Germany is a particularly painful example of the effects of secularisation on the organisation and life of the Catholic Church.
As I have reported before, the number of young people who still have a connection to the Church or the faith is now very small. It is fair to say that in the classes which I teach maybe half a dozen out of 20 to 30 still consider themselves believers and half of those are Muslims.
In the town of Rheine where I live we now have three parishes (one on the left of the river, one on the right and one in the surrounding villages), where we had five last year and fourteen in the not too distant past. The parish which I attend has two redundant churches, one of which is being transformed into a columbarium. Most of the surrounding towns (up to about 50,000 inhabitants) now have only one parish where they may have had three or four very recently and nearly all of the villages are part of one of the larger parishes in a neighbouring town.
Our daily newspaper today reported about a particularly sad example of a parish church in Immerath on the Lower Rhine, near the Dutch border.
The beautiful neo-Romanesque village church of St. Lambert (known familiarly as the “Cathedral of Immerath”) is to be deconsecrated on 13th October 2013, when the bells will ring out over the village for the last time. The church building will then be demolished to make way for an open-cast coalfield.
The costs of maintaining the parish church were prohibitive and so when the offer came from the coal-mining company the parishioners seized at it.
Currently there is the atmosphere of an auction sale in the church. Bids are being made for altars, statues, pews, crosses, candlesticks, pulpit and after the 13th the decisions will begin to be made as to who the lucky new owners will be.
Individual potential buyers are bidding on large life-size angel statues, which the sacristan herself would not put in her own bedroom: “I would get a shock every time I woke up”. A community of sisters in Bonn have put in a bid for twelve pews, a small village church in the region is after the organ, and so on. Anyone interested in acquiring any of the furnishings should contact the “Chapel Committee”.
Here is some of the beautiful 20th century stained glass (depicting St. Agatha, St. George and St. Nicholas):
My heart bled when I read the story this morning, and I wish I had the means to rescue some of the items myself (St. Agatha for St. Agatha’s, Portsmouth, for example!)