Evidence that Roman Catholicism is experiencing dramatic decline in the Netherlands has surfaced. A new investigation, published by Trouw in collaboration with the research group Spit, has revealed that eight out of ten of its parishes are hemorrhaging money. In total, 640 parishes are affected, amounting to a collective loss of 15 million euros last year.
To observers, the news comes as no great surprise. While the Roman Catholic Church, numbering about 3.7 million, is still the largest denomination in the country, aging membership and secularization are now making themselves felt. Catholics actively involved in parish life are few—about 150,000, a mere 4% of all registered Catholics.
The Dutch Roman Catholic Church is now unable to fund basic upkeep. In 2019, losses amounted to about ten million euros. That year, seven out of ten parishes were still in the red. A year later, that number climbed to eight, amounting to a combined loss of 15 million euros.
In 2020, member contributions yielded almost 66 million euros. While certainly no small amount, it is seven million less than 2019’s 73 million euros. The 10% drop is partly due to empty pews during the COVID-19 crisis.
In an effort to cut costs, many parishes have merged and hundreds of church buildings have been sold off, a process that is neither far from over, nor geographically limited to the Netherlands.