Recent statistics have outlined the rapid (some say terminal) decline of Christianity in Great Britain.
Ignatius offers a few helpful suggestions:
TEN WAYS TO SHRINK A CHURCH
- Give ecumenism a go. Try to maintain, in all circumstances, that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’. This will have the effect of persuading everybody that you lack the courage of your (previously declared) convictions, or possibly of any convictions at all.
- Try inter-faith dialogue. The residual religion of post-Christians in the West is the superstition that ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere’ and that ‘we are all going to the same place’. This will confirm them in those convictions.
- Modernise the liturgy. By eliminating any distinctive speech register, people will be persuaded that theology is merely a portentous way of stating the banal and the obvious.
- Eliminate distinctive religious dress. This will render the clergy invisible and persuade others that (unlike the medical profession, the military and the police force) they represent nobody and nothing beyond themselves.
- Close churches. There is no better way to persuade people that a company is going out of business than to close (especially) its High Street Branches.
- Be ‘relevant’. The quickest way to let people know that you no longer have any contribution to make in the public square is (belatedly) to adopt the current secular nostrums. Quite literally, anything will do – feminism; gay rights; equal marriage; voluntary euthanasia; global warming. Start by describing as ‘gospel imperatives’ measures which are hardly, or never, mentioned in the Bible. In that way intelligent people will come to question the doctrine of revelation itself.
- Relax marriage discipline. The most effective way to ensure that the next generation will be faithless (as every Marxist used to know) is to de-stabilise the family and to remove children from the moral tutelage of their parents.
- Turn Catholic schools into ‘community schools’. Effective nurture in the faith can only take place where credibility structures exist to sustain it. A school where a majority of teachers and or pupils is ignorant of, or inimical to, Catholic teaching will effectively encourage doctrinal indifference or apathy.
- Avoid contentious or ‘difficult’ homilies. The ideal church-shrinking homily is very brief and will invariably be about the unconditional love which Jesus has for everybody. Failing that a couple of humorous personal anecdotes will suffice. A synopsis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will provide a list of topics best avoided.
- Embrace democratic structures. A Church which claims to be entrusted with a divine revelation cannot long survive the introduction of the idea that a majority of living Catholics can out-vote the Catholic past.
If all these expedients fail and the statistics remain constant or even increase, you are probably witnessing a miracle.