10 YEARS LATER: Pat Buchan – “An index of Catholicism’s decline”

An index of Catholicism’s decline

Posted: December 11, 2002
1:00 am Eastern 

By Patrick J. Buchanan
© 2008 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


As the Watergate scandal of 1973-1974 diverted attention from the far greater tragedy unfolding in Southeast Asia, so, too, the scandal of predator-priests now afflicting the Catholic Church may be covering up a far greater calamity.

Thirty-seven years after the end of the only church council of the 20th century, the jury has come in with its verdict: Vatican II appears to have been an unrelieved disaster for Roman Catholicism.

Liars may figure, but figures do not lie. Kenneth C. Jones of St. Louis has pulled together a slim volume of statistics he has titled Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II.

His findings make prophets of Catholic traditionalists who warned that Vatican II would prove a blunder of historic dimensions, and those same findings expose as foolish and naive those who believed a council could reconcile Catholicism and modernity. When Pope John XXIII threw open the windows of the church, all the poisonous vapors of modernity entered, along with the Devil himself.

Here are Jones’ grim statistics of Catholicism’s decline:


  • Priests. While the number of priests in the United States more than doubled to 58,000, between 1930 and 1965, since then that number has fallen to 45,000. By 2020, there will be only 31,000 priests left, and more than half of these priests will be over 70. 
  • Ordinations. In 1965, 1,575 new priests were ordained in the United States. In 2002, the number was 450. In 1965, only 1 percent of U.S. parishes were without a priest. Today, there are 3,000 priestless parishes, 15 percent of all U.S. parishes. 
  • Seminarians. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700, a decline of over 90 percent. Two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have now closed. 
  • Sisters. In 1965, there were 180,000 Catholic nuns. By 2002, that had fallen to 75,000 and the average age of a Catholic nun is today 68. In 1965, there were 104,000 teaching nuns. Today, there are 8,200, a decline of 94 percent since the end of Vatican II. 
  • Religious Orders. For religious orders in America, the end is in sight. In 1965, 3,559 young men were studying to become Jesuit priests. In 2000, the figure was 389. With the Christian Brothers, the situation is even more dire. Their number has shrunk by two-thirds, with the number of seminarians falling 99 percent. In 1965, there were 912 seminarians in the Christian Brothers. In 2000, there were only seven. The number of young men studying to become Franciscan and Redemptorist priests fell from 3,379 in 1965 to 84 in 2000. 
  • Catholic schools. Almost half of all Catholic high schools in the United States have closed since 1965. The student population has fallen from 700,000 to 386,000. Parochial schools suffered an even greater decline. Some 4,000 have disappeared, and the number of pupils attending has fallen below 2 million – from 4.5 million.

Though the number of U.S. Catholics has risen by 20 million since 1965, Jones’ statistics show that the power of Catholic belief and devotion to the Faith are not nearly what they were.


  • Catholic Marriage. Catholic marriages have fallen in number by one-third since 1965, while the annual number of annulments has soared from 338 in 1968 to 50,000 in 2002. 
  • Attendance at Mass. A 1958 Gallup Poll reported that three in four Catholics attended church on Sundays. A recent study by the University of Notre Dame found that only one in four now attend. 
  • Only 10 percent of lay religious teachers now accept church teaching on contraception. Fifty-three percent believe a Catholic can have an abortion and remain a good Catholic. Sixty-five percent believe that Catholics may divorce and remarry. Seventy-seven percent believe one can be a good Catholic without going to mass on Sundays. By one New York Times poll, 70 percent of all Catholics in the age group 18 to 44 believe the Eucharist is merely a “symbolic reminder” of Jesus.

At the opening of Vatican II, reformers were all the rage. They were going to lead us out of our Catholic ghettos by altering the liturgy, rewriting the Bible and missals, abandoning the old traditions, making us more ecumenical, and engaging the world. And their legacy?

Four decades of devastation wrought upon the church, and the final disgrace of a hierarchy that lacked the moral courage of the Boy Scouts to keep the perverts out of the seminaries, and throw them out of the rectories and schools of Holy Mother Church.

Through the papacy of Pius XII, the church resisted the clamor to accommodate itself to the world and remained a moral beacon to mankind. Since Vatican II, the church has sought to meet the world halfway.

Jones’ statistics tell us the price of appeasement.

SOURCE: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=29948


U.S. Data 1965 1975 1985 1995 2000 2005 2007
Diocesan priests 35,925 36,005 35,052 32,349 30,607 28,702 27,971
Religious priests 22,707 22,904 22,265 16,705 15,092 14,137 13,478
Total priests 58,632 58,909 57,317 49,054 45,699 42,839 41,449
Priestly ordinations 994 771 533 511 442 454 456
Graduate-level seminarians 8,325 5,279 4,063 3,172 3,474 3,308 3,274
Permanent deacons —  898 7,204 10,932 12,378 14,574 15,409
Religious brothers 12,271 8,625 7,544 6,535 5,662 5,451 5,015
Religious sisters 179,954 135,225 115,386 90,809 79,814 68,634 63,699
Parishes 17,637 18,515 19,244 19,331 19,236 18,891 18,634
Without a resident priest pastor
549 702 1,051 2,161 2,843 3,251 3,238
Catholic population 45.6m 48.7m 52.3m 57.4m 59.9m 64.8m 64.4m
Percent of U.S. population 24% 23% 23% 23% 22% 23% 22%
Catholic elementary schools

Students in Catholic elementary schools

Catholic secondary schools

Students in Catholic secondary schools


4 Responses to 10 YEARS LATER: Pat Buchan – “An index of Catholicism’s decline”

  1. Catholicism is doing fine…. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre has seen to that.

    What is in decline are the Popes, Bishops, Priests and Religious that are believers.

    “Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the anti-Christ”

    does not mean the Church will decline.

    She is Christ’s Bride.

    Viva Cristo Rey!


  2. John Launder says:

    Given Buchanan’s comments I offer this reflective essay written in 1985 as I was commencing a Social welfare course in preparation for a career change. I disagree with Pablothemexican. The Church with all its human faults is still the Church instituted by Christ, but even at the beginning – Judas betrayed- Peter denied – Thomas doubted.

    A Personal Sociological Reflection on my early life 1941-1960

    The year 1941 – the Chinese year of the Snake – saw mankind’s most cataclysmic conflict in full swing.

    From my point of view the most important event of ’41, was my birth. To my parents’ surprise and near embarrassment I arrived nearly 2 months early, a trait I soon disdained.

    Family folklore has it that I was consigned to a clothes basket in the local community hospital and promptly nicknamed ‘Pee Wee’ by the Ward nurse, who thereby instigated my misogynistic tendencies. She aggravated the situation by chastising my mother for wasting ‘John Patrick’ on such an unpreposing ‘bundle of joy’, proclaiming ‘Sammy’ would have been more appropriate.

    My mother retreated to the security and anonymity of our then simple new weatherboard home in the then outer Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh.

    The security that this neat timber home offered my mother I only appreciated much later in life. She was the second child in a family of four, from the union of an Irish waterfront worker and a young Australian lass of Irish – Norwegian extraction.

    My grandfather died when my mother was eleven. The Great Depression arrived a couple of years early for my mother’s family, in those days of no pensions and social welfare.

    Mother completed her Merit at school – a local parochial one – and joined the workforce at a nearby tea factory. There she met my father.

    He was a fourth generation Australian of Anglo-Irish background and was raised in the (now socially mobile upwards) Metropolitan Meat Market (now a National Trust Arts and Craft Centre) where his father, as was his father before him, was the Care Taker.

    Dad the second youngest in a family of seven, grew up independent and multi-skilled in practical ways, (one of his better traits not passed on to this off-spring). He graduated from Errol Street State School to North Melbourne Tech on his way to a career as a commercial artist.

    An attempt after World War 2 to establish his own silk screen home based business failed. The necessity to feed four young hungry mouths, as I had been joined by three sisters, saw my father obtain a job with a company that was to become Australia’s leading lighting manufacturer. The astute brothers who owned the business readily recognised my father’s talent for design, which he himself greatly undervalued, a fact he didn’t appreciate until he retired.

    Along with my younger sisters, I attended the local parish school where I was taught by dedicated nuns. Their habits and demeanour, and occasionally the leather strap, commanded our respect.

    Fortunately, unlike my younger sisters who were products of the post war baby boom, I missed the classes of 100+ crammed like schools of sardines into the sparsely equipped class rooms of those days.

    At the age of 11, my parents decided to send me to an all boys school. I was sent to a De la Salle Brothers run school in Richmond which had its own peculiar characteristics, if still at that stage almost homogeneous Australian born complement. A twenty foot high fence separated us from an all girls school and certainly as an eleven year old, ‘never the twain did meet’.

    The regimen of education continued pretty much as before, even if the school ground activities promoted a more pugilistic education. This was first subject I failed. At least for me the fourth ‘R’ (Religion) did mean an incipient peacemaker.

    I graduated with a one year Diocesan scholarship to what was known as a Central School attached to an all male Catholic College. This special school was a training ground for what was then, in the time before Government aid to private schools, a very much prized objective – a four year Commonwealth Scholarship. To miss out, meant perhaps leaving school at 15.

    Under the careful tutelage a brogue witted Irish Brother, whose favourite punishment was to ‘banish’ an ‘evil doer’ to the back of the class ‘where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth”; – we were drilled for that scholarship. I was one of the fortunate of 1954 and was streamed into the ‘Blue’ or academic syllabus, which was considered the route for the alleged ‘brainy kids’ to go onto better things – like University. A relative privilege in those days.

    Unfortunately my academic and social progress did not progress as the years did and I failed my Matriculation (I.e Year 12 and hence entrance into University),

    Leaving school in 1958 and entering into the workforce was a fairly traumatic experience for one so unprepared in so many practical and social ways. I had been raised the eldest of four children in he secure cocoon of a closely knit patriarchal nuclear family with a close extended family network which revolved around a much beloved widowed grandmother, and of aunts, uncles and mainly younger cousins.

    My education had in addition to the mandatory ‘3Rs’ – the fourth ‘R’ Religion, which was deeply interwoven part of my home life as well. Approximately 30 % of those I had begun secondary education with at an all male Catholic College, had survived through to the Matriculation Year. Perhaps as a reflection of the ‘Sputnik Age’ forty out of that year 12 class of fifty had followed the Science-Mathematics curriculum rather than the Humanities. As previously noted, through a crisis of confidence I failed my matriculation and as I had been on a Commonwealth Scholarship, it was the workplace for me as parental finances with three younger sisters to educate, did not run to a second attempt.

    Having shown an early interest in ‘matter’ and what makes it react –as evidence by such home experiments as blue spotted toast, the result of spilled ‘invisible’ ink, sulphurous attempts to make gun powder, and the more successful attempts to make a delightfully unstable substance called nitrogen trioxide – I decided on a career in Chemistry.

    I was fortunate to gain a lowly paid position as a laboratory cadet in the Chemistry Department at the Royal Melbourne Technical College, which enabled me to study part-time, a fate that was to befall me for nearly a decade.

    The two years I spent working at the ‘Tech’ was a valuable experience and certainly broadened my social perspectives. As I had lived in the tight knit combination of home and school, I had been exposed to very little else in the way of social ideas or opinions other than politics in which my father had become involved. Though my fellow lab cadets, Lecturers and students were mainly interested in our studies there was some philosophical discourse on the world at large – particularly the taboo subjects of ‘politics and religion’.

    To my innocent surprise I found my firmly held views and what I considered my ‘irrefutable logic’ was treated with joyous cynicism or on other occasions just as firm but differing convictions by many of my peers. This meant an ongoing process of re-evaluation and interpretation of my beliefs and values.

    In those rather innocent days at the ‘Tech’, the question of gender, equal opportunity and all the social cliches and concerns that mark our present day never arose. The fact was, there was little or any thought given to the imbalance of more males compared to females studying Chemistry, either full-time or part-time. The closely related though less qualified and hence less financially rewarding course for Medical Laboratory Technicians, was dominated by females, thereby ensuring there were always many bright attractive femmes around in the ‘prac’ classes for us ‘Lab-boys’ to flirt with – a new if shy experience for an earnest lad from an all male school.

    The fact that all the lecturers were male and were largely treated with deference by students was never questioned. The only female member of the staff, other than a couple of office girls, was an attractive Latvian lass who was assistant to the head of the Bio-chemistry department. Her poise and obvious ability ensured that we rather gauche lab-boys treated her with respect.

    The contemporary attitudes towards sex and gender were pretty traditional, the art of chivalry was still expected and premarital sex was socially unacceptable. Males were looking to develop careers and in most cases, females regarded education even if towards a professional qualification, as only providing perhaps a more stimulating job until that ‘right’ man came along. Marriages between the part-time students were not uncommon.

    I believe it would be fair to say that the 1950s saw the beginning of the rapid growth in senior technical education, which was a reflection of Australia’s need to meet the quickening process of development that marked the post war era. The influx of migrants and ‘displaced persons’ in the late 40s and early 50s had provided the muscle and backs to build Australia’s economic infra structure; now the technicians were needed for the next stage.

    Looking back with hindsight, life in Australia during the late fifties and early sixties, appeared much simpler and more optimistic. Political and social issues were clearer. In my own case, the historical backdrop was very much an important element in my formation as a social being and participant as a ‘bit player’ in the historical process.

    The echoes of World War 2 were becoming more muted as Europe recovered economically and regained its political and social equilibrium. The ideological clamour of the Cold War was having a world wide impact. There were the ‘hot spots’ that sharpened the conflict,. Korea, Hungary and of course the rise of Communist China sent a chill down the back of those who viewed the world in perhaps two dimensional terms – Liberal Democracy versus Communism, ‘good versus evil’.

    Elsewhere on the international scene strange names like Dien Bien Phu were casting long prophetic shadows, and men like Kruschev and Mao Tse Tung ruthlessly strode the international stage, sure in their historical destiny. In America, the Camelot days of the Kennedys were about to commence bringing hopes of a better future, and the last of the World War 2 giants, De Gaulle was imperiously trying to restore the grandeur of France. The last rays of sun set were casting their shadows on the British Empire as that nation struggled to divest itself in reasonable order from colonies that had become a burden.

    On the local scene the political reverberations of the Cold War, which touched us in the Petrov Affair and undermined the passionate but enigmatic figure of Dr Evatt and triggered of the tumult of ‘the Split’ in the Australian Labor Party were still in full swing. As a consequence that lucky yet father figure of Australian politics, Bob Menzies dominated in those economically easy days of the ‘Lucky Country’.

    They were also the early days of a new phenomena of ‘youth cult’ signalled by the raunchy mildly rebellious noise of Rock-n-Roll whose international high priest was Elvis Presley and the local idol Johnny O’Keefe. On another ‘religious’ side, Collingwood had just won a Premiership and Magpie devotees were as always forecasting another Golden age.

    Yes, there was a great deal of fervour, of optimism in those heady, socially clear cut days of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The two big Vs – Vietnam and Vatican 2 were yet to have their impact. In my view it was these two historical episodes that rightly and wrongly were to challenge the two dominant authorities of Western Civilisation. The former brought into question the political and social orthodoxy and ascendancy of the Western democratic thought as epitomised by the USA. The latter with its ‘Winds of Change’ unintentionally opened the door to allow perhaps the final disintegration of the moral and religious philosophical backbone of Western society, Christianity – as represented by its largest and until then most cohesive expression – Catholicism.

  3. Aric says:

    I think we have to take into account the fact that whereas parish attendance and Catholic American faithful may have declined in number, Catholic populations elsewhere in the world are exploding. Look at Africa, or China for example. What we have here is a *cultural* shift – the sexual revolution in the 60’s and rampant illicit-drug inflation in the 70’s and 80’s… I don’t know if it’s a safe bet to blame that on liturgical reforms or Vatican II — instead, we might look at changes in the socio-political landscape (wars, economic shifts etc.) in America to account for the kind of statistics we’re seeing.

  4. edwin kubena says:

    the result of Liberalism. Don’t need many words to explain this.


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