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Imagine, if you will, a long train of many cars or boxes that jumps the tracks — your classic train wreck.
An important point to keep in mind, as we think about the train wreck the Church has become, is that the entire train does not jump the tracks at the same moment. On a long train, in fact, it is entirely possible that the passengers near the rear may be unaware that the engine has derailed. It takes time for each of the cars to jump off the rails — a kind of domino effect.
Likewise, there is a certain inertial moment when so many of the engines or cars near the front have jumped the rails that the wreck will happen with increasing velocity for the cars farther back.
Welcome to the Catholic Church train wreck of the third millennium. That is where we are right now. Almost every single car is now off the tracks, and those that have managed to hold on are jumping off at a faster rate. In short order, there will be nothing left.
Of course, in this analogy, the entire train is destroyed and will never see the light of day again. We know that cannot happen in the Church because there is the divine protection aspect.
But that doesn't mean the train wreck isn't real. It means that the Church will be — not can be — will be resurrected and restored, and that it will be done because of Our Lord's promise. He can do a direct intervention, a spectacular miracle — or, as He has done much more frequently in the past, employ human agents to carry out His will.
His will that the Church lasts forever is never in question, off the rails or not — which it is, or very nearly is.
All that said, consider the reality — meaning the scope and level of disaster — of the carnage that is the Church these days. Just last week, the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin announced a plan to slash parishes from the current 102 all the way down to just 32. Closing 70 of 102 parishes, or nearly 70%, is a train wreck.
When you do a deep dive into the announcements, bulletins, brochures, releases and all that, the carnage is evident. For example, Bp. Donald Hying — who blew up Fr. Richard Heilman for saying the truth about politics — admits the disaster of what cannot be denied.
He ordered an extensive study on the state of the Church in his diocese be done. Here's what he calls "Eight Takeaways," which are his reasons for cleaving not just meat, but actual bone:
Now, as we return to our train-wreck analogy, only one of these is attributable to anything other than Church leadership during the past decades — that would be the small giving rate by older people at No. 7. In a Biden economy, all charities are taking it on the chin a bit.
Also, note a point easy to blow past at No. 1. The overall citizen population is growing. Normally, that would suggest "the more people, the more Catholics," but the exact opposite is happening. The percentage of Catholics relative to the overall population is shrinking. That suggests something far worse than just a shrinking Church.
It points to the reality that there is a total free fall occurring, and not just in Madison, Wisconsin.
As many of you know, I've been around the media world virtually my whole life. In my reporting days, I would routinely cover stories involving Catholics and politics. It was a given, a standard, a fixed number that the national percentage of Catholics relative to the entire population was always just about 25%.
During our coverage of campaign 2016, I noticed, for the first time in my career, the number had shrunk to roughly 22%. Catholics normally punch above their weight in terms of voting, so that 22% still accounted for about 25% of the vote, but the underlying number was undeniable.
The overall percentage of Catholics was dropping.
Then came 2020, and again, four years later, I detected another drop, down to about 21%.
So, in a pretty short amount of time, the percentage of U.S. Catholics had dropped from one in every four to about one in every five.
That is not going to stop. In fact, it's going to get worse, which is why Bp. Hying is dumping as many parishes as he can right now. Madison is not some outlier. In fact, with rare exception, it is the norm. All over the country, bishops are closing up shop and slashing parishes by the thousands.
According to the U.S. bishops' own numbers, there are now 3,000 fewer parishes nationwide than there were in 1990, when there was a record high of almost 20,000. For some perspective, while that was 30 years ago — of those 3,000, 2,300 have closed just since the time we began Church Militant/St. Michael's Media in 2005.
From 1990 to 2005, about 700 parishes closed. From 2005–2021, about 2,300 closed.
Behold, the train wreck.
Those numbers do not reflect all the major announcements that have been made in the past year of further closings — like Madison, for example. Those numbers aren't baked in yet. Once they are baked in, expect the rest of the train to be derailed.
Bishop Hying and various bishops around the country who have to make these announcements are always good at laying out the case for what has to be done. But not a single one of them ever says why. The occasional time they venture into the why there is always a smokescreen, which is likely why most of them don't expend the energy to do so.
From the 1960s to 1990, the Church was cursed with horrible men as leaders who were able to live off the gratis of previous generations of the Church. From the 1990s up until our present day, these bishops are now living off the fumes — and the fumes are running out.
However, in each of those groups of bishops, certain characteristics were evident, the largest one being that they were, almost to a man, weak men. There was and is nothing apostle-like about them.
Some or many are homosexual. Others are careerists. Some are nothing but old, tired middle managers who couldn't inspire anyone to anything. Others are fundraisers who cared little for the Faith other than to swindle rich and wealthy Catholics out of tens of millions of their money. Of course, some simply did not and do not believe the Faith.
But notice, no bishop ever takes responsibility for all this. They never talk about it. They never take ownership of it. They never resign and they never accuse their own, as they should — never hold them to accountability. They just plod along, selling off the patrimony, hoarding whatever cash they can from sales, transferring properties around, paying huge sums to lawyers, and all to simply manage the decline.
It is very clear that a new kind of bishop — no, a new kind of man to be made bishop — is needed. These men have no zeal, no passion, no love. They are placeholders, and not even good ones. They are merely keeping the seat warm for whoever comes after them, provided there are enough Catholics left to require that someone come after them. That's not even guaranteed.
The Church in the United States has become a small, unimportant voice, insignificant in the larger discussions of the culture. There will still be a few remaining years where there will be some nostalgia attached to the Faith among older people, who are aging and dying off. But as they move on — many of whom already have — those who follow will look at faithful Catholics more like they view the Amish.
From the era of Sheen in the 1950s to the era of the Amish in the 2020s, Hollywood producers would have rejected this script as too farcical and unbelievable. Because Church Militant has been talking about all this for roughly 15 years, those responsible for the train wreck hate our guts.
Back in 2013, we produced a Premium show covering much of this, called "Dispatches." It goes into detail about much of this and how we got here, which is, of course, important to understand, because these same things will have been purged in the future.
Please sign up today for a Premium account and be sure to watch those episodes from almost 10 years ago.
We said it then, we'll say it now — Church Militant is the only apostolate in the Church that brings you the full truth about the train wreck. Thank you for your continuing support.