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New figures show stark decline in Catholic baptisms, ordinations and marriages

By on Friday, 17 May 2013

Catholic ordinations have been in steady decline for decades (CNS)

Catholic ordinations have been in steady decline for decades (CNS)

Figures for ordinations and other sacraments in Britain over the last century have been compiled for the first time.

According to the figures, gathered by the Latin Mass Society, the high point for Catholicism was the 1960s, with high numbers of baptisms, ordinations and marriages in 1964, 1965 and 1968 respectively, before a dramatic fall-off in each case. Receptions into the Church peaked in 1959; in recent years they have been just a third of that level.

The number of baptisms today is less than half those in 1964, and the number of Catholic marriages is less than a quarter of those in 1968. But it is ordinations of new priests that have shown the most alarming fall, to only a tenth of the 1965 figure.
Most of the figures in the study go back as far as 1913, giving a remarkable picture of the state of the Catholic Church in England and Wales over a century.

Dr Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, who led the research, said the figures “show unambiguously that something went seriously wrong in the Church in England and Wales in the 1960s and 1970s. Catholics ceased quite suddenly to see the value of getting married, having large families, and having their children baptised. Non-Catholics no longer perceived the Church as the ark of salvation, and ceased to seek admission. Young men no longer offered themselves for the priesthood in the same numbers as before.”

Dr Shaw suggests a connection to “the wrenching changes in the Church at that time introduced by the Second Vatican Council”.
The number of priests in England and Wales rose steadily from 3,838 in 1912 to a peak of 7,887 in 1965, before beginning to tail off. It recovered for a while in the mid-1990s, but fell to 5,264 in 2011. “In this respect we are still living on our capital, and this capital is about to run out,” he said.

In 1965 there were 233 ordinations but since then there has been a steady fall, reaching double figures by 1981. The lowest point was reached in 2009, with only 14 ordinations. 2010 showed a marked improvement, with 23, only to drop again to 16 in 2011.

Because the number of Catholics in England and Wales has increased, the number of priests per 100,000 Catholics has halved since 1947, from 268 to 135 in 2010.

In contrast, the numbers of both men and women joining religious orders, although small, have increased in recent years, according to Sister Cathy Jones, religious life promoter in the National Office of Vocation of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“The past few years have seen an upturn in people joining the religious life rather than continuing the downward trajectory,” she said.

In 2012, 30 men joined priestly orders, a rise from 19 in each of the three previous years, and the most since 1996. There has also been a significant rise in women joining active orders, from six in 2009 to 23 in 2012.

Sister Cathy attributed this rise to “the way many young Catholics are confident about their faith and want to give their all”, along with “more support structures for people thinking of joining the religious life”.

In the figures released by the Latin Mass Society, baptisms rose to a peak of 137,673 in 1964 before falling to 63,962 in 2010. Catholic marriages rose from 13,201 in 1913 to a peak of 47,417 in 1968 before falling to a low point of just 9,932 in 2008.
Receptions into the Church were at their highest in 1959 with 15,794, but fell away dramatically to a low of 3,829 in 2005 before rising to 5,809 in 2010.

The estimated number of Catholics in England and Wales has increased from 1.8 million in 1912 to just over four million in 2010. When this is taken into consideration, the fall-off in ordinations, baptisms, marriages and receptions is even more stark. From a high point of 10.6 ordinations per thousand Catholics in 1937, the proportion fell to 0.6 in 2010, though this was an improvement on the previous year at 0.3.

  • John rice

    You only had to look at the Diocesan Directories and the Catholic Directory over the last 45 years to know the Church was in a very steep decline, around 1975 Diocese ceased to publish annual statistics in their Directories, it was just not true that Churches were empty because VII had said everything was so cool and happening. Diocese just hid the truth. Give me a break you only had to open your eyes to see that the numbers at mass, vocations and the numbers of baptisms and marriages were falling off a cliff. VII was an evil event that has been the ruin of souls. This is old news, very old news, denied by what are now very old priests very old bishops oh and dead Popes as well as another very old hipster, Frankie babe !

  • Julian Lord

    if everything taught by the pre-Conciliar Church regarding Liturgy and practice is wrong

    False premiss

    If the Church’s Liturgy was wrong

    False premiss

    as most of the heretics expected Paul VI to rule in favour of birth control

    False premiss

    One can make many a daring statement by crafty application of the word “if”, but such a statement will not therefore be automatically coherent with reality.

    The so-called “Ottoviani intervention” is replete with the same sort of compromise and approximation, and it makes various claims against the nature of the Novus Ordo that are only coherent with various extraneous abuses against the Eucharistic Mass — these abuses do not change the nature of the Mass itself.

    There is no substantial difference between a proper rendering of the Novus Ordo, having the focus on the Latin and the Gregorian and the sacrificial Eucharist that is expected from the Council Fathers, and a proper rendering of the Traditional Latin Mass. Which is not to say there are no differences at all — the TLM incorporates some theological statements that the NO only includes implicitly, and the aesthetics of the two Forms of the Mass are different, and there are arguably some differences in the spirituality — but these differences are not of the nature that is suggested in that Ottoviani intervention.

    It was, of course, a scandal that attempts were made after the Council to entirely suppress the Traditional Latin Mass, and an even greater scandal that these attempts were very widely “successful” (if “success” is a word that one can attach to such a public scandal).

    But it is equally scandalous when Catholics, lay, religious, and clergy, openly teach rebellion against the Magisterium, against a full Ecumenical Council, and against the teachings of the Church.

    All false interpretations of the Council teachings are false — whether the extremely numerous false interpretations proposed by various radical progressives, heretics, or protestants, or the smaller number of false interpretations proposed by SSPX theologians.

    The interpretations of our Magisterium and Popes are to be cleaved to, including those of the Theological Commission and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in particular the clear-minded interpretations of HH Benedict XVI are of great use to clear away the fog of confusion that various rebels are conjuring up around Vatican II and around the New Mass.

  • Julian Lord

    The reasons why the apparitions at Quito have been recognised by the Church have nothing to do with these prophecies that have been attached to the location, particularly given that this text of them cannot be traced back any earlier than the end of the 19th century, that is to say until after the recognition of the Apparitions.

    The apparitions at Quito are a shining beacon of Faith, and they have been recognised for the healing miracles that are known of the Saint there and for the powerful evangelising spirit that was made manifest there.

    This is not to say that the text of these prophecies is deprived of spiritual value, but the sad likelihood is that they have been at the very least modified in the 19th century. Such phrases as “social classes”, “Masonic sects”, “Catholic schools” are inconceivable in 17th century Spanish.

    Handle With Care.

  • Hermit Crab

    Without the rich being rich, nothing will be placed in anybody’s hand..

  • $20596475

    You compare your need to prove “God” to eating a pot of noodles?
    I must tell my atheist friends.

    You might not have any need to prove you are eating those noodles, but the point is that prove it you could if, to accept it, others demand so.

    Facts therefore do not exist separately from proof. Some might be regarded as self evident by general acceptance, but “God” does NOT fall into that category.

    Nothing incoherent or gibberish there. It is as clear as daylight.

  • Tridentinus

    The point I was trying to make was not really about the Novus Ordo it was about the effect such a sudden major change in the liturgy, the re-ordering of churches and the abandonment of tradtional vestments had upon ordinary Catholics at the time.

    Receiving the Sacred Host in the hand was quite traumatic for many. One day only a priest or a deacon could handle It, the next anyone could. Familiar, well-loved devotions such as Benediction, The Rosary and Stations disappeared almost overnight. The cult of Our Lady and the Saints appeared to be down-graded. What was a sin yesterday, praying with non-catholics suddenly wasn’t anymore, in fact we were encouraged to go to Protestant churches. Who could blame Catholics for believing that their consciences were paramount, that all religions were equal when it was being drummed into them from the pulpit by the modernisers?

    Looking around them they saw that most Protestants didn’t go to Church regularly. Protestants practised contraception. Protestants got divorced and remarried. Homosexuality and abortion were becoming more and more accepted. Who could blame Catholics for thinking that the Church would eventually catch up so why wait? Catholics voted overwhelmingly for the Council with their feet, some because they saw the Church as no longer relevant others in dismay at what had happened to it.

    I believe that the Church lost her authority after the Council and for me the proof is the constant clamour for the Church to accept all the above, women priests included in threads such as this one and in periodicals all over the world. Ask yourself, would the Soho Masses ever have been allowed prior to 1970?

    My experience tells me that without a doubt the Catholic Church which I grew up in no longer exists except in a few pockets of the Faithful scattered here and there.

  • Benedict Carter

    The so-called “Ottoviani intervention” is replete with the same sort of compromise and approximation …”

    What ARE you talking about, Jabba?

  • kentgeordie

    You provide a dismal list of changes for the worse in our Church over the past couple of generations. But none of them, as far as I can tell, were anticipated, permitted or encouraged by the teachings of VII.
    I’ve made this point several times already in this thread and promise to do so no more, but I wish someone would answer the point I am making. To blame VII is to takes sides against all the popes since John XXIII. Which of us wishes to do that?

  • Benedict Carter

    “Such phrases as “social classes”, “Masonic sects”, “Catholic schools” are inconceivable in 17th century Spanish.”

    Are you saying that Our Lady cannot use words to a seer that would not be known by the seer herself, or that the warnings could contain reference to a body (the Masons) which didn’t exist until later?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong in this instance, but you do have an ingrained habit Jabba of rubbishing any Marian apparition, whether at Fatima or elsewhere.

    I wonder why this is? Perhaps because you’ve only been a Catholic for a short time and therefore had the usual protestant-like RCIA programme?

  • Benedict Carter

    There have been Popes in the past against whom Saints have taken positions. Why should we avoid that in our age? Paul VI for instance admitted to the founder of the Traditionalist movement, Father DePauw, that he was a useless governor of the Church and then apologised.