Research by the Latin Mass Society has demonstrated a range of statistical indications in the health of the Catholic Church in England & Wales in the 1960s & 1970s.
Among the findings are:
MARRIAGES: Between 1968 & 1978 the number of marriages collapsed by a third from 47,417 to 31,534 and that decline shows no sign of slowing up as it now stands at less than 10,000, a quarter of the 1968 total in absolute terms. Within the Church population the reduction is from 12 per 1,000 to 2.5 per thousand in 2010.
BAPTISMS: Halved from 137,673 in 1964 to 68,351 in 1977. At present the number hovers around the 60,000 mark & many of those do not attend Mass regularly. From a peak of nearly 16% of all live births in 1963 we see today fewer than 10%.
ORDINATIONS: We saw a drop of more than 50% between 1965 & 1977 (from 233 to 101) and this decline continues unabated. Even using the more optimistic figures supplied by the National Office of Vocations (compared to the Catholic Directory) for the current year, showing an increase on recent years, numbers are scarcely 30% of their 1964 level. (Counting only ordinations to the diocesan clergy, there were 134 in 1964; the NOV predicts 41 this year.)
Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the LMS, comments:
"Anyone with an interest in the future of the Catholic Church in England & Wales will find these figures illuminating. They show, unambiguously, that something went seriously wrong in the Church in England & Wales in the 1960s & 1970s. Catholics ceased quite suddenly to see the value of getting married, having large families, and having their children baptised. Non-Catholics no longer saw the Church as the ark of salvation, and ceased to seek admission. Young men no longer offered themselves for the priesthood in the same numbers as before. It is not fanciful to connect this catastrophe to the wrenching changes which were taking place in the Church at that time, when the Second Vatican Council was being prepared, discussed and, often erroneously, applied. As Pope Benedict pointed out in the Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum': '..in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter was actually understood as authorising, or even requiring, creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear...'