Emmet Scott’s latest essay concerns the decline of the Catholic Church and its relationship to the demographic decline that helped prompt the current “refugee” crisis.
The Decline and Fall of the Catholic West
by Emmet Scott
Recent events have forcefully highlighted, to all but the most wilfully ignorant, that Western Civilization is — especially in Europe — in the midst of an existential crisis. The tides of humanity now pouring into Europe from the Middle East, southern Asia and northern as well as sub-Saharan Africa, will, if the process continues even for another year or so, make the continent virtually unrecognizable in a generation. North America is undergoing its own “Third World” invasion, but, since most of its immigrants derive from Latin America, the situation there is different. Latin Americans are, ultimately, not too different from North Americans culturally. The immigration to Europe, however, is coming overwhelmingly from Sunni Islam, and that makes it an entirely different ball game. We are witnessing nothing less than the birth of the long-predicted Eurabia.
The possibility, even likelihood, that Europe would eventually cease to be “European” has been understood for at least half a century, ever since the commencement of large scale Third World immigration in the 1960s and ‘70s — initially into France and Britain and later into virtually all western European states. Now, whilst it is true that the ruling elites have encouraged this process for economic and ideological reasons, it is also true that a primary cause of the influx has been the massive decline in Europe’s birth rate since the 1970s.
The drop in European (and American) birth rates is a complex and controversial topic and may well have more than a single cause. Nonetheless, one thing is very clear: the process has coincided almost precisely with an unprecedented and rapid abandonment of the Catholic faith amongst the Catholic populations of Europe and America, an abandonment which commenced with the implementation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, from 1965 onwards. I’ll look at those reforms presently, but for the moment wish merely to look at a few of the statistics.
Until the late 1960s the Catholic Church in Europe and the Americas was experiencing an almost unprecedented growth and expansion, a growth driven primarily by demographics, but also by conversions. In the years leading up to 1965, for example, conversions to Catholicism were running at around 150,000 per year in the United States alone. Catholic seminaries were packed and new ones were being opened every year. Demographics were also favourable: almost all regions of Catholic Europe and the Americas (North and South) had high birth rates. Indeed, during the first half of the twentieth century and even during much of the nineteenth, birthrates among Catholics and in Catholic regions were substantially higher than among Protestants and among those who practiced no religion. Some were extremely high. Quebec, for example, with its conservative French-speaking Catholicism, had one of the highest birth-rates in the world. Catholic parts of Europe presented a similar picture: During the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, for example, the birth-rate in the Catholic south of the Netherlands was almost twice that of the Protestant north. By the mid-1960s the Netherlands was well on the way to becoming a predominantly Catholic country for the first time since the seventeenth century. And the same was true of many traditionally Protestant regions of Europe. The Catholic Church in Scotland, for example, which had been reduced to little more than a remnant by the eighteenth century, experienced a rapid and largely demographically-driven growth during the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. By the mid-1960s Catholics formed a fifth of Scotland’s population, and the numbers were growing rapidly.
Until the mid-1960s Italy was proverbially a family-orientated society. During the latter half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century the country experienced a massive population increase, and only large-scale emigration to North and South America prevented the country from overtaking France and Germany in terms of population.
But the Catholic population explosion came to a rapid — almost a sudden — end in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and whilst a whole kaleidoscope of opinions regarding this have been expressed and put into print, one fact is undeniable: The demographic nose-dive was accompanied by the wholesale abandonment of the faith by vast numbers of Catholics. One of the best studies to date is entitled “From Empty Pews to Empty Cradles: Fertility Decline Among European Catholics” (by Eli Berman, Laurence R. Iannaccone and Giuseppe Ragusa). The title of the article expresses the major point quite succinctly. From the late 1960s until the present the Catholic Church has experienced a mass apostasy quite unprecedented in its history. In Europe, the apostasy has generally taken the form of rejection of all religion or simple non-practice. The vast majority of Catholics in Italy and Spain, for example, whilst still “Catholic” for statistical purposes, are in fact Catholics in name only and never — or very rarely — attend church services. There has also been some leakage to various strands of evangelical Protestantism and to other faiths such as Buddhism and Islam, but the numbers are not large. In the Americas, however, the situation is quite different: Both in North America and Latin America great numbers of Catholics have converted to evangelical Protestantism since the early 1970s. So enormous has this movement been in Latin America that at least three countries, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, are now predominantly Protestant. Uruguay in South America is also now a majority non-Catholic country, though in this case most Catholics have become secularists or atheists. In 1960, 90% of Latin Americans identified themselves as Catholic: by 2013 that figure had reached 69% and was dropping rapidly. (More recent estimates put the figure at around 63% as of May 2016)
North America presents a similar picture. In spite of massive, mainly-Catholic, Hispanic immigration, the Catholic Church in the United States is currently losing almost half a million adherents every year, some to evangelical churches, many to secularism. Altogether, 41% of those born Catholic in the United States have left the church.
If we seek to identify the cause of Catholicism’s collapse in its traditional European and American heartlands, we need look no further than the Second Vatican Council: For the collapse, both in terms of practice and in terms of birth-rate, began within about five years of the Council’s close and the implementation of its reforms.
What then was the Second Vatican Council, and why was it so devastating?