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Debate: Is the Church in Europe facing a crisis of faith or a crisis of leadership?

Are people leaving the Church because of a lack of inspiring leadership, or simply because they have lost faith?

By on Thursday, 11 October 2012

Photo: CNS

Photo: CNS

Pope Benedict XVI believes that the main reason people are deserting the Church in Europe is because of a “crisis of faith”. This is why he has called the Year of Faith, which he hopes will inspire Catholics to share their faith in a compelling way.

In an address to the Curia last year the Pope pointed out this crisis, saying: “If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

But is the underlying problem a crisis of faith or a crisis of leadership? Looking across Europe there are only a handful of inspiring bishops. Most are content to let things drift. The abuse crisis has exposed some to be dreadful decision makers. Too many, George Weigel argues, have thought of themselves as managers, or “discussion-group moderators”, instead of apostles.

So what is really ailing the Church in Europe: a crisis of faith or a crisis of leadership?

  • Guest

    wise as serpents,although we find these Archbishops to be more ‘of the people’

  • Teresa

    This being the same Christ who chose to ride on a donkey rather than a horse? From where I am in the South West of Ireland, I see no crisis of faith, just total despair and disillusionment with a church showing no leadership, headed by priests and bishops who lied and misled. that is not to say that there are not some holy inspirational clergy, there are, but they are few and far between

  • Andrew

    What is ailing the Church is pretty clear:  the incremental Protestanization that followed the wilful misinterpretaion of Vatican II by the Modernist 1960′s minded Theologians who were allowed to get their Satanic feet in the door unwittingly by John XXIII and as Paul VI looked on hopelessly while at the same time talking of how the “Smoke of Satan had entered the Church”.  Of course there has been a herneneutic of rupture, that is clear to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear.  What we need now is a Major International Theological Commission or, better still, a Lateran Council, to look at how the teachings of Vatican II should have been intepreted and implemented in strict accordance with the whole Tradition of the Church up until that point.  Benedict XVI speaks constantly of how things were misintepreted, but cannot possibly acknowledge that a rupture occurred for a variety of reasons, the most prominent of them political.  Well, let’s leave out whether a rupture occurred or not if its going to be a sticking point and march boldly forwards to sorting out the vast mess that the Church is in.  Catholicism is collapsing in Europe as a consequence of what has happened – just look at the latest news from Vienna as the most shocking recent index of the same.  The massive decline in vocations to the sacred priesthood and the religious life cannot possibly be described as fruits of the Council - they are in large measure the results of its wilful misinterpretation. 

    There is, then, a crisis both of faith and of leadership.  As for the former, it is the Protestantization that has devastated belief in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Real Presence – this is codified in the Novus Ordo however reverently it is said.  Tehn there is the rejection of the ecclesiological Truth that the Catholic Church is THE Church, not one that happens to be the biggest and, well, any Church will do, really, as a path to God, take your pick.  SSPX, for example, may be extreme with its fair share of mad clerics, but they do have a verious serious range of points to make and, overall, should be taken a lot more seriously by the Faithful than they are.  The crisis in leadership is still present, but less now than it was under Paul VI and John Paul II.  Benedict XVI has taken bold measures, in his writings and in his actions, to try to deal with the convulsions in the Church.  But he must do more.  And the creation of a Theological Commission or much, much better a Lateran Council, would be the most effective way of pushing things forward rather than through small incremental measures such as the EF, the new Catechism, the new translation, etc etc.  We do not need the slime of Modernism which has done so much to destroy the Faith and neither do we need the ridiculous purism of the Traditionalists.  What is needed is a Reform of the Reform based on an authoritative intepretation of the teachings of Vatican II in continuity with Traditioin from the time of Our Lord Himself.  It is ONLY the Pope that can achieve this given his singular Authority as the Successor of Peter and holder of the Keys.  John XXIII instituted the Council as a great surprise and as an old and tired man.  And look what has happened!  How perfect, appropriate and even ‘poetic’ for Benedict XVI to close the current celebrations with such a gesture – aimed at the repair of everything that has gone wong while retaining and affirming the things that were manifestly and by his Authority described as good.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    We need a definitive statement of what these dangerous documents, vague and already used by the Revolutionaries to disembowel the Church, actually mean. I agree that it is no longer enough for the Pope to go on about the Council’s continuity if he does not, in writing, show HOW it is in continuity with unchanging Tradition. 

    More than “gestures” are needed. Much more. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Excellent post.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    My (Irish) parish priest is scathing of the Catholics of Ireland, who he calls “faithless”, “ingrates”, and “selfish”.

    He reckons Ireland got the clergy it deserved.

    And I say that as one with Irish blood.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I have read the documents of Vatican I. Is that flawed?

  • JabbaPapa

    What is ailing the Church is pretty clear : the incremental Protestantisation that followed the willful misinterpretation of Revelation by the Modernist 1840s-1970s minded Theologians

    FTFY

  • JabbaPapa

    This comment of yours has little to do with the day-to-day reality of the vast majority of our clergy.

  • JabbaPapa

    Bishops’ Conferences have no right whatsoever to impose themselves in the manner that you describe — which is, I agree, outrageous !!!!

    An Archbishop or Cardinal or Pope could certainly question a Bishop in this manner — but I would expect privately, NOT in the public domain like this !!!!

  • JabbaPapa

    Why should the declarations of Vatican I be flawed ???

    Obviously they are not !!!

    I’m discussing the understanding and interpretation of doctrine, not the establishment of it.

  • St. John Chrysostom

    The Church needs to wake up and realize there is an enemy destroying Christian culture and bleeding nations financially and morally. Zionism. It owns governments, corporations and media in the West and the Church has remained silent. Having ecumenical dialouge has become more important the Truth. Catholics have become brainwashed. So if pleasing man is what the Church wants then it’s what God will give, at the expense of the Faith of it’s flock. The enemy is at the gates. And the hierarchy are cowards like the disciples that hid away, for fear of the Jews.

  • JabbaPapa

    What you describe as “zionism” is in fact just the same old devil protestantism in new clothing …

  • Patrickhowes

    I make this comment as often fundraising seems to take precedence over duty and service

  • Patrickhowes

    But how do you do that with the current state of the catholic religious?

  • Patrickhowes

    And many of the these second tiers are not even catholic!Iam told that our schools are full of non catholic tecahers as there is a huge shortage!

  • Patrickhowes

    Well at least one of our “B´s” would get rid of Our Lady all together

  • Patrickhowes

    Bring these Catholics to work in our schools and dioceses!

  • Patrickhowes

    The Church is built as a divine institution but has lost its authority.It is a bit of ship without a rudder,although it has a marvellous man at the helm

  • Patrickhowes

    Quite.we need to become Roman Catholics again and not Roman Anglicans

  • Patrickhowes

    Well,you only have to look at the way the German Bishops received the Pope in Germany.Whi did the think they were?

  • aearon43

    Priests are not living in luxury.. one estimate I read for the US was a salary of about $20-25k yearly (12k-16k gbp), plus modest housing. 

    And it’s hard to serve or fulfill your duties if you yourself are a beggar.  Churches cost money. Think about how much just heating a large cathedral-style church costs in the winter. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I needed something to help me sleep.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Which books did you get?

  • Joseph

    You think you know better than the pope who we Catholics believe is Christ’s representative on earth… sounds like you’re a protestant to me. Why are you even on a Catholic website if you have such anti-papal views?

  • James H

    Oh, boy, the kooks are really coming out, now.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Comments on these pages are often enough to induce despair. But one soldiers on …. .

  • theroadmaster

    The Church in Europe as a whole has reached a tipping point in terms of the catastrophic loss of influence and adherents which parallels the rise of unbelief, subjective Liberalism and scientific rationalism across the continent.  This situation has been acknowledged by contributors to the meetings of religious and lay-people in Rome to kick off the year of the New Evangelisation which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Vatican 11.  Hard-headed realism has marked the speeches of such luminaries as Italian Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella bluntly stated. “We have closed in on ourselves… we have turned a life of faith and ritual into bureaucracy..”.  Philippine bishop Socrates Villegas blamed the “hypocrisy and arrogance” of the evangelisers in the clerical ranks, who have failed to portray the attractive aspects of the Christian Faith to people, who have dropped out of religious practice or those who have become atheists.  The Pope will listen to a lot of opinions in similar vein, and will to a large degree sympathize with them.  The New Evangelisation will require the present generation of Christ’s disciples to wade out into the deep again with the renewed vigor of their antecedents in the early Christian centuries.  It does not mean a watering down of the Faith in terms of doctrine and teachings but an immersion in their profound implications in terms of knowing and living out the spiritual truths as expounded by the Church over the last 2000 years.   In contrast, the Church continues to expand exponentially in Africa and Asia and the joyful nature of the Faith of the inhabitants of these continents tempered by a realistic stoicism in the face of adversity, needs to be rediscovered by the Catholics of Europe.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Inculturation everywhere except in the West. 

    Let us have OUR ancient culture restored. Bring back the Old Mass!

  • scary goat

     Open Letter to confused Catholics: Abp M L
    The Living flame: 1st 25 years in UK
    Most asked questions about SSPX
    and various leaflets including time bombs of V II

    That should keep me busy for a while :-D

    Heard some interesting chat too.  Don’t want to go into detail, but it seems at ground level there is much more acceptance than one might imagine.  quite friendly relations locally.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    First one on that is marvellous. 

    Good news on the local relations. We need the SSPX inside as soon as possible.

  • Parasum

     A new Syllabus of Errors is needed. Without clarity of doctrine, the Pope can forget about a new evangelisation. The Church will carry on dying of Anglicanism & secularism.

    Someone mentioned the Rosary – excellent point. Maybe the bishops should revive or at least encourage other pre-conciliar devotions too. That has to start with the laity. And it is not impossible: far from it.  And why not have the Ember Days back ? There were set aside for prayers for priestly vocations – if such vocations are not asked for, why should God grant them ?

    A secularised Catholicism has no flavour the world does not have, and nothing to offer, but is of the world, and is good only for throwing on the rubbish heap to be burnt.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Yes, spot on Parasum.

  • Frtcrilly

    Surely you cannot wish that Benedict XVI will burn?

  • scary goat

     Yes indeed.  SSPX on the inside is exactly what we need. Nothing would please me more.  My only reservations on SSPX is that I don’t like division.  I want them in, not half in. (I know that’s over simplified but you know what I mean).

  • Oconnord

    I’ve tried to read all the comments, but it is difficult. Some are longer than the actual article and many simply rely on points of doctrine. None have addressed the simple truth. In a marketplace of ideas, Catholicism holds very little appeal. It does not hold any more evidence of the existence of a “God” than any other creed. People can get “all the benefits”, without bending to catholic doctrine… or even any organised central religion. All the actual benefits can be achieved with a mix of spiritualism and/or secular community participation. 

    The particular appeal of Catholicism is becoming a rather particular (even cult, in the modern sense), preference. Mass, The Host, Confession and Papal Authority, all will appeal to a certain type of person. But most Western Catholics will move on, if they haven’t already, by considering themselves to be “Cultural Catholics”.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    We all think the same. The formal description of their position right now is “canonically irregular”. They’ll be regular before long, please God.

  • JabbaPapa

    You really do write the most revoltingly heretical tripe sometimes …

  • Patrickhowes

    You know St Jose María Escrivá de Balaguer,once said that there is a priest in all of us,referring to the fact that we are called to Holy lives and to live as apostles of the Church.In other words,just live your own life at the moment and pray for the Church that a new,much more orthodox generation of priests will arrive.In the meantime,move on and live a Catholic life,even though many priests and religious are embroiled in anything but this.

  • Patrickhowes

    But not just the old mass,but the old traditions that gave us our identity.The beautiful old hymns,that our children do not hold the rosary in their hand as a foreign object.That the month of Our Lady be recognised as such.That people appreciate the value of Confession,that we have to work at conquering sin.That having children is a blessing and not a scourge.That families help each other and that marriage is for life.

  • Patrickhowes

    I think that if you read Benedict´s comments carefully,you will  find that he is cindeming the sins rather than the sinner.That the actions of the clergy have resulted in the massive mess we have at present and that still those in the positions of responsability,still are failing to demonstrate the necessary steps to change things.The Church albeit it is apostolic in nature,has become institutionalised and corrupt.A Catholic Plc rather than than the mystical body of Christ.That was what John xlll wanted to change but not our Catholic tradition,theology and identity.It was then the “firm” mentality that led to the sytematic and endemic covering up of sexual abusers.Protect the firm at all costs…

  • Patrickhowes

    Your ability to paint an accurate and realistic state of affairs,astounds me.The Catholic Herald would do well to employ you!

  • Patrickhowes

    Wonderful to hear that!I understand that in Spain,Croatia and other parts,things are also on the up!

  • Patrickhowes

    But it is more than this although your points are valid.There must be a change in the modus operandi of the the Church as an institution.Greater transparency and much better communication and channels of cimmunication would be a start as would a clear cut procedure of complaint when we have a useless Bishop

  • Patrickhowes

    I agree Bishops are weilding almost as much power as the Pope and this is the problem in Austria and Germany and it breeds disloyalty and disobedience!

  • Peter

    The Church in Europe has lost its way because, unlike the Catholic Church in the third world which is booming, it does not experience abject poverty, disease, oppression. persecution and conflict.
    The Church in Europe has lost sight of the Cross.That’s not to say that Europe should revert back to third world status, no.  What it means is that the Church in Europe ought to radically raise its awareness of the desperate plight of its brothers and sisters in the developing world and focus much more on their welfare.

    Critics will say that this is a humanist approach but they are wrong.

    Jesus made it plain that whatever we do to the poorest who are his brethren we do to him, and that if he ignore the poorest we risk damnation.  

    The Church in Europe has a major role to play in this regard.

    It should drastically increase its efforts to help the poorest, to encourage parishioners to help the poorest and, in doing so, it will lead those parishioners closer to salvation as Our Lord promised.

  • Oconnord

    Does the church feed the poor, or feed off the poor? 

  • paulpriest

     Thanks – but God [and I think almost everyone else] prefers me as a shelf-unstacker :)

  • Patrickhowes

    You are right that people in the west have become soft and materialised.When we habe nothing we can only depend upon God

  • Patrickhowes

    I do not know that going back is the answer as there are two many forks!.Maybe just a fresh start .I do think that a massive cull of Bishops would help