We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: it is doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, confrontation.... We thought that after the Council a day of sunshine would have dawned for the history of the Church. What dawned, instead, was a day of clouds and storms, of darkness, of searching and uncertainties.[ii]
Ironically, Paul VI himself recognized that the Church was falling apart under his watch. Thus, it seems clear that even Paul VI would not beatify Paul VI…and for good reason. The statistics bear out Paul VI’s argument against his own beatification. Consider the following trends in statistics in the US alone from 1965 to 1980:[iii]
· 50% decline in total graduate level seminarians
· 40% decline in total priestly ordinations
· 35% decline in total number of religious brothers
· 30% decline in total number of religious sisters
· 30% decline in total number of adults baptized (conversions)
· 28% decline in total number of infants baptized
· 25% decline in total number of Catholic elementary schools
What makes this even more depressing is that all of the previous totals should have been rising just to keep up with population growth. During this same period, the total number of self-identified Catholics increased by 8.3 million people!
Judging by these statistics and Paul VI’s own assessment, his pontificate was a complete disaster. Yet he is apparently going to be raised to the altars soon as a Saint worthy of emulation. Would this type of decision pass muster in any other organization? By this logic, the United States should induct Jimmy Carter into the Presidential Hall of Fame.
[i] Pope Paul VI, December 7, 1968, Address to the Lombard Seminary at Rome
[ii] Pope Paul VI, June 29, 1972, Homily during the Mass for Sts. Peter & Paul, on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of his coronation in his response to Vatican II