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WESTMINSTER, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading British mathematician is predicting the "exponential decline" of the Catholic Church in England and Wales by 2050, as it becomes increasingly woke in its embrace of progressive ideology.
Using epidemiological modeling, which is designed to calculate the number of persons infected with a contagious illness in a closed population over time, Dr. John Hayward computes that with a current "reproduction potential of 0.91," the Catholic Church in England and Wales "will eventually become extinct."
Noting that the decline in attendance at Holy Mass is "accelerating," Hayward predicts that "in the worst-case scenario, the ... church will be extinct by 2048." Indeed, according to the visiting mathematics fellow at the University of South Wales, "The church's future will likely lie somewhere between linear and exponential decline."
Hayward argues that the critical factors hastening church extinction are a lack of enthusiasm in making converts and an openness to cultural Marxism, critical race theory, the sexual revolution and the LGBTQ+ agenda.
"To date, no growing church has adopted same-sex 'marriage,'" Hayward writes, noting that all growing denominations hold firmly to historic Christianity and have statements affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman only.
Moreover, growing churches demonstrate a confidence in the authority of Scripture, which "enables them to stand against progressive ideology and drives their efforts in making disciples," observes the statistician and founder of the Church Growth Modeling site.
But while the Catholic Church is opposed to same-sex 'marriage' in theory, its decline nevertheless shows that being orthodox is insufficient to guarantee growth, since the CCEW has failed to spread the Faith and make converts, the mathematician laments.
Hayward uses a "limited enthusiasm conversion model" to calculate the R (reproduction potential) number of the CCEW, where "enthusiasts" are reproducing themselves through conversion. An R number of more than 1 indicates that a church is making converts, while an R number of less than 1 is an indicator of looming extinction.
The CCEW has an R number of 0.9, in contrast to independent evangelical and pentecostal churches, which have an R number between 1 and 1.1. Even the Church of England's R number slightly exceeds the R number of the CCEW.
Only denominations in meltdown (like the Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, Church of Wales, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church of Scotland and the Welsh Presbyterians and Welsh independents) show a lower R number (between 0.5 and 0.8) than the CCEW.
Baptist churches have an R number of just under 1. If churches with an R rate of over 1 "maintain this potential to convert, they could reach five times their current number by the end of the century. But they would have to keep this value for 80 years," Hayward notes.
The academic urges the Catholic Church and other denominations "to encourage members to make new disciples who can replicate themselves," whatever the current denominational emphasis may be, and to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Weekly attendance at Mass plummeted from 1 million in 2000 to a little over 500,000 in 2020, as per Hayward. According to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, attendance fell by nearly a third (30.7%) between 1993 and 2010, as compared to corresponding falls of 10.9% in the Catholic population and 9.4% in the number of priests over the same period.
"Roughly two-fifths of British cradle Catholics now identify as 'religious nones,'" and "typical Sunday Mass attendance in England and Wales more than halved in the 35 years from 1984 (1.5 million) to 2019 (0.7 million)," write Catholic academics Stephen Bullivant and Ben Clements in the peer-reviewed Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
While a significant factor in the Catholic population is the number of immigrants, younger Catholics seem to be among the most committed to the Faith, observe Bullivant and Clements. Many younger Catholics belong to Traditionalist Latin Mass (TLM) communities that claim to be growing.
However, observers note that most of the growth in TLM parishes is a result of "transfer growth" and not intentional evangelization on the part of traditionalist Catholics.
"I think most of the growth in traditional parishes is due to faithful Catholics who love the Church finding sanctuary from heresy and persecution," Nick Donnelly, who was tasked with directing evangelization in his diocese of Lancaster, told Church Militant.
"I see few signs of evangelization — in the sense of proclaiming the gospel to pagans — except through acts of public devotion such as processions or the occasional flash mob exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in a shopping center," the popular writer added.
In comments to Church Militant, Dr. Joseph Shaw, president of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, said he "wouldn't exaggerate the 'transfer growth' as an explanation of Traditional Mass growth."
Shaw explained how traditional congregations had converts and even more reverts who had stopped attending the Novus Ordo before being drawn back by the TLM.
"A few years ago, I noticed that on our walking pilgrimage to Walsingham, there were four converts from Buddhism. I think there were about 60 pilgrims in total. One was a cradle Buddhist of Chinese heritage; the others were Western converts," Shaw illustrated.
Shaw admitted the TLM communities lacked resources for a centrally organized evangelistic strategy and that "most of the priests who celebrate the TLM do it as a sideshow of their parish Novus Ordo, so they can't easily evangelize using the TLM."
The Oxford academic insisted that evangelization was being carried out through public processions, one-to-one invitations to the TLM and on the internet.
Responding to Shaw's description of TLM evangelization efforts, Donnelly added:
Traditional Catholics are a strong, vocal presence on social media and very good at offering mutual support and encouragement, but not at the primary proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers. The challenge is, How do we proclaim the gospel during the "Great Apostasy"?
One of the methods of evangelization that the traditional parishes are perfectly suited — with their love of authentic Catholic doctrine — is the restoration of medieval passion plays in their local towns. The combination of doctrine with spectacle and humor would be very attractive.
Church Militant contacted Fr. Jan Nowotnik, secretary to the Department for Evangelization and Discipleship at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, asking what the bishops were doing to address church decline and spur evangelization.
Nowotnik did not respond to the request for comment.
While the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales emphasizes and invests financially in interreligious dialogue, racial justice and the environment, there is no formal strategy, effort or financial investment for evangelization.
In 2016, Dr. David M. Haskell, professor of sociology at Canada's Wilfrid Laurier University, produced a landmark study showing how "the theological conservatism of both attendees and clergy emerged as important factors in predicting church growth."
Haskell's findings confirm the thesis of D.M. Kelley's book Why Conservative Churches Are Growing (1972), which famously highlighted the link between conservatism and growth. Kelley's "strictness thesis" argued that conservative churches were growing because they place high demands on their members.