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By Diogenes ( 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: Frodo1945 - Dec. 06, 2009 9:14 PM ET USA

    Bishop Tobin was run over by Chris Matthews. Matthews lectured him and hogged most of the interview time. When he did Speak, Bishop Tobin didn't get his points across but spent his time on his heals from Matthews' attacking questions. Some Bishops are really naive when it comes to handling the press. Its a pity because Bishop Tobin seems to have handled this situation with a good pastoral approach. Unfortunately politicians and the media don't play by the rules, they go for the jugular.

  • Posted by: Ken - Dec. 05, 2009 2:10 AM ET USA

    I spoke to my bishop, Bishop Galeone of St Augustine, FL on this matter, Here was his considered reply: You ask that I come out with a public statement concerning his action. I have sent Bishop Tobin a private message of support and encouragement for his decision. I chose not to make it a public statement. Why? To avoid what happened in the Notre Dame controversy. Once we start counting heads, as was done in that case, and we're informed that 83 bishops signed the petition disapproving of Notre Dame's president's action, the press then concludes that more bishops supported the invitation that was extended than disapproved.

  • Posted by: elts1956 - Dec. 04, 2009 12:22 AM ET USA

    The woman and the dragon (Rev 12:1): There are several interpretations of this scripture reading. None of them clear nor certain. This is my theory. The 1/3 of the stars swept from the sky by the dragon are those Bishops who have stood against the life and death issues we are fighting in our secular society. Why would the devil cast out his followers from the sky? Wouldn't he leave them in place to do his dirty work through their lack of standing against the culture of death? During the past election approximately 1/3 of our Bishops and clergy came out against the issue of abortion that was so strongly promulgated and supported by our present administration. It was the greatest issue of our time. The majority of the hierarchy stood by and said nothing. . Pray for our strong Bishops and Cardinals such as Chaput, Tobin, Burke, Finn, Martino (suddenly retired) and other faithful clergy who have had the courage to stand for what they believe and teach. We need more of them.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 03, 2009 9:00 PM ET USA

    Bishop Tobin looked totally out of his depth in his interview with Chris Matthews. Don't these guys get media training?

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Dec. 03, 2009 8:18 PM ET USA

    I will email Bishop Tobin as well, thanking him and offering my prayers for his continued good work. But, I have to wonder why it has taken this long for any bishop to confront the Kennedys on their looooong history of publicly straying from Church teaching. Have we a bunch of bishops wearing blinders, or too fond of the Kennedy $$ in the Sunday collection, or are they simply invertebrates?

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Dec. 03, 2009 6:15 PM ET USA

    I'm betting that Bishop Tobin will be marginalized by most of his brother bishops. They don't like it when a good shepherd speaks out and puts the largess of the Federal Government to the Church in jeopardy.

  • Posted by: Hal - Dec. 03, 2009 6:11 PM ET USA

    I emailed him my support, and his office sent a nice reply back thanking me and telling me they would pass my compliments and prayers along. I hope he's received a lot of those.

  • Posted by: New Sister - Dec. 03, 2009 2:23 PM ET USA

    I bet Archbishop Tobin is getting ample fan mail from laity, which is at once good - that the laity are uplifted by his leadership and the Catholic truth he defends - and sad, because I think Bishop Tobin would be the first to say he is only doing his job.