Wednesday 22 March 2023

Dutch Catholics ‘much more progressive’ than church leaders

Catholics in the Netherlands are much more progressive than their church leaders but few see this as a reason to abandon the institution, a survey by I&O commissioned by Trouw has shown.

Of the 1,900 respondents 900 were active Catholics and 1,000 had lapsed or left the church.

Some three quarters of the respondents said they are in favour of women priests and same sex church weddings. Over half said they want to see the church accept abortion.

Active Catholics are as progressive as those who have left the church, the survey shows. Some 65% are in favour of euthanasia for people who consider their life complete, for instance.

Only 14% of the respondents thought the church was moving with the times but a there is no sign of a broad movement for change, researcher Charlotte van Miltenburg told the paper. ‘Many people neither agree nor disagree with a number of statements and that is a sign of resignation,’ she said.

The Catholic church in the Netherlands has been shrinking over the years but still has 3.8 million members, making it the biggest church by far. However, only 153,000 attended Sunday mass with any regularity in 2018, before coronavirus depleted pews even further.

Catholics under the age of 34 tend to be more conservative than their older brethren, the survey shows, and they also believe in hell more often.

Only 8% of active Catholics considered leaving the church. They are staying not for reasons of tradition, Miltenburg said, but to enjoy a sense of community.

Among the motives to leave a quarter mentioned the sexual abuse scandals that have plagued the church and a conservative attitude. However, the main reason for leaving is a lack of faith.

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation. has been free for 16 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.