Baltimore’s Church Attendance Plummets, and No One Is Looking for Causes

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Baltimore’s Church Attendance Plummets and No One Is Looking for Causes
Baltimore’s Church Attendance Plummets and No One Is Looking for Causes

This year, the number of people who regularly attend Mass in downtown Baltimore has hit its lowest point in recent times. The city was once home to 250,000 practicing Catholics as recently as the fifties. Now, the number of people who regularly go to Mass has dropped to a mere 2,000. That is an over 99 percent drop in attendance.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore is addressing the problem by reducing the number of parishes from 61 to 21. Only 26 of the formerly 59 historic churches will remain open.

Such solutions address the effects of the crisis but not the causes. Something terrible has happened to the state of the faith in Baltimore over the last fifty years.

The archdiocese does face many challenges that have contributed to the crisis.

For example, last year, the Baltimore Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, anticipating claims related to the sexual abuse crisis. A lookback window allowed anyone to sue the archdiocese for claims dating back as long as fifty years or more. Such claims are almost impossible to prove, given the death of many of the parties involved. These claims have had the effect of destroying Church finances.

Another cause of the crisis could be the decline in the population of Baltimore. The breakdown of the family and morality has made the downtown unsafe and blighted. In less than half a century, Baltimore’s population has shrunk 17%.

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The only bright spot on the Baltimore horizon is St. Alphonsus Church, which houses the Traditional Latin Mass parish. It is located in one of the worst areas of the city, yet people from all over the surrounding area come for services. The parish run by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is thriving. The well-kept, Gothic-style church stands out by its beauty and history. Saint John Neumann once served this parish in the nineteenth century.

St. Alphonsus parish is not alone in attracting parishioners. An article in The New York Times states, “Though it represents a fraction of Masses performed at the 17,000 Catholic parishes in the United States, it is thriving.”

Instead of following the trend that would help keep parishes open, many dioceses are shutting down Latin Masses following guidelines in Pope Francis’ Motu Propio Traditionis Custodes, which calls for restricting the Mass.

Facing the crisis, Archbishop William Lori targeted the bright spot in the scenario. Except for St. Alphosus, he announced the suppression of the Latin Mass at all other thriving parishes in the archdiocese.

The crisis in Baltimore and other dioceses is not only about changing demographics and declining cities. It also represents moral and religious factors that are causing problems in society in general.

The situation in Baltimore recalls the warning of Paul VI about a mysterious process of self-destruction inside the Church. Only a religious regeneration will reverse this process and restore the fervor and faith of the Catholics that remain.

Closing parishes and suppressing services will only prolong the suicide.

Photo Credit:  © jonbilous –

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