Signs of hope for old Catholic Europe

Signs of hope for old Catholic Europe

In 2005, more young Italian women entered religious life than had done so in a long time. Observers say this is part of a trend of increased religious devotion among young Italian Catholics. While Italy is often seen as the faithful daughter of the Church, she has been unfaithful in recent decades in several ways. For one thing, while still better than most European countries, religious practice has been down. But things are turning around. In 1980, only 35 percent attended Mass every week. Now 50 percent do.

There are probably several reasons. Pope John Paul’s appeal to youth, especially his World Youth Days, has to be a key reason. Young people flocked to him and his example of love and holiness.

But another reason must be demographics. Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, mainly due to contraception. Ironically, this has the long-range consequence of being self-defeating. When everyone else is contracepting, who is having children? Faithful Catholics. And if faithful Catholics are having more kids per capita than non-practicing Italians who eventually do decide to have kids, then the proportion is shifted even more. And those faithful Catholics are going to raise their kids a certain way. Now, it’s not a given that the kids will remain faithful, but if a family of 5 kids has one child lose his faith, there are still four faithful kids. But if a non-practicing family of one kid has that child convert to being faithful, it’s a complete win for faithfulness.

This phenomenon reaches across national boundaries and affects many cultures, according to a Foreign Policy article entitled, “The Return of Patriarchy.” For example in the US this has the effect of making the country more conservative and more pro-life with each passing generation. After all the non-abortion, non-contracepting families are having more kids than aborting or contracepting families and they will be passing their beliefs on to the following generations.

Not all wine and roses

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli