I think there’s a great deal of dishonesty and denial on the part of some people who engaged in the fantasy that we were entering a new springtime of the faith. The aggiornamento of Vatican II was supposed to bring in tons more people; it did just the opposite. So long as people refuse to admit there were mistakes made a generation ago — in catechesis, liturgy, addressing the real problems of secularism — they’re never going to make any real reform.
We’ve also had a lot of white flight from the city out to the suburbs, and in the northern counties there is a need for new parishes. At the same time, down here, we do have…redundant parishes. Another reason for these closures is that the churches were organized very much for ethnic purposes rather than evangelical purposes. There was a cultural assumption that the Church was a home for immigrants, and that they would belong to parishes not just for the faith but also for, legitimately, social reasons, for community, schools and the like. So in Manhattan we have an old German parish, an Italian parish, [etc.], and they’re in close proximity with each other. And, and that’s no longer needed.
The primary fact is that most Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Mass attendance in New York is about 12%. You’ve had about a 50% drop since the Second Vatican Council. Nobody will address that. They’ll acknowledge the fact, but they will not address the fact that there were some serious mistakes made in the last generation.
At the same time, I do not look back and see the pre-Conciliar Church as some kind of Golden Age. Had no reforms taken place during the Second Vatican Council and things remained exactly as they were, I believe we still would have seen a lot of people leaving the Church because of the outwards pressures of the age.
It wasn’t all bad; it wasn’t all good, before or after Vatican II, in other words.
I hope we can see a new springtime now, as many young people are discovering Tradition, beauty in the liturgy and Marian devotions that are spreading like wildfire. And Divine Mercy—another powerful sign of renewal.