Dear Auntie Seraphic:
The Daily Telegraph has a handy collection of statistics that compare the Catholic Church in the UK when JPII visiting in 1982 as opposed to now.
A lot of these numbers look roughly comparable: number of diocesan priests, number of women religious, number of parishes, number of catholic schools, number received into the Catholic church:
There is a slight downward trend overall. Most of today's numbers are down from those 30 years ago. Except for one. The number of Catholic marriages in the UK and Wales has dropped by TWO THIRDS, from 28,548 to 9,845.
Look at Leeds: 1,338 Catholic marriages in 1982. 104 Catholic marriages per year now.
The number of Catholic marriages has dropped by nearly EIGHTY PERCENT.
This is not a joke. It's not like single Catholics wait a long time but then by age 40 everyone's married and everything's fine. We regret that we are not having children, but otherwise everything's dandy.
The reality is that many--perhaps most--of us who choose to get married only in the Church are not getting married at all.
I did some further looking and found marriages in Boston down 50% since 2000, all Catholic marriages in the United States down 35% since 1995, all Catholic marriages down about 46% since the 1960s.
I find these numbers stunning. How come nobody talks about it?
On the outside, the Church looks like it did 20 years ago. On the inside, the next generation is already gone.
Dear Marriage Geologist,
I do not see a reason to panic. It's not that fewer faithful Catholics are getting married. It's that fewer Catholics are faithful. They get married outside of the Church and--tahdah!--ex-faithful Catholics.
I just erased an enormous rant I wrote on the subject. Instead I will just say that a smaller, purer church was predicted by no less a personage than Cardinal Ratzinger.
Our responsibilities as Catholics are to continue to learn what Catholicism really is, to continue to catechize others about what Catholicism really is, to repudiate the notion that Catholicism is in itself an ethnic group, and to fulfill the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Also, we must support our parish priests financially, fulfill our Sunday and Holy Day obligations, confess our sins, fast on fasting days, do penance and, unless called to another state in life, marry within the Church.
We are called to be witnesses. One Greek-derived word for witness is "martyr." A few will be chosen for red martyrdom; a heck of a lot more of us are going to suffer white. The faithless cultural "Catholics" are either half-pagan or gutless. We must lead by example, pray for them and do penances on their behalf.
That is all I can suggest.
Grace and peace,