THESE NEGATIVE TRENDS IN THE CHURCH!
It is becoming more and more noticeable in the last half century that the Catholic Church experiences all kinds of negative trends. These trends do not augur well for a Church that has a charge to bring the “Good News” to the ends of the earth. The phenomena such as declining numbers, defiance of authority, flagrant disregard of dogma and Truth, secular relativism, unauthorised practices, sheer disobedience, pigheadedness, and so on consequently result in obfuscation of authentic Church teaching and faith building as well as schism, veiled or otherwise. The irony of some of the issues is that persons championing the antitheses claim to be sincere, conscientious and guided by the very essence of the Gospel, and therefore, their standpoints cannot be tagged as anathema.
Not many in the Catholic Church are aware that the Church’s share of the global population is imperceptibly declining as the years roll by. Obtaining near-perfect statistics of growth of Churches in the world has always been difficult as civil authorities started long ago to discontinue playing out religion in their national statistical regimes, especially from 1974 when the US eliminated “religion” segment from its census. But we still can access credible information on growth of Churches through some research agencies.
The Catholic Yearbook puts Catholic Church population as at the end of 2015 at 1.285 billion of which Latin Africa alone had 41.3% while Africa had 15.2% and Europe, 23.7%. In Ghana, the population of Catholics was estimated at 12.43% of the country’s total population in 2013. According to a Comprehensive Demographic Study by PEW Research Centre, in 1910, the total population of Catholics globally was 291 million while in 2010, the population of Catholics had jumped to about 1.12billion. Even though, in absolute terms, Catholic population is growing from year-to-year, but statistically it suffers an attrition of growth rate in the sense that the yearly increasing number is occurring at a decreasing rate. For instance, according to the Pew Research Centre, while in 1910 Catholic population of Europe was 65%, in 2010 it had dropped to 23.7%, though the real numbers rose from 188 million to 235 million. Again, David M. Cheney has documented that Catholic population in Europe dropped from 37% in 1965 to 23.9% in 2010. The trend is such that it can be safely argued that the situation is no better at the beginning of 2017. The same pattern can be observed in the situation of Catholic clergy over all the continents. For instance, the Catholic Church had 5004 Bishops at the close of the 20th Century but this number increased at 1.9% to 5100 at the beginning of 2017, while between 1980 and 2000 the rate of increase was 2.2%. The Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) of Georgetown University has also put out credible information that indicates that while the period 1980-1990 experienced a 15.6% growth rate of global Catholic population, the period 1990-2000 registered a growth rate of 11.2%. So even though we can point to increased numbers, the progress in the light of the future is in the negative. This trend of increasing at a decreasing rate poses a big threat to Catholic influence in the world that is constantly increasing its population at an increasing rate. In a situation where the Church is committed to “spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth”, ever decreasing ratio of Catholic population to world population gives cause to worry for the future. Nonetheless, Africa can be singled out as the continent that enjoyed increasing growth rates in the last century (1% in 1910 to 15.4% in 2010) but some statistical records show that the rate of growth hit its plateau at the end of the first decade of the Third Millennium.
With the benefit of hindsight, some Church scholars conjecture that when in 1967 Blessed Paul VI said Africa is the “new homeland of Christ”, he meant it was a challenge to Africa to continue to hold aloft the banner of increasing rates of Catholic population in the world. If this was so then it is incumbent upon the Church in Africa to wholeheartedly accept the challenge and work to reach “the ends of the earth” with the Gospel message. Looking at the precarious trend, one can understand the urgency of the New Evangelisation agenda. The purpose of Blessed Paul VI in 1975 when he issued the encyclical entitled Evangelii Nuntiandi, was to urge the People of God to seek new methods and strategies to effectively bring the same Gospel Message to the modern man. He, at that time, did not use the term “New Evangelisation”. For us in Africa now, how can we effectively use the New Evangelisation to up our game to bring the “Good News” to the people, in the face of our declining numbers? We need to reverse the negative trend so that Christ will find comfort in His “new homeland”.
 2017 Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook) published by Libreria Editrice Vaticano
 Cheney, David M. 2005 Vol. 2,3,4
 A Comprehensive Demographic Study of PEW Reserch Centre. Polling and Analysis. Feb, 2013.