A parishioner praying
Liberal religions have collapsed despite the best efforts of liberal pastors and administrators to save them, says Ross Douthat in his New York Times column on Sunday.

Douthat says it is perfectly understandable that conservatives in the Catholic Church demand adherence to the old laws when they see how devastated liberal religions are in the past decade.

His argument appears to be that the liberal way has not worked and that on balance, the conservative approach of Pope Benedict and John Paul before him has worked better.

Douthat focused on the Episcopal Church, which has allowed gay pastors, gay marriage, and thrown itself open to many social movements.

“As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians.

“It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.” Douthat writes.

The result? The church has lost a quarter of its followers and the numbers continue to go south.

Similar congregations such as liberal Methodists and others have suffered the same decline he says.

The information would seem to indicate to Douthat that the Vatican knows a thing or two about church attendance and keeping its vital core intact.

But I doubt if Douthat has been to Ireland, where the collapse of the Catholic faith has become very evident as churchgoers desert in droves because of the church sex scandals.

I’m not even sure he has taken a close look inside American Catholic churches lately where the massive decline in vocations and the continuing pedophile scandals there have also done great damage.

Douthat is a convert to Catholicism which may explain his fervor for the religion more than others.

He is likely also obscuring the fact that much of the Catholic Church growth in recent years has been from Hispanic immigrants, even as many whites are leaving,

However, I’d say a better headline would have been “Can Christianity be saved” rather than “Can Liberal Christianity be saved”

When it comes to religion, left and right are both losing ground in our ever more secular world and they are likely to suffer together rather than one side or the other gain the upper hand.