There is no nice way of saying this: the clergy in France is dying. But there is no bad way of saying this: out of degradation and death, sprouts of hope are clear:
"Iam enim hiems transiit, imber abiit, et recessit.
Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra, tempus putationis advenit."
Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra, tempus putationis advenit."
First, Father Blake's words:
The new spirit of Relativism is as Pope Benedict says 'lethal' for the Church and for faith, just look at this little extract from Eponymous Flower:In France, there are only 14,000 diocesan priests. About half of them are older than 75. This means that the situation is dramatic. To conduct but one parish is already a big job. In France it has become "normal" that a pastor has to take care of a dozen parishes. A regular celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is impossible. In most parishes it is celebrated only occasionally. In the diocese of Langres, each priest must take care for an average of 50 parishes. In short, it is almost resigned to a spiritual catastrophe. The numbers of priestly ordinations is also discouraging. In 2009, only 89 diocesan priests were ordained in France. Far too little to compensate for the decrease due to death. These numbers seem like reports coming from the front with the losses to an army. You could cry.Fortunately, there is good and encouraging news coming from the seminaries of tradition. The traditional communities and dioceses have offspring. More, their seminars are full. It is therefore to be hoped that more old rite seminaries will be opened. There is no danger that they remain empty, since there is a strong interest in tradition by young believers.France embraced the whole relativistic 'Spirit of ...' agenda as much as anywhere, except maybe Germany. The French Church however didn't have the money to turn the community of faith into an efficient business where bishops have become highly paid Chief Executives. There are some bright spots in France like the rather traditional diocese of Frejus-Toulon which has as many vocations as every other French diocese outside Paris put together. The other hope for France is its monasteries, these too are often great bastions of orthodoxy, those which aren't have died out. The highly non-Relativist 'La manif pour tous' movement has shaken the French establishment and given new hope, it is itself heavily influenced by traditional Christianity.
What is happening in France will happen elsewhere, perhaps not quite so quickly or with such a violence but in ten years time if we follow the Relativist line, Europe and the Americas will follow. New York, for example, this week announced the closure/merger of over 100 parishes. This is going to happen all over the place, simply because Relativism is lethal, it is unattractive and hopeless, it is attractive to people of a certain generation but repels the young.For any General involved in a Church war, my advice is to wait, maybe pray 'santo subito', because the 'biological solution' will sort most of our problems out, and much quicker than natural law will sort natural breakers out. In the interim, lest the troops become complacent let us all redouble our efforts and use all the means we have at our disposal to 'convince, rebuke and exhort', for as the Apostle says to Timothy:I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.
The comparison between Catholicism in France and Germany is one we have been considering for some time. The three lands that "made" the Second Vatican Council (the Rhine lands) were Germany, France, and the Low Countries. So one would have expected the same logic to have prevailed in the past Synod. But that is not what happened.
Did you notice there were practically no French voices heard in favor of the Pope's propositions in the Synod? Not openly, anyway. Think about it: that is quite unexpected, considering that both the very election of John XXIII and the Council as it developed were Franco-German events. When Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris (not a conservative) spoke during the Synod, it was to defend the Wojtylian positions.
The reason seems to be double: the near-collapse of the clergy in France, which will leave a conservative majority in place in a very short time, and perhaps even a traditional majority in the not so distant future. And the million-man-marches (La Manif pour Tous) against same-sex "marriage" and in favor of other family issues, in 2013 and 2014, that joined all concerned, conservative, and traditional Catholics in France in open defense of what Benedict XVI called "non-negotiable values" (an expression despised by main papal theological adviser Tucho Fernandez and diluted by Francis himself). They were explosive, huge, and unexpected protests that happened not because but in spite of most of the country's bishops. But which they know they cannot ignore.
The German situation is absolutely distorted by the Church tax paid by all nominal or "cultural" Catholics, regardless of their actual Catholic life; in France, since the clergy depends on actually church-going Catholics, not merely nominal Catholics, it is a highly complex matter for the episcopate to position themselves against the people who truly support them. The evolution of the situation in Germany's neighbors to West and East, France and Poland (where there is State funding for many Church activities, but where 80% of Church expenses are nonetheless covered by voluntary donations), does not appear to look good for the German Hierarchy's radical intentions in the long run. That also explains why the Kasper-Marx Radical coalition is in a race against time in their use of the current pontificate to reach their anti-Catholic ends. In a couple of decades, it won't be this easy. (And that is not even counting the considerable weight of a demographically vibrant African clergy decidedly conservative on moral issues.)