Pope Benedict XVI made a crucial decision this week to create a new Vatican office to fight secularization, and to "re-evangelize" the West.
The new pontifical council will promote a new evangelization in countries where the Christian Church has existed for centuries, but where a secular society has prevailed over Christianity in recent years.
Whether or not the new council will have a significant impact in returning a multitude of Europeans to the Catholic Church remains to be seen; however, Pope Benedict's decision to create such a council is an important step in the right direction.
The fact is that many Catholics have lost faith (no pun intended) in the Catholic Church in recent years, due to the plethora of child abuse cases against Catholic priests. For archdiocesan hierarchs -- and even the Vatican itself -- to "look the other way" and to allow these abusive priests to continue to celebrate Mass has indeed had a disastrous spiritual, social, and financial effect on the Catholic Church.
For example, in Austria, the Catholic Church has suffered exceptionally during the past several months, as some 700 people have come forward to report violent and sexual abuse at Catholic institutions. This is believed to be the chief reason for Austrians leaving the Church in droves. More than 30,000 Austrians left the Catholic Church in just the first three months of 2010; about 80,000 are expected to leave it by the end of 2010.
Other European nations have also had a huge exodus (again, no pun intended) of Catholic worshipers. Consequently, the new pontifical council that the Pope is creating will not be able to "re-evangelize" European and other Western nations unless the Catholic Church cleans its own house first.
In other words, the Catholic Church must have a zero tolerance with respect to abusive priests -- they must be removed from pastoral duties the first time an abusive incident occurs -- if the Catholic Church expects to re-evangelize secular nations, and to regain the respect and credibility it once enjoyed.