The Archdiocese of Boston:
Microcosm of Ecclesial Disaster
by Christopher A. Ferrara
May 1, 2017
In his column of April 28, Phil Lawler notes that over the past fifty years — meaning since the end of the Second Vatican Council, 52 years ago — not a single new parish has opened in the Archdiocese of Boston, but on the contrary some 125 parishes have either closed or been consolidated with other parishes.
During the same period, he further notes, the number of Catholic priests has fallen from 2,500 to 300 — a staggering drop of 90%! And most of those, I would add, are probably over the age of 60. Yet the Catholic population of the Archdiocese has increased — minimally — from 1.8 million to 1.9 million, which in itself is a sobering indication of ecclesial decline, given the overall population growth in the United States since the 1960s.
Lawler states the only reasonable conclusion: "Let's be frank. These figures are not a cause for concern; they are a cause for horror. Panic is never useful, but something close to panic is appropriate here. Things have gone terribly, terribly wrong." Indeed, he adds, the situation in Boston "is not unique. All around us, the same sad trends are in evidence. Parish closings and wholesale diocesan retrenchment programs have become familiar."
Lawler, however, never puts his finger on exactly why things have "gone terribly, terribly wrong." He merely observes the widespread post-conciliar failure of the human element of the Church to carry out our Lord's commission to make disciples of all nations, and he laments that "We aren't even holding onto the people who were baptized into the faith."
True, of course, but this is just another way of saying that things have gone terribly wrong in the Church. But why have they gone terribly wrong? Certainly, cultural factors emerging in the 1960s, including the "sexual revolution," were involved in this sudden and calamitous ecclesial decline. But the proximate cause arose within the Church itself as the generality of the hierarchy, after the close of the Second Vatican Council, inexplicably surrendered to the spirit of the age instead of resisting it as the Church had always done before — even in the years immediately preceding Vatican II as one can see during the reign of Pius XII.
That surrender has taken the following forms:
- a truly fatuous optimism about, and "opening to," the never-adequately-defined "modern world" — supposedly inspired by the conciliar document Gaudium et spes;
- a disastrous "liturgical reform," initiated by the conciliar document Sacrosanctum Concilium, that would supposedly make the Catholic liturgy more meaningful to the faithful and more attractive to non-Catholics, when precisely the opposite has happened as Mass attendance and conversions immediately plummeted;
- an "ecumenical" and "interreligious" venture launched by the conciliar documents Unitatis Redintegratio and Nostra Aetate, which has ended by de facto placing the Catholic Church on the level of Protestant sects and indeed all other religions for the sake of "ecumenical dialogue" and "interreligious dialogue," giving rise to the general impression that all religions are more or less good and that the Catholic religion has no unique claim to validity;
- an abandonment of the Social Kingship of Christ, emanating from the post-conciliar implementation of the conciliar document Dignitatis Humanae, which introduced an unprecedented endorsement of "religious liberty" whose exact significance is still being debated while the original teaching on the necessity of some form of Church-State alliance for sound social order has effectively (but not officially) been negated;
- a general refusal to teach, and a consequent loss of the conviction, that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation.
In sum, as incredible as it may seem, over the past fifty years the institutional Church has largely been stripped of her liturgical, doctrinal and pastoral distinctiveness — the things that make her most visibly and impressively Catholic — gradually dissolving at the human level into a kind of glorified social service agency, keen to offer its services to the globalist political establishment. That is what has gone terribly wrong in the Church since Vatican II.
This trend seems to have reached its farthest extremity with Pope Bergoglio, as evidenced by his monumentally embarrassing TED talk, where we read such Forrest Gump-like gems of pop wisdom as the following:
"A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another 'you,' and another 'you,' and it turns into an 'us.' And so, does hope begin when we have an 'us?' No. Hope began with one 'you.' When there is an 'us,' there begins a revolution."
Catholics used to be taught that hope is a theological virtue, inspired by divine grace, which is the confident expectation of life eternal when this short life on earth has ended. But that was then, and this is now: the human element of the Church after more than fifty years of the imaginary "springtime" of Vatican II.
The only solution to what has "gone terribly, terribly, wrong" in the Church is to restore the very things that made her attractive to souls and produced a rising tide of conversions in America right up to the Council's commencement: that is, her bimillenial liturgical, doctrinal and pastoral integrity.
Need proof? Then look no further than the priestly orders that offer a traditional priestly formation and liturgy. There you will find everything that once characterized the Church at large: a flourishing of vocations, full seminaries and convents, large families, adherence to the doctrines on faith and morals and, in general, renewal and growth instead of the decay and slow death now seen in the Archdiocese of Boston and in every other place where the conciliar "springtime" has actually produced a long, dark winter for the Faith.
The Church will ultimately be restored, as the "Church of Vatican II" dies the long and painful death of its own infirmities. And that restoration will inevitably be accelerated by the long overdue consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We can only hope and pray, however, that the restoration does not take place in a world devastated by the divine chastisement depicted in the post-apocalyptic vision that pertains to the Third Secret of Fatima.