Closing churches, losing faithful? Don’t be anxious, the Pope says

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 30, 2018

The observation that many churches, which until a few years ago were necessary, are now no longer thus, due to a lack of faithful and clergy, or a different distribution of the population between cities and rural areas, should be welcomed in the Church not with anxiety, but as a sign of the times that invites us to reflection and requires us to adapt.

Those are the words of Pope Francis, as reported by the Vatican press office. The emphasis is mine.

If some day I arrive in a hospital emergency room bleeding profusely from gaping wounds, I’d like to think that the doctors would respond to (not exactly “welcome”) my arrival “with anxiety.” Because anxiety would be warranted.

The doctors could choose to let me wait a bit, while they reflected on the hazards of modern life and the best ways to prevent whatever sort of accident had befallen me. But if they did, they wouldn’t be very good doctors. In fact, if I survived, I might have a strong case for malpractice.

Our Church has been hemorrhaging members for decades now. The closing of churches is a symptom of a serious pathology. Yes, reflect on the causes. Certainly think about how to adapt. But for God’s sake be anxious, because souls are at stake!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Dec. 01, 2018 7:29 PM ET USA

    "Don't be anxious," the Pope says. Yes, just like God exhorts us: "Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God" (Philippians 4:6).

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Dec. 01, 2018 2:06 PM ET USA

    Each church that the Pope and his allies are so apathetic about closing is both an indictment and an opportunity—an indictment of their faithless refusal to preach the authentic Gospel in the past, and a readymade sacred place in which to sanctify the unbaptized who live near it now. It’s simple, Pope Francis: spread the real Catholic Faith, and the Church will flourish and churches will fill. Do not, and it will wither and they will empty.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Dec. 01, 2018 10:13 AM ET USA

    And the more the Church tries to adapt to the culture, the more the Church will go the way of Mainline Protestantism, and the more the Church will become like the culture; and therefore irrelevant. More and more, it appears that this is what Pope Francis and those who surround him want.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 30, 2018 11:50 AM ET USA

    Christ has the solution to the lack of faith(ful) in the Catholic Church: spread the Gospel, aka the evangelization of peoples. St. Paul has the solution to the lack of clergy in the Catholic Church: holy bishops, deacons, and presbyters. For our part, the members of the "extraordinary form" community are bearing many orthodox Catholic children, supporting our holy seminarians, standing as orthodox witness to a pagan society, setting the example for our peers, and cultivating personal holiness.