Up to half the Catholic churches across swathes of Scotland face the prospect of closure as another diocese warns of a crisis of clergy numbers and falling congregations.
The Diocese of Galloway has released figures showing the number of priests has more than halved since 1990, with the fall in churchgoers nearly as steep. The number of regular Catholic church-goers in the Galloway diocese has dropped by half since 1990 while the number of priests has fallen from 55 to 23. Across the diocese, which covers most of south west Scotland, there is currently one priest for every two churches.
A similar tale is to be told in the Netherlands. One of the Catholic bishops of the Netherlands, told Vatican Radio they are facing the closure of hundreds of churches and an ongoing exodus of the faithful. “The number of practicing Catholics is diminishing very quickly,” Willem Jacobus Eĳk Cardinal and Archbishop of Utrecht and chairman of the Dutch bishops’ conference said. “In the 1950s 90 percent of Catholics still went to church every Sunday. Now, it’s only five percent.”
This mass exodus has hit the bishops hard in their bank accounts. “The Dutch Church,” the cardinal said, “does not have a subsidy from the state but depends on voluntary contributions of the faithful. Therefore, we are forced to close many churches.” He added. “The Church was losing the relationship with the doctrine of the faith and no longer touched people’s daily life.”
600-700 Catholic churches in the Netherlands will be decommissioned by 2018. In 2010, the group published a report that said two churches a week are closing due to lack of congregations. According to data collected in 2008, the report said, “it is to be expected that in the near future 1,000 to 1,200 Roman Catholic and Protestant churches will be closed. Of the 170 monasteries which are still in use for religious purposes, approximately 150 will close in the next 10 years. 326 parishes are being merged into 49 “very large” territorial amalgamations in each of which one church is to be designated as a “Eucharistic centre.”
“Today shortage of priests to celebrate Mass in every church, so we have centralized the celebration of the Eucharist in one,” he said.