European church attendance
It is incredibly difficult to find accurate figures for church attendance in Europe. There are two basic ways in which the data are skewed: 1) Europeans tend to overestimate the number of times they go to church; and 2) the churches (with the notable exception of the Scandinavian Lutheran churches) are very reluctant to be realistic or open about their numbers problems (or indeed anything which may be construed as negative with regard to their structures and organisation). Having said that, I am attempting here to post up reports that reflect the reality in Europe: everyone agrees that church attendance for the traditional mainstream churches is in decline across the continent.
The questions, how much?, where?, and why? are surely ones that the churches must face honestly if they are ever to begin to deal with the situation. Putting their heads in the sand will not help. Numbers are not everything; but any organisations faced with evidence of prolonged massive decline need to ask themselves some hard questions, and, where the decline is rapid, the evidence needs facing soon, lest the decline become terminal.
I am trying to find accurate reports reflecting the real state of churchgoing across the denominations in contemporary Europe, and will add to this summary as I post them up on the site.
Roman Catholic practice is apparently falling at the moment in Italy https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/category/church-attendance-stats/ where a report suggests there may be as few as 15% of Catholics attending Mass every Sunday; as also in Spain https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/spain-the-gay-issue-5/ , where the hierarchy’s stand against same-sex marriage appears to have been something of a disaster for their credibility; the percentage of those calling themselves Catholic in Spain has fallen from 82% to 71% of the population in the last decade, and Mass attendance from 19% to 13%, according to this report https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/spain-church-attendance-3/ . In The Netherlands https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/the-netherlands-church-attendance/ a report claims that 23% of Catholics attend Mass weekly. In France, the figure of 10% of Catholics attending Mass regularly is quoted https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/france-church-attendance/ In Germany, Mass attendance fell from 28% of Roman Catholics in 1988 to below 14% in 2008 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/germany-church-attendance/ There are reports of large numbers of German Catholics leaving the Church in 2010 as a result of the clergy child abuse revelations there https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/germany-church-membership/ https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/germany-church-membership-2/ The number of Austrian Roman Catholics fell from 6.35 million to 5.58 million over the same 20 years https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/austria-church-attendance/ and large numbers of Austrians are reportedly leaving the Church in the wake of the clergy child abuse scandals https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/europe-church-attendance/ . In 1950, 90% of Austrians described themselves as Roman Catholics; in 2001, this figure had fallen to 66% https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/ukaustriaus-religious-affiliation/ Polish Mass attendance fell from 50% in 1991 to 43% in 2004 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/poland-church-attendance/ Portuguese Mass attendance was reckoned at 26% in 1991 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/portugal-church-attendance/ and at 20% in 2010, with the average age of the clergy standing at 62 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/europe-church-attendance/. In Malta, the Church’s own statistics showed a decline of 11% in Mass attendance over the ten years to 2005 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/malta-mass-attendance/ , though the total percentage was still high at 53% of the population.
The Greek Orthodox Church was reckoned to obtain a Sunday attendance of 20-25% of its members in Greece in 1994 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/greece-church-attendance/
The number of members of the Estonian Lutheran Church fell by a third between 1991 and 2007 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/poland-church-attendance/
Denmark has one of Europe’s lowest proportions of churchgoers, at about 2.5%, though the percentage has been stable for a long time now https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/denmark-church-attendance/ . Similarly low percentages of the population attend church in Sweden https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/sweden-church-attendance/ and Norway https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/norway-church-attendancewomen-priestswomen-bishops/ . Oddly, the countries with the lowest church attendance are also the world’s highest per capita aid donors https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/category/church-attendance-stats/page/5/ Also, the Scandinavian monarchies have unusually high numbers of infant baptisms, confirmations, declared adult church members, and attenders at Christmass, compared with most other European countries.
In the British Isles, the number of Sunday worshippers at Church of England services in 2006 was half of the number it was in 1968 (despite a large increase in the total population, including many hundreds of thousands of Christian immigrants, during the intervening period) https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/category/church-attendance-stats/ ; on current trends, a further 90% drop in attendance over the next 40 years is predicted https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/category/church-attendance-stats/page/2/ Churchgoing across the denominations in Wales in also expected to decline by 75% over the next 40 years, on current trends https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/category/church-attendance-stats/page/4/ Roman Catholic Mass attendance in England and Wales has also fallen dramatically: from a peak of over 2 million on the 1960s, it was down to 1 million in 2000 https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/category/church-attendance-stats/, despite a large number of immigrants to the UK from predominantly Roman Catholic countries in the meantime. The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, according to no less a commentator than Mary Kenny, has apparently been losing significant numbers of its members to the Church of Ireland https://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/ireland-church-attendance-2/