Rorate Caeli

The Church of Vatican II
France: A Church on the road to extinction

Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread.

- Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Opening Mass of the "Year of Faith", October 11, 2012


Another breakthrough of Vatican II, and I should put this in the first place: Catholics have finally found the taste of the word of God. The Bible, that once seemed somewhat hermetic, is now open to all and has awakened our faith. (Autre avancée majeure du concile Vatican II, et j’aurais dû la mettre en tête : les catholiques ont enfin trouvé le goût de la parole de Dieu. La Bible, naguère, leur paraissait quelque peu hermétique, elle est maintenant ouverte par tous et elle a réveillé notre foi.)

- Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyons and Primate of the Gauls, Interview with Paris Match, September 27, 2012. 


 Le Corbusier, Dominican Monastery of Sainte Marie de La Tourette, 1960. Created to house a boom in vocations, it now houses less than a dozen Dominican friars. Source.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, Ifop / La Croix published a survey (Les Français et le catholicisme 50 ans après Vatican II - h/t to Le Salon Beige) on the state of Catholicism in France as of this year vis-a-vis the results of a similar survey in 1961. It contains important, updated information on the percentage of baptized Catholics in France and of church attendance in the same country as based on the survey results. The study itself was carried out only in late September of this year. In brief, the results of the survey are:

Baptized Catholics:

92% in 1961
80% in 2012

Mass attendance:

(Note: what is translated here as 'sometimes' is to be understood as 'sometimes in the course of the year' - quelquefois dans l'année.)

Among all French, whether baptized Catholic or not:

1961: 35% every Sunday or more, 33% sometimes, 24% never, 8% non-baptized.
2012: 6% every Sunday or more, 28% sometimes, 46% never, 20% non-baptized.

Among all baptized Catholics:

1961: 25% every Sunday, 13% "as often as possible", 36% sometimes, 26% never
2012: 5% every Sunday, 2% "as often as possible", 35% sometimes, 58% never

Regarding Mass attendance among baptized Catholics in 2012, by age group:

Age group 65 and above:

15% every Sunday, 4% "as often as possible", 35% sometimes, 46% never

Age group 50 to 64:

3% every Sunday, 3% "as often as possible", 38% sometimes, 56% never

Age group 35 to 49:

2% every Sunday, 1% "as often as possible", 37% sometimes, 60% never

Age group 25 to 34:

1% every Sunday, 1% "as often as possible", 33% sometimes, 65% never

Age group 18 to 24:

No figures (0%) for every Sunday, 2% "as often as possible", 19% sometimes, 79% never


  1. Why do people continue to brag about all the wonderful things that came from VII without any factual evidence to back it up, and with factual evidence to disprove it? This is worse, FAR worse, than watching politicians debate. This is borderline insanity! As a matter of fact, I hope it IS insanity. The only other clear option would be that we are just being lied to.

  2. Msgr. Fritz1:10 PM

    It is interesting to note the difference between the numbers and how far things have devolved. However, it is important to notice the paltry numbers in 1961! Perhaps this should give us an insight as to why the bishops of that region, at that time, sought to "update" and change things -- they were desperate to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately (with 20/20 hindsight), they chose poorly.

  3. "Catholics have finally found the taste of the word of God."

    There it is.

    Until now Catholics had, apparently, nevef had "the taste of the word of God".

    All the Apostles.

    All the Fathers.

    All the Doctors.

    All the Saints.

    All the Popes.

    All the Councils.

    When the utterer of the above sentence is excommunicated then it will be morning.

  4. I think he meant lay Catholics. For much of history, they did not read the Bible and were often forbidden from doing so. It was generally reserved to clergy and monastics.

  5. Obviously, all of those baptized Catholics in France who are no longer attending Sunday Mass are at home reading the Bible!

  6. Gtaylor2:05 PM

    Eric Antony, i know i have been lied to; clergy telling the faithful that VII said the alter rails must go, that we should stand to receive Our Lord ( and on the hand), that lay people should distribute Holy Communion, that Latin was in the past, sadly all lies.
    The bishops, in Scotland anyway ( and their priests) oversaw and co-ordinated all of this, they organised it all. Why did the bishops and priests lie? I do not know the answer, but I do know that Satan is the father of all lies.
    I have actually read a lot on what the Council Fathers actually said on liturgy, for example and the lies we have been told by these clergy are astounding. Their arrogance is shocking.
    Biology, I keep being told by friends trying to reassure me, will win the day. The truth is that the clergy (including those bishops)who know they lie should retire asap.
    The Holy Father needs to appoint administraters in each country and send us ( here in Scotland) 200 missionary priests from Africa and Poland, so that Holy Mass may be offered in churches that are not locked up 6 days out of 7, so that the Mercy of God once again becomes available to a messed up world.
    The catechists need to be replaced, the extra-ordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist need removed immediately and the "liturgists" all removed to go with the clergy we have been subjected to. They talk about the role of the laity in the church and cluelessly get them up on the sanctuaury??? And still try to convince themselves ( and the laity) that they are in accord with the wishes of the Council Fathers???
    As we say in Scotland, " are you having a laugh?"
    The church will not revive in Europe until we have priests who are men, sure in the faith and in their role as Christ's concecrated. Not the wooly misguided understanding of the priestly people of God that the current clergy, going through their own, oh so personal, crisis of identitiy- keep hiding behind. Here lays the heart of the crisis - the clergy misguiding their flocks.Enough is enough, the "Kum ba ya m'lord" brigade ( and lay "ministries" fabricators) just need to go retire, please!

  7. Gtaylor2:11 PM

    GMMF, my grandmothers grandfather, a priests valet, fled France in early 1790's with the priest. My grandmother had real knowledge of scripture ( and the teachings of the church) and handed these on to her large family, who handed it on to my generation ( the true role of the laity by the way).

  8. Francis2:16 PM

    "I think he meant lay Catholics. For much of history, they did not read the Bible and were often forbidden from doing so. It was generally reserved to clergy and monastics".

    Lay Catholics didn't read the Bible because, throughout most of history, they were illiterate, while most clergy and monastics were educated. Catholics were never "forbidden" to read the Bible, as long as they interpreted Sacred Scripture as Holy Mother Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, did. Making private interpretations apart from the Church would make one a heretic.

  9. Andrew2:35 PM

    There are glimpses of hope however. Benedictine monasteries like Barroux, Fontgombault, Randol are attracting vocations. Also the Monastic Family of Bethlehem and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (an amazing order of nous ordo hermits) also continues to grow.

    Here is a link to community of hermits. They have male and female communities...

    The Church grew through monasticism. Perhaps her re-birth will come through the contemplative orders as well.

    Also a bit of bright news on this side of the pond. A group of Cistercian nuns have begun building what promises to be a beautiful new convent in the USA. Its design is based on traditional Cistercian architecture. It actually looks like a church/monastery!

    Here is their web page:

    The new is being born as the old is passing away. Yes, it will be hard but what will remain will be solid and faithful. Read the Bible...God often prunes (sometimes dramatically) for greater growth!

  10. Rev Dan Hesko4:02 PM

    Lord have mercy on us. What is happening in Europe, is only step away from here in the US where Mass attendance is about 15% amomng Catholics, more or less. Did'nt Pius XII warn us about all this?

  11. In my personal life, I have no doubts that I was lied to. I'm hesitant to make public statements that suggest that I know the intentions of the people involved. I would hope that the bishops and the Pope are just in error, but the evidence against that idea is piling up. I pray for the souls of those that steer the faithful astray.

  12. CredoUtIntelligam4:36 PM

    I have a question for those of you who believe the Church will improve only in the distant future when the liberals have died off and the true Catholics remain:

    How are we supposed to save our souls in the meantime?

    I live in the American South, and I do not have access to a TLM. I have driven to every parish that is within reasonable distance considering I have three young children, and they are all the same.

    In order to receive the Sacraments, and for my children to receive the Sacraments, you must take a "class" in which you are taught error by a sincere but confused layman. For instance, we could not have our third child baptized until we took a class, and we were told in that class that the Church had changed its teaching on Original Sin and that baptism was basically unnecessary.

    So what am I supposed to do? When you are living among the ruins, it does not help to know the Church might be better in 100 years. Eventually the day will come when my children will ask me why I say the Church teaches one thing but everyone else says another.

  13. Fidus et Audax5:04 PM

    CredoUtIntelligam I'm right there with you in the south with two kids 5 and 5 mos. What we can and must do is pray, say the family rosary EVERY day, grasp all the knowledge available on the internet on sites such as tRorate, and wait. Do what you have to do to get the sacraments and create a firewall between the VatII poppycock and your family.

    The Lord will take care of things in his time and my firm belief is it won't be much longer. You won't have to wait 100 years, maybe not even 5 the way the world is going. Pray, hope, and don't worry.

  14. Corbusier's architecture was every bit as brutalist as the liturgy designed to accompany it.

    A picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words: It's a fitting, ugly tombstone for an ugly chapter in the life of the Church.

  15. Francis5:11 PM

    CredoUtIntelligam said..."For instance, we could not have our third child baptized until we took a class, and we were told in that class that the Church had changed its teaching on Original Sin and that baptism was basically unnecessary".

    I for one would never have my child baptized in a "Catholic" church that teaches blatant heresies like that. I don't know what state you reside in, but I would call or email every Catholic church in a couple hundred mile radius to find a church that is either traditional (E.g FSSP, ICKSP, etc) or a "conservative" novus ordo church. There must be one somewhere near you. I would drive 500 miles to have my child baptized (along with receiving the other sacraments) before I would let their innocent brains be corrupted by modernist heretics. Then it would be up to you to teach them the de-fide teachings of Holy Mother Church.

  16. "However, it is important to notice the paltry numbers in 1961!"

    That's an excellent point - one we shouldn't lose sight of. All was not well before the Council. The sickness was already advanced by the time of the Council, only waiting for the opportunity to fully metastasize.

    By 1962, most of the French episcopate was already, in some sense, liberal. The same was arguably true in Germany as well. And it's fair to ask who appointed those bishops.

  17. Joseph5:27 PM

    You can't blame the problems the Church has been having in France on the Council. You can make the argument that the Council failed to solve them or perhaps made them worse but the Church has been having problems there for centuries. Mass attendance in 1961 in France was below what it currently is in the United States, where it has actually improved slightly in the past decade....

  18. OutsideObserver5:36 PM

    Faced with evidence of the collapse of the post-Conciliar Church, the usual 'conservative' response would be to:

    1) declare that "quality is better than quantity", we ought not to be upset that there are so few French Catholics left as they are surely better Catholics than the French Catholics of old, thanks to Vatican II;

    2) assert that this is a "passing" phase that will soon be changed as Vatican II suddenly shows its fruits through the New Evangelization / Second Pentecost (a claim that is rehashed from the 1980's and 1990's);

    3) assert that the Church is in fact growing and getting better than ever before, because the bishops say so;

    4) change the topic. Whenever someone speaks about France, and Germany, and Austria, talk about the "booming" Church in Africa!

    5) When all else fails, accuse those who talk about the decline of Catholicism in the Old World of having "no faith".

  19. Asian Catholic5:41 PM

    "Mass attendance in 1961 in France was below what it currently is in the United States, where it has actually improved slightly in the past decade...."

    Improved largely because of Hispanic and Asian immigrants, who also tend to largely lean Democratic and whose second and third generations are often as secularized as their WASP American counterparts.

  20. Joseph5:50 PM

    Asian Catholic,

    While that may be true of Asian-Americans, it is not at all true in regards to Latino-Americans, who attend Mass much less frequently than non-Latinos.

  21. Martyjo6:24 PM


    I notice that in your advice to CredoUtIntelligam you provide a short list of Traditional and conservative N.O. churches for him to search out, but you fail to mention the SSPX. Could it be that you consider the SSPX to be in the same, or similar, mould to those churches that CredoUtIntelligam reports as teaching heresy?

    I suspect you left the SSPX off your list for preceisely this reason, even though the others you mention owe their very existence to Archbishop Lefebvre's brave stance. Truly, one really could not make this stuff up!

  22. Francis7:02 PM


    If you notice I put "etc" after the FSSP and ICKSP. I didn't mention the St. Benedict Center,(which I attend occasionally) Clear Creek Abbey ETC. If you have read my posts here on Rorate you would know that I have defended the FSSPX on numerous occasions, and have never questioned their teachings. So before you start making wild and unsubstantiated claims about what you think I mean, you should either know me personally, or read my previous posts here on rorate and elsewhere.

    God Bless.

  23. Gratias7:03 PM

    In France some parishes are trying new evangelization approaches like Scolas, Gregorian masses and TLM.

    Google Paroisse St. Germain l'Auxerrois. Great church to visit if in Paris.

  24. Upon reading this, the image that comes to my mind is our lady of La Sallet with her head in her hands. Tragic indeed.

  25. Ferraiuolo8:36 PM

    One must however not lose hope. It was posted today on a video of the project for the new seminary of the Society of St Pius X in the US. I hope it will have some attention on this website so that its cause can get more attention.

  26. An interesting story that would seem to be related t the topic of this post...

  27. Bernonensis10:46 PM

    NIce illustration. Is the usual reaction to this hulk the source for the name of Tourette's Syndrome?

  28. But will the Church start growing after it hits rock bottom? Notice that the Catholics in the "committed" bracket, ie, attend mass weekly or more has stabilised amongst the two youngest age groups. Yes it has stabilised at a very low benchmark. If the Trads are growing consistently but slowly then we can have hope for the future.

  29. Matthew Rose1:46 AM

    Mr. DeLano wrote:

    "When the utterer of the above sentence is excommunicated then it will be morning."

    Agreed. I am not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon though.

  30. I was actually very suprised, when I first saw this report some days ago, that 80% of French are baptised Catholics -- I'd have thought the % to be much much lower.

    Jusr speaking from personal experience from my several foot pilgrimages, particularly the 2005 one, I'd say that there are some very great regional disparities in the Catholic presence in this country.

    Very strong in the little corner of South East France where I live (the churches are typically filled to the brim on Sundays, and the congregations are both young and lively) -- there are nonetheless vast swathes of the country where priests and a religious presence are extremely hard to find.

    Most shocking for me was the city of Arles, where in August 2005, there was not ONE priest in the city below retirement age.

    I mean OK, the priests of the ONE parish that remains in the city (which was and is a gathering point on the Way of St James, and was a MAJOR center of Catholic life for centuries) were on summer holiday, but OTOH I was informed at the time that for any major Catholic celebrations that may still occur there, a different priest would drive to and fro from Aix en Provence (which is the center of the diocese).

    The size of the Aix-Istres-Arles diocese is HUGE, and the number of parishes in that diocese is TINY --- and don't think this is a result of Vatican II, it's a result of the French Revolution, and it's Napoleon who forced the merger of the two archdioceses into one in 1801.

    OTOH the picture in Gascony and the Basque country is very different indeed, and there remain a great number of small village parishes, and the Catholic Church is visibly present throughout the whole region -- and the priests there are generally younger, as are the congregations.

    The creation of the so-called "super-parishes", at least as I've seen them in the South of
    France, is quite disastrous, because the priests there (and I've nothing at all against them personally, I met several quite excellent priests on my travels) end up being basically cut off from full participation in the community life, with the result that people just behave as if the Church were entirely non-existent.


    Another sign of the overall weakness of the Church in France is found in the absolutely DISMALLY pathetic response of the French Catholic Bishops Conference to the Socialist Government's "gay marriage" project -- which was to produce perhaps the most wishy-washy "church" document it'z ever been my misfortune to read, because whilst about 10% of the text expresses a VERY timid opposition to the proposals, about 90% of it just examines the pros and contras of the project, in a completely relativist and modernist fashion, which basically gives one the impression that these bishops who created the document and those that approved its publication are in fact globally supportive of this "gay marriage" idea, and are just quibbling about this or that detail -- they declare among other things that this is something that's up to the French people to decide !!!

    Far from being a strong declaration of the Catholic values concerning Marriage (I mean they don't even *bother* discussing its sacramental nature), it looks more like a large box of ammunition for the gay lobby and the ruling Socialist Party.

  31. John (Ad Orientem) :

    An interesting story that would seem to be related t the topic of this post...

    This story is in fact very exaggerated -- this church is a modern 1950s horror of a building, and it more resembles a warehouse than a church.

    Good riddance to this modernist rubbish !!!

  32. Cardinal Dolan's belly laugh10:12 AM

    The building looks abandoned and haunted!

  33. The building is such an encouragement to potential postulants.....imagine the joy of imagining spending the rest of your life living in that dump?

  34. Hot off the "catholic" Herald (UK newspaper) today...." liturgical dance is not allowed in England", this is from the front page of todays newspaper. The piece then goes on to say, "A vatican official said last month that liturgical dance and drama during Mass was an "abuse" unless the local bishops' conference had requested permission for it."
    You just couldn't make this up!
    The bishops have clearly requested a lot of non-sense and the vatican has gone along with it. It's as if this was this ground swell from the faithful pleading for these liturgical changes( communion standing and in the hand and on and on....) when in fact this couldn't be further from the truth. So it is a legitimate question to ask......what do the bishops believe? And, why do they keep requesting from Rome all these changes?
    God bless the Pope.

  35. The English speaking people had available a Catholic New Testament in English as early as 1582 they had the entire Old Testament in English by 1610 These were Roman Catholic Translations in English with many notes for understanding the texts.
    There were also many notes about the Heretics and their abuse of Holy Writ
    The English Roman Catholic NT was published and republished 1582/1600/1621/1630/1738/1788/1789 almost without change.
    If you could read and afford it;it was there!
    The 1st Challoner revision was 1749 and there are hundreds of editions of the Holy Catholic Bible in English between 1582 and 1964...Vat 2 opened the doors for Catholic`s to read the Holy Bible?

  36. Don,
    thank you!!!
    The truth will out, it's just that it takes time.....

  37. gtaylor :

    The building is such an encouragement to potential postulants.....imagine the joy of imagining spending the rest of your life living in that dump?

    Those are the good-looking photos, focused on the altar.

    You need to see wide-angle photos of the entire interior space to fully realise the horrid bleakness that it inspires...

  38. gtaylor

    you are welcome.
    I am so tired of all the lies and misleading info about vat 2

  39. Why are all those people being baptised, when they are not going to be raised in the Faith? It is to spit in the Face of God. Bishops and priests of France are obviously colluding in the destruction of the Church.


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