Religious institutions, many of them, are currently involved in a process of organizational decay that is often invisible. It is something like having termites in your house; you don't see anything wrong until it is too late.
An excellent example of this is revealed in new information about the papacy of John Paul II. He traveled to more countries to preach the gospel and preached to larger crowds than any other Christian evangelist in history. Most Catholic leaders believe that he had a revitalizing impact on the church and has left it strong and well-positioned for growth. And the church growth during his tenure is impressive: From 1978 to 2003 the number of Catholics in the world grew from 757 million to 1.07 billion.
But while the parishes were taking in 250 million more Catholics, the number of priests declined by 15,000. In 1975 there was one priest per 1,753 Catholics and by 2000 it was one priest per 2,579 Catholics. "While John Paul II was a successful missionary in the traveling and preaching dimension of Pauline tradition, he did not draw into service the number of men and women needed to put his ideas into practice," notes one scholar in an assessment published in the January 2006 issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research.
What this means is that in the long run the real impact of John Paul II's leadership will be minimal--more symbolic than real. The "infrastructure" of the Catholic Church is in decay. An example of something that is happening to most of organized religion in this era.