OSLO (ChurchMilitant.com) - The state church of Norway is losing membership at an alarming rate.
Nearly 25,000 people left Norway's state Lutheran Church in August after the ecclesial community allowed people the option of joining or leaving the Church online. According to the Lutheran Church, in August only 1,177 people joined and 25,743 left the faith.
This news follows Church Militant's report in March that 39 percent of the Norwegian population identified as atheist. This was a large increase of almost 20 percent from 1985, while 23 percent declare they "don't know." That makes a total of 62 percent of Norwegians who do not identify as Christian.
Norway embraced Catholicism in the 10th century and remained faithful until the Protestant Revolution of the 16th century, when Lutheranism took roots. Soon afterwards, Catholicism was made illegal in the country and the number of Catholics decreased at a steady rate to make up now only a small minority of Norwegians.
Lutheranism was the state religion until 2012, when the government took away its official status. Catholicism was legalized in the mid-1800s, with the final legal restriction removed in 1956, allowing the Jesuit order back into the country. The vast majority of Norway's 200,000 Catholics today are immigrants. Those 200,000 Catholics represent a meager four percent of the total population of 5 million.
Norway also made news in April when the Catholic bishop of Oslo said that his priests should stop officiating civil weddings while conducting Catholic weddings, in spite of the fact that the the majority of Norwegian Lutherans support weddings for same-sex couples.
In 2014, Apb. Charles Chaput of Philadelphia suggested that, to avoid the same-sex debate altogether, Catholic priests should "get out of the civil marriage business altogether."
The issue now becomes how aggressive gay issue activists will be in punishing and discriminating against those with traditional views. ... Refusing to conduct civil marriages now, as a matter of principled resistance, has vastly more witness value than being kicked out of the marriage business later by the government, which is a likely bet.