Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

“Pies, damned pies and statistics”

November 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Mark Gray over at Nineteen Sixty-four (the CARA blog) has posted a good piece on the interpretation (and misinterpretation) of statistics, especially those related to the Catholic Church.

Are you Catholic and in need of something to be thankful for this year? The Catholic Church in America is growing and may be primed to grow significantly in the next few decades.

What did he just say? All the Catholic-related stories in the news are about parish and school closings, a Church in crisis, and people leaving the faith…

First, the news is not always a good reflection of reality. A big part of the problem is that many reporters and commentators on religion seemingly have a limited understanding of the basic properties of a simple mathematical expression—percentages. This gets dangerous when combined with a nasty human habit of only using numbers and statistics when they fit the narrative one is seeking to display (while avoiding the data that disconfirms it).

Keep reading here.


3 Responses to ““Pies, damned pies and statistics””

  1. Faithful says:

    Actually the statistics are what they are, but I wonder if the conclusions are justified.

    Consider: the numbers do show growth, but what is not being taken into account is that the growth is due mainly becasue of the influx of Latino/Hispanic immigrants. If you take the Hispanics out of the numbers will the numbers still indicate growth? I suspect you will actually see a slight decline. I cannot prove this, but this is my suspicion.

    Here is why: as the third generation Irish, Polish, German, etc, Catholics have for the most part attained the American dream, the practice of the Catholic Faith is becomming more and more something that is cultural, perhaps sentimental, but less an expression of real Faith. The Christmas and Easter Catholics come to mind here, and perhaps the Cafeteria Catholics. As Catholics have gained wealth, God becomes less important becasue they think they don’t need Him anymore. They short of “outgrow” religion. They become “cultural” Catholics. If they go to Mass it is not becasue they want to express a real Faith in God and His Revelation, it is from a sentimentality or cultural thing. These are the people who want the Catholic wedding, Baptism for their children,the Catholic funeral, etc, but that is the extent of their involvement with Catholocism. They think they are Catholic becasue of that. The second reason is obvious: with the attainment of wealth comes the distain of having children. Children get in the way of career paths, vacations, and life in general. Therefore Catholics are no longer having a lot of children.

    The Hispanics have basically taken the place of the former Irish, Polish, German, etc, immigrants. Faith is important to them, they are having large families becasue they are first generation and have not yet attained the American Dream. My prediction is that when the second and third generation Hispanic immigrants move on to attain wealth, you will begin to see the same thing happen with them. It is already happening!

    In short: People forget where they came from.

    This is incidently why Jesus tends to look upon wealth negatively. Wealth itself is not evil, it is good. The problem is that wealth gives people the illusion of control, it also tends to make people more stingy. The more people have the more they crave, the less people have the less they want. The less people have, the more generous they are with what little they have, and the more children they have. Without wealth to distract them, they invest in love and life rather then possessions and careers.

  2. benanderson says:

    I don’t agree with your take on wealth. I’ve met people with less money than me that are greedy and obsessed with material things and I’ve met people with more money than me that are totally generous and could care less about material things. In my opinion, these attitudes and tendencies can be found all around the status spectrum.

  3. benanderson says:

    New models of parish ministry are emerging to ensure the vitality of parish life including the use of shared ministries, clustered parishes, and Canon 517.2


    Although Catholic Mass attendance did decline in recent decades from a peak in the 1950s, there has been no decline in Mass attendance percentages nationally in the last decade.

    got that, dor? can’t blame local trends on national trends.

    He didn’t mention my number one statistical pet peeve – correlation does not imply causation!

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