On Monday, May 13th, the Vatican released the 2013 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae. This yearly statistical survey of the Catholic Church offers an insight into the growth or decline of the Church in various parts of the world. Since it takes time to compile this information, the numbers presented this week refer to the change from 2010 to 2011.
In that period, the Church grew by 18 million souls, which corresponds proportionally to the rate of population growth, as the percentage of Catholics worldwide (17.5%) is unchanged. Although the number of priests worldwide is up, it is primarily in Africa and Asia. The number of priests in Europe has declined 9% in the last decade. The number of female religious, though also on the decline overall, is similar to the situation with priests: the growth is almost entirely in Africa and Asia, while the numbers are down in America and Europe–the latter by 18%.
The Society of St. Pius X, a small family in the Church, does not have an Annuarium, though it is celebrating a historic anniversary this year. 25 years ago this summer, Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops to continue his work. Although much has happened since then, including the remittance of the “excommunication” which the SSPX bishops labored under for many years, it is interesting to take a look at how the SSPX has grown since then.
In 1988, the Society had 202 priests, 213 seminarians, 28 oblates, and 13 brothers. In 2013, there are 575 priests, 217 seminarians, 76 oblates, and 103 brothers. The SSPX today has 105 priories throughout the world that service 525 chapels and missions. There are also 112 schools, including the two universities and six seminaries. This is not to mention the many religious congregations and houses that work with us. Thank God, Tradition is growing–let us pray that it continues to do so.
It’s clear from this, and the general growth of the traditional Latin Mass around the world, that there is a real vitality to Tradition. At this point, it’s even hard to see how the tide could be turned in the long run. Modernism has none of the intrinsic vitality of Tradition: no large families and no spirit of sacrifice that leads to vocations. If the trends continue as they have been, the reality will be harder to ignore: the future of the Church is in a return to Her past.
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"The prudent man considers things afar off, in so far as they tend to be a help or a hindrance to that which has to be done at the present time." - St. Thomas Aquinas