The Archdiocese of Boston: Microcosm of Ecclesial Macro-Disaster

The Archdiocese of Boston: Microcosm of Ecclesial [Macro-]Disaster

by Christopher A. Ferrara
May 1, 2017

In his column of April 28, Phil Lawler notes that over the past fifty years — meaning since the end of the Second Vatican Council, 52 years ago — not a single new parish has opened in the Archdiocese of Boston, but on the contrary some 125 parishes have either closed or been consolidated with other parishes.

During the same period, he further notes, the number of Catholic priests has fallen from 2,500 to 300 — a staggering drop of 90%! And most of those, I would add, are probably over the age of 60. Yet the Catholic population of the Archdiocese has increased — minimally — from 1.8 million to 1.9 million, which in itself is a sobering indication of ecclesial decline, given the overall population growth in the United States since the 1960s.

Lawler states the only reasonable conclusion: “Let’s be frank. These figures are not a cause for concern; they are a cause for horror. Panic is never useful, but something close to panic is appropriate here. Things have gone terribly, terribly wrong.” Indeed, he adds, the situation in Boston “is not unique. All around us, the same sad trends are in evidence. Parish closings and wholesale diocesan retrenchment programs have become familiar.”

Lawler, however, never puts his finger on exactly why things have “gone terribly, terribly wrong.” He merely observes the widespread post-conciliar failure of the human element of the Church to carry out our Lord’s commission to make disciples of all nations, and he laments that “We aren’t even holding onto the people who were baptized into the faith.”

True, of course, but this is just another way of saying that things have gone terribly wrong in the Church. But why have they gone terribly wrong? Certainly, cultural factors emerging in the 1960s, including the “sexual revolution,” were involved in this sudden and calamitous ecclesial decline. But the proximate cause arose within the Church itself as the generality of the hierarchy, after the close of the Second Vatican Council, inexplicably surrendered to the spirit of the age instead of resisting it as the Church had always done before — even in the years immediately preceding Vatican II as one can see during the reign of Pius XII.

That surrender has taken the following forms:

a truly fatuous optimism about, and “opening to,” the never-adequately-defined “modern world” — supposedly inspired by the conciliar document Gaudium et spes;

a disastrous “liturgical reform,” initiated by the conciliar document Sacrosanctum Concilium, that would supposedly make the Catholic liturgy more meaningful to the faithful and more attractive to non-Catholics, when precisely the opposite has happened as Mass attendance and conversions immediately plummeted;

an “ecumenical” and “interreligious” venture launched by the conciliar documents Unitatis Redintegratio and Nostra Aetate, which has ended by de facto placing the Catholic Church on the level of Protestant sects and indeed all other religions for the sake of “ecumenical dialogue” and “interreligious dialogue,” giving rise to the general impression that all religions are more or less good and that the Catholic religion has no unique claim to validity;

an abandonment of the Social Kingship of Christ, emanating from the post-conciliar implementation of the conciliar document Dignitatis Humanae, which introduced an unprecedented endorsement of “religious liberty” whose exact significance is still being debated while the original teaching on the necessity of some form of Church-State alliance for sound social order has effectively (but not officially) been negated;

a general refusal to teach, and a consequent loss of the conviction, that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation.

In sum, as incredible as it may seem, over the past fifty years the institutional Church has largely been stripped of her liturgical, doctrinal and pastoral distinctiveness — the things that make her most visibly and impressively Catholic — gradually dissolving at the human level into a kind of glorified social service agency, keen to offer its services to the globalist political establishment. That is what has gone terribly wrong in the Church since Vatican II.

This trend seems to have reached its farthest extremity with Pope Bergoglio, as evidenced by his monumentally embarrassing TED talk, where we read such Forrest Gump-like gems of pop wisdom as the following:

“A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.”
Catholics used to be taught that hope is a theological virtue, inspired by divine grace, which is the confident expectation of life eternal when this short life on earth has ended. But that was then, and this is now: the human element of the Church after more than fifty years of the imaginary “springtime” of Vatican II.

The only solution to what has “gone terribly, terribly, wrong” in the Church is to restore the very things that made her attractive to souls and produced a rising tide of conversions in America right up to the Council’s commencement: that is, her bimillenial liturgical, doctrinal and pastoral integrity.

Need proof? Then look no further than the priestly orders that offer a traditional priestly formation and liturgy. There you will find everything that once characterized the Church at large: a flourishing of vocations, full seminaries and convents, large families, adherence to the doctrines on faith and morals and, in general, renewal and growth instead of the decay and slow death now seen in the Archdiocese of Boston and in every other place where the conciliar “springtime” has actually produced a long, dark winter for the Faith.

The Church will ultimately be restored, as the “Church of Vatican II” dies the long and painful death of its own infirmities. And that restoration will inevitably be accelerated by the long overdue consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We can only hope and pray, however, that the restoration does not take place in a world devastated by the divine chastisement depicted in the post-apocalyptic vision that pertains to the Third Secret of Fatima.

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6 comments on “The Archdiocese of Boston: Microcosm of Ecclesial Macro-Disaster

  1. This a particularly difficult subject for me to address because one of the parishes that was closed was Blessed Sacrament on Pearl Street in Cambridge, MA. That was where I received my formation in the Faith and the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Holy Eucharist. It is distressing to note that no mention of the parish exists on the Archdiocesan website – probably because its pastor in the mid ’80s was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and Cardinal Law and his successors were burdened with overwhelming cases of such action among the clergy – some like Law even being accused themselves. I mean how much bad press could they take? (sarcasm intended)

    I appreciate Chris’s analysis of the real causes of the decline but I would like to suggest another cause which goes to the root of the crisis – the fact that men who wore the robes of authority in the Church took it upon themselves to water-down the essentials of the Faith and, most importantly, placed Man before God in the Liturgy and substituted a man-made concoction, the novus ordo, for the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  2. Is it possible that the same people who sent pro-abortion serial adulterer Ted Kennedy back to the Senate election after election might have a deeper problem with their faith and spirituality? The apostasy of being ashamed of being Catholic didn’t start recently. Is it possible that was also related to enabling perverts in the priesthood? The tendency to cover up for the Kennedys carrying over….

    There are a lot of causes for the decline of the Catholic Church in the U.S. This is a good case study.

    • Howl, I appreciate your analysis of the situation, but please allow me to defend the “people” who have remained firm in the Faith despite the sewer of apostasy and crime surrounding them. I was lucky – I had the opportunity to leave in 1962, enter the AF, and build a new life for myself and my soon-to-be growing family and never have to go back to live in that area again. Many of my extended family never had that opportunity due to economic and other reasons. However, many of them retained the Faith in the most extraordinarily difficult circumstances and I thank God for that.

      I was also exposed in my travels to a different culture in the West and found many Catholics who fled the horrors of the Northeast like myself and had traditional priests to minister to them. One of these priests, from Brooklyn NY of all places, recently celebrated the 44th Anniversary of Ordination by none other than Archbishop Lefebvre. He was also able to find tradition-friendly bishops to ordain 4 seminarians in the traditional rite in 1995. This was the “Spiritual Life Preserver” I mentioned in a previous post. It is also a living testament to the doctrine of “ecclesia supplet” IMO.

  3. It’s a national problem. Whatever type of Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry Joe Kennedy experienced at Harvard, that led to shame about being Catholic, along with a desire to suppress one’s Catholicism. It is just part of American Catholic history that JFK’s Houston Speech to the wacko anti-Catholic Protestant ministers paved the way for a stand down on Catholic identity and issues relevant to the Catholic faith, even religious and moral issues those Protestant ministers should have been concerned about. While it may not have been as clear in 1960, modernity and secularism in American culture were well on their way to becoming serious problems for all Christians. What about Communism? That was anti-Catholic and anti-Christian. What about the subsequent school prayer decision opening things up for the dictatorship of cultural relativism? What about abortion and the Sexual Revolution? Radical Feminism? All of those issues in the 1960s and 1970s should have been addressed from a Catholic moral point of view which would have benefited ALL Christians and all Americans.

    There are many reasons why Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have experienced decline since Vatican II. When the Berrigan boys pioneered the social activist style of clericalism in the 1960s during the Vietnam War focusing on anti-war and peace protests it helped set up the new style of progressive modernism for the priesthood, one which abandoned sacramental spiritual and the supernatural Catholic faith for a materialism of politics and economics. Progressive modernists think the pivot to social justice consciousness raising is good, but it hides homosexual modernists disdain for traditional Catholic moral theology. Who really wants a Catholic Church which is a carbon copy of the U.S. Democrat Party? Immoral liberals do. That is what modernists chose after Vatican II. We’re all living with the consequences which have been FAR from good for the Catholic Church in America. It’s the product of the Vietnam War which created the model for the liberal social activist priest (this-worldly social justice warrior ideology). This was a disaster for Catholicism.

    The voters in Stockholm Syndrome to Ted Kennedy were just part of that problem during the crazy days of the modernist Spirit of Vatican II. It is just a fact that a LOT of Catholics are not educated very deeply in their faith or in the natural law ethics of the Catholic tradition. That’s a serious problem. The Kennedys are one of the worst examples of this, so their shame about being Catholic and their apostasy need to be studied and examined for the pathology behind it. It’s disgusting and there is no sugar coating it, wherever that problem came from, whatever happened in their social experience as Catholics seeking power, whatever vanity led them to Harvard and their political deaths, with a shameful legacy of apostasy and obstinate immorality that has harmed not just Catholics but all of American society with the implosion of modernist Catholicism. It is a very shameful legacy of evil. It was in part a cowardly surrender to Protestant and secular liberal anti-Catholic bigotry. All the modernist bishops need to reflect on this since many of them are repeating those mistakes. The sickness of Kennedy modernism and apostasy needs to be addressed (with Pelosi and Biden as two of the most prominent heretics of this disorder).

  4. Once again, Howl has nailed it. I wish all Catholics in America, especially with roots in the Northeast, could read his post. May God continue to give him insight into the problems we face.

  5. The Catholic laity, the faithful parishioners paying the bills and attending Mass week in and week out, are the hostages in this situation. It’s the modernist bishops and the trendy modernist theologians who want to keep changing the subject to climate change hysteria (debatable) or the redistribution of material wealth (with Catholic families in their own dioceses and parishes still trying to figure out how to pay off college loans and mortgages while the modernist bishops are pushing to raise their taxes even higher).

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