Recently there have been articles in the media about the fact that in the “atheistic” Czech Republic there are fewer believers who profess to belong to specific churches. This is based on the results of the 2021 census.
While in 1991 more than four and a half million people identified themselves as believers, twenty years later not even half of them were believers. The number of Czech citizens who claim to belong to a particular church is slightly lower than in the last census eleven years ago, but the number of those who identify themselves as believers but do not consider themselves part of a religious organization has increased by about a quarter of a million. Last year, over 1.3 million people subscribed to a faith, but of those 960,000 did not subscribe to any church.
Sociologist of religion Zdeněk R. Nešpor quite rightly points out that the methodology of the census has been different each time.
“We are comparing numbers that look the same but are not the same. The old censuses, and even the censuses from the 1990s, are different from those from last year.”
Cardinal Dominik Duka (who has said that “refugees should find the courage to return to their countries of origin”; who has downplayed the problem of sexual violence in the Church; who has tried to censor provocative theatre performances; who has been criticized for symbolically linking the Catholic Church to the controversial presidency; who has congratulated the re-election of the chairman of an extremist political party; whose statements, and the raising of his voice in the broadcast, led to his being cut off in Czech Radio; and who has caused a group of Czech Catholics to write a letter to Pope Francis urging the Pope not to extend Duke’s mandate) however rejects the results of the census:
“The result disseminated by the media as statistically accurate is rather ‘fake news!‘ Therefore, the claim that statistically the number of believers has decreased is irrelevant.”
According to Duka, we should rather monitor the number of baptized citizens in the Czech Republic, which should be more than 40 percent of the Czech population.
Mr Duka seems to have forgotten that the baptism of a baby does not mean that the person is and will continue to be a Catholic. I have countless baptized friends in my neighborhood who are, of course, atheists. I think the Catholic Church should rethink the parameters for actual membership, i.e. regular church attendance, participation in church events, etc. And especially the ability to “opt out” of baptism.
To this day, one must be excommunicated to no longer be listed as a member of the church.
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