Saturday 22 December 2012

People are turning their back on Christianity

English: Catholic Church in Europe - percentag...
Catholic Church in Europe - percentage by country (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the world Christians number 2.2 billion, or about one-in-three (32%) people worldwide. About half of all Christians are Catholic (50%). An estimated 37% of Christians belong to the Protestant tradition, broadly defined to include Anglicans as well as independent and nondenominational churches. The Orthodox Communion, including the Greek and Russian Orthodox, make up 12% of Christians. And people who belong to other traditions that view themselves as Christian (including Christian Scientists, Mormons, Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses) make up about 1% of the global Christian population.

Most Christians (87%) live in countries where Christians are in the majority. Of the 232 countries and territories included in this study, 157 have Christian majorities. However, most of the Christian-majority countries have relatively small populations: about seven-in-ten have fewer Christians than the Christian-minority country of Vietnam (7 million Christians).

Last year’s census in England about faith showed that most of the English people are not really interested in faith, God and religion. Nearly one-in-three people declared themselves to be non-religious.

The number identifying themselves as Christians in England  is down 13 percentage points. In 2001, 72% (37.3 million) called themselves Christians. In 2011 that had dropped to 59% (33.2 million).


Interestingly, Christianity is not down everywhere. Newham, Haringey, Brent, Boston and Lambeth have all shown increases in the Christian population.

The 2011 census has seen the proportion of Christians in North Somerset drop from 75 per cent to 61 per cent during the past decade – a fall of about 18,000 people.
While the percentage of Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Hindus have remained stable, the proportion of those indicated they had no religious affiliation has almost doubled to 30 per cent.

Sunday mass attendance in England and Wales has fallen by half from the 1.8m recorded in 1960; the average age of parishioners has risen from 37 in 1980 to 52 now. In America attendance has declined by over a third since 1960. Less than 5% of French Catholics attend regularly, and only 15% in Italy. Yet as the mainstream wanes, traditionalists wax.

Reverend Gill Putnam, lead chaplain for Chaplaincy about Town, played down fears that North Somerset, and the country as a whole, are shunning religious practices.
She said: “We are still predominantly a Christian nation. Those who have no religious affiliation or who don’t think of themselves affiliated to any church organisation, will have some sort of faith as we are all spiritual beings.”

That the institutional Catholic Church is in a state of crisis is surely an understatement. It has been widely castigated and scorned for the disclosures of sexual abuse and its grossly inadequate response, including cover-ups and protection of perpetrators.

English: Mar Mathew Arackal (Bishop of Kanjira...
English: Mar Mathew Arackal (Bishop of Kanjirappally Eparchy) and Rev. Dr. Prasant Palakkappilly C.M.I (Principal, Thevara Sacred Heart College) along with other priests at the tomb of Servant of God Fr. Varghese Payapilly Palakkappilly. Mar Thoma Cross, symbolizing the heritage and identity of the Syrian Church of Saint Thomas Christians, is seen in the hands of the bishop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Professional theologians the last few years showed their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. In Austria started a much more radical Catholic priests’ initiative, for a “Call for disobedience”, later repeated in Belgium.The Protestant church of the Netherlands (PKN = Protestantse Kerk Nederland) and the Flemish Catholic priests launched in 2007 and 2011 a Manifest for believers Manifest “Gelovigen nemen het woord”,

The first manifest: Manifest ‘Wij kiezen voor eenheid’ or ‘We choose for unity’ consecrated on the union many believers of the Christian faith wanted to see between all those who call themselves Christian. a lot of Christians where found discussing and created confusion by lots of people. The whole situation with all the disasters of sex-abuse, financial fraud, dishonesty made the belief and church-business distasteful. An unacceptable abuse of power and lack of accountability, by many of the bishops and Vatican officials, in complete contravention of the decisions and declarations at Vatican II in favour of a collegial church, and a Church of all the people, mad people draw away from the Catholic church but also from Christianity.

The manifesto for believers Manifest “Gelovigen nemen het woord” presented to the Belgian belief community at the turn of the year hit like a bomb.  It got the approval from 8233 religiously but had probably more counter parts.  A lot of Roman Catholics launched a counter attack. In the month January the reaction was so violently that the initiators took away their website with further definitions.{See: Manifests for believers #3 Catholic versus Protestant)

A big problem in history of Christianity is that from the 4th century power became more important and priests and bishops became vicars of the pope. the clergy became very much connected with particular institutions and represented more a denomination instead representing Christ and working for God.

No only the ordinary civilian has had doubts of what is written in the Bible, many theologians, who had already mixed a lot of philosophical and pagan teaching in their writings confused people more and they themselves became also so confused that many did not mind openly to declare that they did not believe in God. How in Gods name could they than bring people to God?

The Catholic clergy is aware that abuse of choosing for leadership offices in the church only candidates of a particular mindset, should be eradicated.They would like to see new norms to be laid down and supervised to ensure that elections to such offices are conducted in a fair, transparent and, to the extent possible, democratic fashion.

The reality of today's Catholic Church is that the Spirit is suppressed in many ways. Lay people have no channel to voice their insights and take decisions. Theologians are muzzled. Free expression through normal church media is virtually non-existent. Even Bishops Conferences and the Central Synod of Bishops cannot genuinely make their own contributions. Paul's warnings: "Do not extinguish the Spirit! Do not treat the gift of prophecy with contempt!" (1 Thessalonians 5,19), are not heeded at all.

The Reverend Michael Keane, a contemporary of the signatories to the Irish Bishops Pastoral, The Work of Justice, was recently reinstated after a 23 year suspension visited on him in response to challenges based on conscience writes: 
“People today talk much about following their own conscience. Yet the strange thing is that this is the very time when so many people will follow with blind obedience in whatever direction their conscience is led by their group or movement or political party, their firm, or union, or professional organisation. We allow much of our moral thinking to be done for us by committees or by ‘headquarters’, or by the mass media. We need to inform and educate our conscience and have the courage to stand by it even if we stand alone. We cannot rest content with situations where we find ourselves as members of some organisation, doing things which personally we would never do and which privately we know to be wrong, or failing to say or do things we know to be our duty. As someone put it recently, ‘We must not allow governments, corporations and unions to do our sinning for us’. Selfish, sectional and unjust actions committed by my group are in part my responsibility. It is not enough, to examine my conscience about my personal behaviour, I need also to examine myself about actions of a group of which I am a member.” 

The Second Vatican Council prescribed collegiality and co-responsibility on all levels. This has not been realised. Priestly senates and pastoral councils, as envisaged by the Council, should involve the faithful more directly in decision making concerning the formulation of doctrine, the running of the pastoral ministry and evangelization in secular society.

The Roman curia requires a more radical reform, in line with the instructions and vision of Vatican II. The curia should be retained for its useful administrative and executive roles.

To bring religious matters to the public they would love to see a congregation for the doctrine of the faith being assisted by international commissions of experts who have been independently chosen for their professional competence.

The exercise of authority in the Catholic church should emulate the standards of openness, according to the protesting priests, who understand that the principal source of present-day stagnation lies in misunderstanding and abuse affecting the exercise of authority in our Church.
The role of the papacy needs to be clearly re-defined in line with Christ's intentions they do find. "As supreme pastor, unifier and prime witness to faith, the pope contributes substantially to the health of the universal church. However, his authority may never obscure, diminish or suppress the authentic authority directly given by Christ to all members of the people of God." they say.

It is because the leadership could not be seen to be honest and credible; inspired by humility and service; breathing concern for people that many believers lost faith in the church.
In many denominations people could see that those churches where preoccupied with rules and a one-sided discipline.

The attitude of certain denominations to people who are feeling different than the majority creates also a lot of problems.
In a speech to the Vatican Curia today, Pope Benedict made what is considered to be one of his strongest attacks yet on gay marriage. Over the past few years, the Pope has made known his opposition to homosexual conduct in no uncertain terms, previously describing it as an “objective disorder“. This view has been repeated by numerous representatives of his senior executive team throughout the world.
Such strong words and showing not a Christian love for other people is still getting more people leaving that church.

Instead of finding a liberating faith, many people did find that those churches were trying to put them in chains of obedience to the institution. Those churches are and were not radiating a Christ who makes us free.

We have to face the reality that we live in a fallen and broken world.  People are sinful and are not perfect – that is the simple truth.  Also clergy can do faults and are not free of sin. They are people like all other people, but who should take on the function of being an example for others. So they should be even more careful not to sin, and to live impeccable.

To stop people turning their back to church, it has to think seriously how to be representatives of God and how they can form a community worthy of the Lord.


Do find:
Catholic Scholar's Jubilee Declaration

Please do read:
Manifests for believers #1 Sex abuse setting fire to the powder

Manifests for believers #2 Changing celibacy requirement

Manifests for believers #3 Catholic versus Protestant

Find also in Dutch:
  1. Een Manifest voor Gelovigen


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