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Roman Catholic Church feels Europe slipping from its hands (Thank God)

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People gather at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican ahead of the cardinals' conclave this week.
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The Roman Catholic Church, once a mighty force on its home continent, is weaker in modern Europe than ever before, its influence ebbing, its privileged status increasingly called into question. The now-retired Benedict spent much of his eight-year papacy trying to revive Catholicism here on its home turf. But the cardinals now assembled at the Vatican to pick his successor face a grim reality: The campaign has failed to reverse, or even just to halt, Europe's slide toward what church leaders regard as godless humanism. Empty spaces in the pews abound. The clerical sex-abuse scandal has stripped the church of much of its credibility and moral authority in parts of Europe (and the United States as well). When it comes to high-profile social issues such as gay rights and abortion, the church has lost battle after battle. For many Europeans the relevance of the church is a thing of the past.

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