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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Nov 14, 2007

Mark Steyn notes the almost gleeful death-wish exhibited by the liberal christianities he collectively labels The Church of the Flavoured Condom:

The other day, I spotted a small news item about the United Church of Canada -- ie, northern Congregationalists. Between 1961 and 2001, the country's population increased from 18 million to 31 million, but the UCC's congregational rolls fell by 39%.

Needless to say, the Moderator -- the church's head guy -- isn't bothered. "I see the change as liberating," the Reverend David Giuliano told The National Post, "because we don't have to hold on to that anymore." It's like Wal-Mart: The sooner you lose all that mass-market aisle-clogging traffic, the sooner you can be the little boutique speciality niche business you've always wanted to be.

And, if the Reverend Giuliano's feeling liberated with his 39% drop-off, the Anglican Archbishops must be cartwheeling through the naves. In the same period, the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada fell by 53%, and it's still picking up speed. Will the last gay vicar in the remaining unsold cathedral please turn off the lights? Circa mid-century. Okay, more like 2030.

Of course it's not just liberal Protestants who have, ahem, liberated themselves of superfluous congregants. Many Catholic religious orders likewise embarked on ambitious programs of renewal so as to prune away the "deadwood" -- by which they meant heterosexual Roman Catholics under the age of 70. That renewal was a spectacular success, and in virtually every case you can plot membership growth in inverse proportion to trendiness.

As it happens, the Society of Jesus is celebrating today, albeit rather abashedly, the centenary of the birth of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the General Superior who took the reins in 1965 and, in the face of many obstacles, set the Jesuits on their current trajectory. A 2004 story from the New York Times expounds the nature of the triumph and permits the lieutenants to indulge in some well-merited gloating:

"It is certainly the case that we are getting smaller, but I see it as the religious life being restored to its proper minority status within the church," said [Father Robert Manning, S.J.] of the Weston School. "We were always meant to be a model, a sign to people, not the dominant model of religious life."

Not the dominant model -- that's to say, the little boutique specialty niche business you've always wanted to be. Just think: had Ignatius Loyola founded no new religious order but continued his life as a roystering soldier, the "proper minority status" of the Jesuit ideal would have been in place from the get-go, and forty-plus years of effort wouldn't have been needed to restore it. If St. Ignatius committed some blunders at the outset, however, his heirs have done their part to correct them. And more.

Your Uncle Di sees the change as liberating.

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  • Posted by: - Nov. 15, 2007 2:40 PM ET USA

    I was pleased to see that Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J. was correctly identified as the Father General who in 1965 was responsible for what can be called the beginning of the decline and fall of the Jesuits. Hopefully, the coming general convocation will restore the Order to its original rules of conformity.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 14, 2007 3:15 PM ET USA

    Do any readers remember when contraception was no longer a mortal sin but became "grave matter"?The entire Church has had nothing to say for forty years! As Fr. John Ford, S.J., who served on the infamous "birth control commission" said to Paul VI, "If the Church admits It erred on this issue, It will be unable to defend any teaching, including the existence of God!" That's where we are gentle readers.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 14, 2007 1:06 PM ET USA

    Remember in THIS IS SPINAL TAP, where Marty DiBergi points out to their manager that Spinal Tap used to play arenas, but now plays auditoriums and asks him whether Spinal Tap's popularity is declining. And the manager answered: "I wouldn't say that. I'd say their appeal is becoming more selective." That was awesome.

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