Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

CARA’s 2010 rerospective

December 30th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

The days between Christmas and New Years seem to be the prime time for retrospectives with many secular news outlets airing year-in-review pieces featuring what they see as the significant events of the preceding 12 months. (This one from Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News struck me as especially poignant, as nearly all of the 57 recently deceased personalities mentioned were more like household names than historical figures to me.)

CARA’s Mark Gray has also taken a look at the year almost finished and has come up with some “statistical nuggets” that have recently come to light.  A few of the more interesting ones follow.

  • The U.S. Catholic population continues to grow and is projected to exceed 100 million by 2050.
  • At the same time, the number of infant baptisms and marriages in the U.S. Catholic Church has declined in number each year since 2001. In 2009, there were 12.7 infant baptisms and 2.7 marriages in the Church per 1,000 Catholics. [The 2001 numbers were 15.4 and 3.9, respectively. -Mike] Although nearly all Catholic parents continue to baptize their children in the Church (as the birthrate declines) many Catholics are choosing to get married in non-Catholic houses of worship or secular settings.
  • Yet even as the recent trend in infant baptisms is down slightly, there are still more than enough people joining the Catholic Church each year to sustain population growth. In 2009, The Official Catholic Directory reported 857,410 infant baptisms, 43,279 adult baptisms, and 75,724 receptions into full communion in U.S. dioceses. This totals 976,413 in one year. To put that in context, the number of new Catholics in 2009 would make this one-year cohort of new Catholics approximately the 26th largest membership Christian church in the United States.
  • On the institutional side, if the current trend in parish closures were to continue and current priest projections bear out, there will likely be only 12,520 active diocesan priests and 14,825 parishes in the United States by 2035 (also in OSV).
  • There has been no measurable decline or increase in Mass attendance percentages nationally in the last decade. Just under one in four Catholics attends Mass every week. About a third of Catholics attend in any given week and more than two-thirds attend Mass at Christmas, Easter, and on Ash Wednesday. More than four in ten self-identified adult Catholics attend Mass at least once a month.
  • The average tuition for the first child of Catholic parents attending a parish Catholic primary school for 2008-2009 was $3,383. For that same child the per-pupil cost of education for 2008-2009 was $5,436. This means that only 63% of this child’s per-pupil cost was covered by their tuition.
  • A majority of U.S. Protestants express a belief in the Real Presence and those who believe the Bible is to be taken literally word for word are most likely to do so.
  • 22% of Nones in America (those without any religious affiliation) were raised Catholic.

There is more here, including a glimpse at what CARA is working on for 2011 and Gray’s apologia against charges that he and/or CARA “spin” the data to put the Church in a more favorable light than it deserves.  He concludes by making this point:

There are measurable doses of “unreality” in Church discourse these days. Much of it fashioned around anecdotes and agendas. My promise now and in the year ahead to readers of this blog is that you’ll find none of this unreality here.



6 Responses to “CARA’s 2010 rerospective”

  1. Louis E. says:

    CARA who?….not the Classification And Ratings Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America.

  2. Mike says:

    Louis E. asked, “CARA who???”

    Well, this page does list over 30 possibilities but the link in the post makes it pretty clear it’s this organization.

  3. Mike says:

    Anon. 10:02,

    There are a few dioceses in the U.S. where bishops take seriously their roles as teachers and the parish priests take their lead from their bishops. Denver and Lincoln come immediately to mind.

    This seems to be paying off, if weekend Mass attendance is any indication. The Archdiocese of Denver is currently running at 51% and the Diocese of Lincoln is at 62%, while the national average is something like 32%.

  4. Nerina says:

    Holy cow, Mike! Those numbers from Denver and Lincoln are unbelievable. Do you happen to know how things are in Arlington, VA? I understand they are building a new church in Leesburg (part of the Arlington diocese) built in the Romanesque vein. According to the recent Adoremus Bulletin, the church will hold 1100 people and cost $13 million. Apparently someone is going to church there!

  5. Mike says:


    Most dioceses seem to treat their Mass attendance numbers as state secrets and only rarely do they show up in news stories on the Internet. I’ve had a couple of Google News Alerts looking for them for several months now but so far they’ve only found the Denver and Lincoln numbers. If the Arlington number happens to surface I’ll let you know.

  6. La Sandia says:

    I lived in the Arlington Diocese for two years. The contrast between Arlington and Rochester is striking. Our most recent parish had a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday (even summer!), and another parish I attended had 5 priests under the age of 50. The priests I have met are very orthodox and not afraid to speak out on “hot-button” issues such as contraception. There is also a diocesan-sponsored educational institute called the Institute of Catholic Culture which brings in amazing speakers to lecture on theology, Church history, etc. Unfortunately we had to leave because of my husband’s work and are quite disappointed with the mediocrity that reigns in Catholic life for most of the rest of the country.

    Lucky for us, our former parish in McLean posts recordings of homilies and lectures from our pastor and pastor emeritus. They are definitely worth a listen if you want a refreshing dose of orthodoxy:

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