I know an elderly lady who was born and raised a Catholic. She went to a Catholic school. For thirty years she even taught in a Catholic school, in a deprived area of the English port city of Liverpool. She attended Mass, once a week, for seventy years. And yet: no longer. This began because, during the Covid pandemic, she was no longer allowed to go, due to lockdown. And yet, eventually, lockdown ended. But her absence from Mass did not. Why?
Because the church she once attended is, in her opinion, no longer still truly a church. Granted, from the outside, it still continues to look like one. On the inside, however…
In early 2023, this same small, provincial church—hitherto wholly obscure to all but those few souls who attended it—suddenly and unexpectedly appeared in the well-known political and religious commentator Rod Dreher’s old column on The American Conservative.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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He shared a tweet from the Archdiocese of Liverpool, advertising the fact that “The next LGBTQ+ Catholics, families and friends gathering” would be held at the church that 26 February. To illustrate this fact, the Archdiocese also tweeted a large image of a cross placed before the church’s altar, which had been decorated (or defaced) with the eyesore gay transgender “Progress Pride” flag draped over its arms:
Immediately above this image were written the words “[Black] Mass will begin at 2pm and will be followed by a social gathering. All are very welcome.”
Really? It seems to me as if rather a large number of regular parishioners would feel the precise opposite of welcome when confronted by such an “inclusive” sight. That little old lady I know, for example. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of printing the above image out and showing it to her. Hence, no more Mass attendance for her from now on, at least not in the queer-captured Archdiocese of Liverpool.
So, in the name of “including” a class of persons most of whom probably won’t go to church anyway as a matter of pure principle, the Archdiocese ended up “excluding” people who actually would. Is it any wonder Catholic congregations across Great Britain are declining, year after year?
If some Catholic clergy in Britain appear to have a religious death wish, it is nothing compared to that seemingly possessed by the country’s official national State religion, the Church of England (CofE). According to a survey of CofE clerics, published on 30 August by The Times newspaper (considered the nation’s journal of record) only 24.2 percent of respondents, when asked whether they thought “Britain can or cannot be described as a Christian country today” answered “yes.” A larger proportion, 64.2 percent, thought Britain could indeed be considered a Christian land, “but only historically, not currently.” A further 9.2 percent answered simply “no,” apparently implying they never thought it had been one! If some Catholic clergy in Britain appear to have a religious death wish, it is nothing compared to that seemingly possessed by the country’s official national State religion, the Church of England (CofE). Tweet This
The methodology of this survey has been plausibly questioned—5,000 priests were asked to participate, but only around 1,200 actually replied. Thus, the survey responses were essentially self-selecting, perhaps allowing a disproportionate number of activist busybodies to take their chance to falsely pose as representing the majority of CofE opinion in order to shift the church further toward their own “progressive” doctrinal desires. Nonetheless, let us take the responses at face value here.
Perhaps the 64.2 percent who considered Britain no longer a Christian land were in the right. After all, explained The Times, attendance at CofE services has absolutely plummeted in recent years, while in Britain’s most recent 2021 census, the proportion of individuals saying they were Christians of any kind dropped below half for the first time, to 46.2 percent. The biggest growth-religion was that now highly fashionable one called “none.” According to one recent analysis, the CofE will be extinct in England by the 2060s.
When asked what they thought was most likely to happen to congregations at their own churches over the next decade, the most common priestly answer, at 26.1 percent, was “continue to fall at a similar rate.” Next came those who thought the best they could hope for was a slightly slower decline in numbers, at 25.3 percent. Bottom of the list of responses were “rise slightly” at 9.9 percent, and “rise quickly” at 0.6 percent.
Less than half of respondents, 43.9 percent, thought it “very likely” they would still even be holding a regular Sunday service in ten years’ time. Almost one in ten, at 9.5 percent, felt it “fairly unlikely” this would be so, whilst 6.1 percent actually answered, “My church has already ceased holding worship every Sunday.” A large majority, 67 percent, thought any efforts the CofE might make to try and halt or reverse its looming demise are destined to fail.
But why might this depressing decline be? Perhaps it is because, in their desperate and wrongheaded desire to conform to prevailing modish social trends among the general public—rather than among those who actually identify as Christians—these same vicars had become hopelessly out of touch with their flocks. Consider some of the CofE clergy’s other responses to The Times’ queries:
- 53 percent want the CofE to begin performing gay marriages
- 80 percent would support a female Archbishop of Canterbury
- 65 percent want the Church to drop its opposition to gay sex
- 67 percent want to see plaques erected in church buildings explaining the CofE’s (often quite tangential) historical links to the transatlantic slave trade
When it came to overtly political issues, too, clergy proved completely out of touch with their parishioners. Despite surveys showing as many as 66 percent of Anglican worshippers supported the “Leave” side in the 2016 Brexit referendum, only 18.8 percent of clergy did; 75.4 percent actively voted to “Remain.” They clearly held a left-wing bias, with 36.1 percent saying they would vote for the left-wing Labour Party in a General Election and 17.9 percent pledging their support to the even more left-wing Liberal Democrats. In third place came the “Don’t Knows” at 16.8 percent, whilst the current governing (ostensibly) right-wing Conservative Party came fourth, with 13.2 percent.
One thing CofE clergy did overwhelmingly support the current Conservative government’s policy on, however, was its proposed ban on voluntary gay conversion therapy (including that performed by priests); a conclusive 67.8 percent of them loved that. Finally, 35.5 percent of respondents were supportive of euthanasia; only to be expected, considering this was a procedure they appeared to be forcing upon their own church.
The Church Militant
I once wrote about a bizarre debacle at the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, in November 2022, where a guest sermon was delivered during evensong, devoted to a willfully offensive and revisionist interpretation of depictions of the crucifixion in Renaissance art. According to the visiting preacher, the spear wound in Christ’s side was “of decidedly vaginal appearance,” implying the Son of God was simultaneously also the Daughter of God and thus a potential transgenderist. Predictably, several attendees burst into tears, began shouting “Heresy!” and walked out. This, in microcosm, appears to be what the increasingly left-leaning, progressive CofE hierarchy want to do to their flock in a wider sense: to drive them out over a cliff, like the Gadarene Swine.
Initial responses to The Times’ survey in its letters pages, many from skeptical, non-leftist CofE churchmen themselves, were virtually unanimous in blaming what one correspondent called “the progressive CofE pushing for modernization” as being “the cause of its own decline.” “Anglican clergy have concluded that Britain is no longer a Christian nation. Perhaps more to the point, is the Anglican Church still a Christian Church?” asked another.
Others accurately observed that not all Christian churches in Britain were suffering a terminal decline in attendance and that some were actively expanding—namely, those that actually still preached the traditional Word of God, whether Anglican or otherwise. Whoever would have thought it? Amazingly, it turns out the overwhelming majority of those persons who regularly attend church actually believe in God and Christianity.
Remember the advice of Romans 12:2, which instructs Christians: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world.” If the original apostles had followed the methodology of today’s Anglican Church, Christianity would never have developed in the first place, and the ancient world would have remained pagan. The point of Christianity is surely to shape the world to its mold, not the other way around.
Catholic clergy should pay heed to the apparent vicar-assisted suicide of the CofE lest, like the priests at my own local Church of the Queer Cross, they are tempted to follow their absurd, self-defeating, progressive methods. Redesigning the whole experience of Mass for the main benefit of those who do not actually believe in Christianity at all is unlikely to entice them into the pews as, by definition, they are just not churchgoers. Instead, all it is likely to do is put actual Christians off and transform them from regular worshippers into the precise opposite. Just ask that little old lady I know.