is all very secular

  • londoner

    Why, precisely, can women never be ordained? In fact they have and many are serving their congregations as well as many men. What IS this obsession with sex and gender? God is neither male or female and the skills and temperament which are required of priests has nothing to do with their biological identity, only their spiritual gifts.

  • megra

    This, sadly, is the sort of arrogant and patronising garbage that one
    encounters increasingly. This is obviously not a man who approaches his
    chosen career with any sort of humility but does so with total ignorance
    of what motivates those who are not theists. If he had bothered to
    study those he claims the right to judge he would know that those who
    have rejected theism generally have a better acquaintance with and
    understanding of scriptures than those who profess themselves to be
    christian and have often read widely of theological works. The
    pronouncements of people such as Richard Dawkins do not convert anyone
    to any of the various forms of non-theist beliefs nor do they “help the cause of Christianity.” The subject would remain on the agenda without him. It is the application of unbiased intellectual rigour of individuals to the reading of scriptures and
    theology that brings people to abandon superstitions and their
    conformity to repressive ideological apparatuses. Before accusing those whose beliefs differ from his of ignorance, Mr Lucie-Smith should look to his own ignorance of rationalism and secularism.

  • Henry Law

     Lutheranism is not quite as dead as one would expect. Catholicism has indeed started from a low base.

  • Alan

    You say “If he had bothered to study those he claims the right to judge he would know that those who have rejected theism generally have a better acquaintance with and understanding of scriptures than those who profess themselves to be christian and have often read widely of theological works.”
    This, not the article, is “arrogant and patronising garbage”.  Do you seriously suppose that more than a tiny number of non-believers “have often read widely of theological works”?  “What motivates those who are not theists”, as you express it, is far more likely to be the attractions of the world compared to the obligations of religion; living without a faith is tempting and sweet, and many have succumbed. Those who fall away are seldom motivated by intellectual convictions of non-theism, though they may sometimes cite this as an excuse.

  • Bob Hayes

    Deirdre, you condemn ‘arrogant and patronising garbage’ and then proclaim, ‘If he had bothered to study those he claims the right to judge he would know that those who have rejected theism generally have a better acquaintance with and 

    understanding of scriptures than those who profess themselves to be 
    christian [sic] and have often read widely of theological works’. Thus you engage in the sort of hyperbole you claim to oppose. Come, come – I would have expected consistency from one who claims to embrace rationalism. 
    Incidentally, I am curious as to why secularists are so keen to post on Catholic (or other religious) discussion fora. By way of comparison, one does not usually find cricket fora inundated with angry posts from tennis fans haranguing  others on all and sundry matters. Just a thought.

  • nytor

    No, they haven’t. Not in the Church. Only by protestant denominations which lack the sacraments. Women cannot be ordained as the Church does not have the authority to ordain them, Christ did not do so himself and a priest has in any case to act in persona Christi, which a woman (not being male) cannot. It’s not a question of political correctness or of skills or of temperament. It’s a question of the validity of the sacraments thus confected, and they would not be valid if a woman who purported to have been ordained attempted to do so. John Paul II himself has ruled that the Church cannot do this in “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”.

  • theroadmaster

    The most destructive ideologies in terms of wars, massacres and hate have been pagan and atheistic, as embodied in either state-run nazism or communism.  One has only to consult a decent history book to realise that.  You have to consider the countless millions extirpated in the name of nazism in Germany or communism in the eastern bloc countries or China.  Religion has certainly been misused in the past for political or nationalist reasons, but nowhere near the scale of the above ideologies.  You would probably bring up the crusades, but that was only in reaction to muslim encroachments on the holy places of the modern day Middle-East, during the medieval period.
    You go on to mention “child-abuse”, and certainly we are seeing the horrific nature of it as revealed in cases caused by priests and religious.  But the Church under the current pope, Benedict XV1, has taken a firm reformist stance against the abusers by tightening up Canon law and procedures to punish the guilty and to prevent these type of situations from happening again.  Your charge of mysogny is ignorant of the high position that the Church has given to women, as in the declaring of  female religious to be Doctors of the Church, because of their exemplary spiritual lives and women, e.g. St Therese of Lisieux or St Catherine of Siena.  You also state that the Church is obsessed with the sex lives of others while ignoring poverty or disease.  Another statement showing ignorance of the actual beliefs and practices of the Church throughout history.  The Church believes that sex is a sacred ad wonderful representation of the mutual love between a man and woman in marriage which is open to procreation.  It is cheapened and undermined when one of the couples resorts to contraceptive measures to prevent life or indulges in relationships with another person outside marriage.  These teachings are challenging and demand discipline but any worthwhile aim will demand nothing less.  The only portion of today’s society obsessed with sex is the secular world, where one can find today’s media saturated with it.  The Church is only reacting to the developments regarding this by re-emphasizing her timeless doctrines and teachings.
    Your comments on the Church’s so-called lack of action towards poverty and disease in the world again shows a lack of knowledge or willful ignorance regarding the presence of religious organizations throughout the planet combating these problems.  In fact, the Catholic Church provides something like a quarter of the all the charitable social and health care around the world outside the activities of UN and government NGOs. So again try and at least get your facts right even if they do not suit your outlook.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     It has been suggested that the good Fr has an eyesight problem and uses caps so he can see what he is writing.
     To my knowledge the Catholic Church does not hold the first five chapters of Genesis to be literally true.
    However they contain the essential truths that there is a God, creation is good and but for God we would not exist.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     Is it by Richard Dawkins intellect that, as an atheist spokesman, he still thinks there is a one in six chance of there being a God? It is interesting to see that in a recent survey in the US, seventy percent of those brought up as Atheists lose their faith as adults.
     Does this mean that these lack intellectual rigor and so are not of superior intellects?

  • theroadmaster

    Your ignorance of history and the present Pope’s fight against the plague of child-sex abuse within Church ranks, never ceases to amaze me.

  • born catholic

    The article title is spot on. People who don’t understand their faith drift away. Some convert to Islam or Buddhism because when challenged they cannot defend their faith. Some are nominal Christian and practice more the sayings of Buddha and do all the yoga, fasting and meditation that you would find in a Buddhist monastery. Very few believe in their faith. In fact the higher up they go in the hierarchy the less they believe that Jesus was divine, the less they believe in the Ressurection etc.

    I read with interest Father Thomas and sometimes his quotations which sound more like the admonishments one would get in the confessional. But even an Orthodox priest in the parish of st. Peter’s and Paul in Kolencherry should wear a clerical collar to teach theology, biblical scriptures and to admonish us. Or is that not required in the Orthodox tradition (No criticism intended Just wondering aloud?)

  • Mikethelionheart

    Brilliant post.
    I am 36 and became an RE teacher 3 years ago. The last 3 years has convinced me of the harm that Catholic schools are doing to the faith. In the first school I was placed in during my training year, a Catholic school, my female mentor said of the Pope, “I hate him. I’ve always hated him. I was so angry when he became Pope.” You are right that it is (mostly) middle-aged and above women who are casing all this damage.
    I am considering starting a campaign to close Catholic schools. The money would be better spent creating more vibrant churches that employ decent catechists.

  • CM

    A most interesting report. But it is not about understanding. It is because people are educated and do understand that they are walking away. Why?

    It seems to me that the Church has sacramentalised generations of Catholics but completely failed to evangelise them. Many know the theory and know God in their heads, so religion has become a private affair which can be ‘done’ anywhere; few know Jesus in their hearts. If they knew and loved Jesus and realised this was a two-way relationship, they would want to come to church, they would desire to receive the sacraments and they would want to find out more about our wonderful God.

    It has nothing to do with schools or teachers or parish catechists. It is the church leadership that has failed by resting on its laurels. And even today when the Pope rightly calles for a ‘New Evangelisation’ what are many parishes and their priests doing? Nothing. The Church has been treading water for decades, now it is sinking but the organ plays on…

    Fortunately, in some Catholic circles and communities, this problem has been realised and courses such as Alpha, Life in the Spirit and conferences such as ‘Celebrate’ are filling the great thirst of those who wish to know Jesus in their hearts. I have witnessed this first hand. Interestingly, most of these are lay-led and perhaps that is why God has allowed a shortage of vocations in England and Wales, so the laity can at last take their rightful place alongside the clergy as was envisaged by Vatican II..

  • CM

    Destius, what a wonderful position you are in! jesus recognised that people don’t listen to teachers, they listen to witnesses. You are a witness! Dump the materials and tell the youngsters why you became a Catholic and invite others to come in and share their faith journeys to Christ. This will be far more powerful than learning ny heart the fruits of the spirit etc. etc.

  • CM
  • CM

    Judas came to the table …

  • CM

    Hi John, Welcome and I pray your journey is filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy!

  • CM

    A Catholic site? It’s a public newspaper site where anyone can comment, yes, even those who don’t believe in what we Catholics believe in – and many of us argue about what we do and don’t believe (otherwise there would be no comments on this blog!). Let the man/woman speak, it provides us with a chance to evangelise and change his or her mind. But we won’t do that if we react with anger.

    Let’s follow the example of Christ himself and show Londoner that he/she is loved, then just maybe s/he’ll find some good in the Church.

  • CM

    The Church isn’t there to ‘teach the world’. This is not an army trying to dominate the world. If that were the case Jesus could have ridden in with a host of angels and subdued the world 2000 years ago. But he didn’t.

    However, at the end of each and every Mass we are commanded to go out and share the Gospel, the truth that Jesus died to save the world from its sins. It is a simple truth, we only need to tell people that Jesus loves them. When they come to realise that, they will want to know more and to share it with others.

    Jesus ascended into heaven leaving 12 simple men who mostly failed to grasp what his mission had been about, to pass on this message. He asked them to share the eucharist in his memory, forgive sins, heal the sick, and share the commandments – to love God and to love one another. He sent them the Holy Spirit to empower them to do this and the same Holy Spirit will do this today regardless of what individuals may like or dislike about the Church.

  • CM

    ‘Protestant denominations’ as you call them when in fact they are our Christian sisters and brothers, do not lack the sacraments. Baptism for one is recognised by the Catholic Church, as is matrimony. And neither of these requires the presence of a Catholic priest.

    And just because one Pope has ruled something (wasn’t the world once flat according to the Church???) doesn’t mean that another can’t change it.

  • JessicaHof

    An interesting perspective, CM, and one which, from an Anglican perspective, I would endorse. If we do not feel the joy of Christ and want to share that with others, then not all the intellectualising in the world is of any use.

  • Oconnord

    No on both counts.

    Dawkins used a simple sliding scale of 1 to 7 to indicate surety of belief. He ranked himself as a 6, indicating he was “sure” god did not exist, (he later changed to 6.99). He was admitting a “unknowable God” cannot be disproved. It could in no way be construed as him thinking “there is a one in six chance of there being a God”.

     The recent “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” found that the fastest growing group in the US is those of “no religious affiliation”, now 16% of those surveyed. And in the catholic faith… ” The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.”

    And that.. “The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found…..The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”
    Where did you read that “seventy percent of those brought up as Atheists lose their faith as adults”. Could you please cite your source. That statement runs counter to all the evidence I have seen.

  • Hazel_pratt

    Children are taken out of the main church area, and taken into the hall, and brought back for the collection by an adult/adults.  These children are swinging their arms, hands in pockets, looking around, not one bit of reverence is shown by clasping their hands in a praying position, or genuflecting in front of the altar.  I have seen people eating sweets, drinking water, and children playing with toys.  Teach the catechism in class, by catholics, for catholics who know and feel what it is about.  Where are childrens prayer books?  Non existent in my church.  Who teaches the Rosary?  What are the Stations of the Cross, what is Benediction?  Who talks of Miracles at Lourdes?  What is a Novena?  Stop messing about with traditional prayers.  This is where you went wrong in my opinion.

  • nytor

    They lack the most important sacrament, the Mass, as well as several of the others.

    The idea that women could be ordained was a corrosive heresy which had to be stamped out in order to defend the validity of the sacraments. Only validly ordained priests can confect the Blessed Sacrament, absolve, and so on. That cannot be put at risk. It is the opinion of the current pope that his predecessor’s declaration on the subject, touching as it did the established belief of the church on matter of faith, was infallible. It therefore cannot be changed. In a commentary on the declaration, the then cardinal Ratzinger was clear that Catholics are obliged to assent to the teaching. You may not, therefore, espouse the ordination of women, and nor may this be changed by a future pope who would be going against the established belief of the church if he attempted such a thing. You write as an older person, with that erroneous interpretation of Vatican II typical of that era characterizing your writings. That erroneous interpretation has now been defeated. Younger Catholics do not hold these ideas.

  • londoner

    ‘The attacks and mockery of aggressive atheists’?! Why is the adjective ‘aggressive’ automatically attached to the word ‘atheist’? Isn’t it about time there was open discussion and debate about religion? The Catholic church seems so shocked at people actually criticising it after centuries of censorship on pain of death! Even ordinary church-goers were not allowed to read the Bible themselves and in their own language without fear or terrible retribution until the 16th century. Many were tortured or burned at the stake and the church had far too much power and unearned respect until recently. 

    You can hardly be surprised that Catholics attract mockery after all the recent scandals, including the latest can of worms opened in Philadelphia with yet another horrific child abuse cover-up. how can people on this blog concern themselves with petty matters such as music and women’s input, when the whole edifice of the Catholic Church is crumbling due to corruption and immorality!

  • londoner

    Why not join the Humanists,  who are intelligent people who use reason and intellect to decide how to live a good life? You can choose what music you like at classical concerts or in your home and you can contemplate to your heart’s content in beautiful buildings or art galleries. Personally, I find ceremonies and rituals deadly boring but we still have the Changing of the Guard and so on in London!

  • londoner

    It is hard to believe that you are becoming a Catholic because you do understand the faith, since the more you learn about the faith the more confusing and illogical it is revealed to be! The Vatican itself once instigated a programme of deep study by a group of priests and most of them lost their faith as a result.

  • londoner

    Sorry, I don’t agree with you. Certainly there are Catholic charities but charity has always been tied to recruitment. What about the Magdalen sisters, the homes for unmarried mothers that insisted on forced adoptions? Millions have died in Africa of Aids thanks to the Church’s insistence that condoms are wrong. The Vatican is reckoned to have £3.5 Billion in its coffers, enough to save millions of lives, yet still encourages ordinary church-goers to give more. What would Jesus think of the extravagance of the Vatican and the gold-encrusted Catholic Churches, when he advocated a simple life? Is the Catholic Church in fact truly Christian?
    Society is apparently obsessed with sex and that is regrettable but the Church has long been obsessed with controlling every aspect of people’s sex lives, instilling guilt in order to control people. The Cult of Mary (it has long been recognised by scholars that the word ‘virgin’ associated with her name was due to a poor translation of a word meaning ‘young woman’), has been used to reduce women to baby factories and to instill the notion that only mothers or virgins can be ‘virtuous’. Millions of Catholic women have been forced to have huge families, however unable to feed them they might have been or how their health might be ruined. There may well be Catholic female saints but women do not have an equal place in the church and are patronised and even vilified if they try to exert any influence or take part in Church matters or services – as witnessed by the revealing and misogynist comments by some on this blog. Priests have been forced to be celibate. Why? Other denominations allow married clergy and if anything, this aids them in their work. So don’t pretend the Church is not obsessed with sex! The unnatural practices of thousands of child-abusing priests shows how unhealthy celibacy is.You mention the Crusades? An excuse to murder, pillage and make fortunes for the Church… Promises of escape from purgatory were offered to encourage men to join in the rampage.

  • Trent13

     I hope that you find find a traditional Mass.  If what you say is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, you will have the experience of “coming home” – I think the biggest difference between the liturgy post-Vat II and the liturgy pre-Vat II is a marked lack of reverence for God, or as you put it, a lack of reflection of the Eternal.

  • londoner

    So true! Mr Lucie-Smith’s peevish comment about atheists ‘keeping religion on the agenda’ may be true but there is little likelihood that enlightening people about the true nature of religious belief will have converts flocking to the Churches! In fact, atheists seem to know much more about the Christian faith than the faithful themselves. Probably because they are encouraged to be ‘sheep’ and swallow what they hear in the pulpit (the edited version of those Bible stories considered suitable) rather than studying and thinking for themselves.I say this after considerable correspondence with both atheists and believers.

  • londoner

    The ‘obligations of religion’ certainly haven’t led the thousands of priests involved in child abuse to lead better lives! Nor have those obligations encouraged honesty and openness over such scandals from the Vatican, the IRA to reject murder and torture, the many vicious nuns and priests working in orphanages to treat children kindly… I could go on but it’s really depressing. I am sure people reject theism due to intelligence and reason rather than due to the ‘attractions of the world’ and it is perfectly possible to lead a good life, treat others kindly and bring your children up to be good citizens without primitive superstition and terrible threats of eternal damnation!

  • londoner

    There is a slight chance that there is a teapot circulating around the moon or that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. It is up to those who hold such unlikely and illogical beliefs to prove them, not for non-believers to prove them untrue.

  • londoner

    Atheism is not a ‘faith’, it is a lack of faith. I don’t believe in fairies, either, but that lack of belief can hardly be called a ‘faith’! A bit of intellectual rigour, please!

  • Jane Keirl

     how on earth can the Church be responsible for millions of deaths owing to AIDS by teaching century old Christian morality : no sex before marriage, sex only in marriage, stay faithful to spouse etc…  No really, I would like to explain that one.