Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Stats’

More evidence of decline

October 26th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

An article over at provides us with more evidence of the decline in Catholicism in the United States.


Referring to the above graphic the article notes that

In 1970, there were 426,000 marriages in U.S. Catholic churches — a full 20 percent of all U.S. marriages that year. By contrast, in 2011, there were 164,000 such weddings — only 8 percent of all marriages. But in both years, Catholics were 23 percent of the national population.

Catholic baptism rates fell at a parallel pace — from just more than 1 million baptisms in 1970 down to 793,103 baptisms in 2011.

Put another way, the drop in Catholic marriages over the 41 year period from 1970 to 2011 was 60% while baptisms fell 31% – and all the while the Catholic population remained steady at 23%.

Entire article here.

Dispatches: The Demolition of the Faith

October 1st, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

The folks over at ChurchMilitant.TV have just launched a new program they are calling “Dispatches.” The first five episodes of Dispatches will constitute a series entitled “The Demolition of the Faith,” with Episode 1 airing yesterday as part of the Vortex series.  The remaining episodes will also air this week as Vortex shows.

Several ChurchMilitant.TV personnel spent a good part of the last few months gathering historical data and discovering trends related to the Catholic Church in the United States.  It comes as no surprise that most of these trends are negative.

According to Michael Voris,

This level of research, its depth and its scope, about the life of the Church in the United States, has never been undertaken before. We scoured the official records of the Catholic Church in America going all the way back to the late 1700s.

Why are they doing this? Voris again,

An authentic restoration of the faith can never happen as long as the reality of the crisis is not understood and admitted.

With that, here is “The Lost Identity of Catholicism”, episode 1 of “The Demolition of the Faith” …



“… the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis”

September 7th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

A few months ago CARA‘s Mark Gray noted a recent decline in the number of Catholic infant baptisms …

From 1995 to 2004 there was about one Catholic infant baptism for every four births in the United States. This is how Catholicism remains a quarter of the population … But after 2004 the pattern begins to shift with several years of more births (until the recession) and fewer Catholic infant baptisms. In 2011, for the first time since 1946, there were fewer than 800,000 Catholic infant baptisms in the United States.

Gray illustrated the decline with this chart …

2013-02-07 - Gray - CARA

Gray offered two possible interpretations for the trend he observed:

  1. Catholics are just as likely to baptize their children now as in the past but they are having significantly fewer children than non-Catholics. Possible but unlikely.
  2. Catholics are just as likely as non-Catholics to have children but are less likely to baptize these children than in the past. More probable.

So what’s the infant baptism situation in DOR? Data from the OCD[1] and the NY State Department of Health[2] can be combined to produce this chart …

OCD DOR Data-Resized

As the chart indicates, from 1997 through 2003 DOR averaged 5,232 infant baptisms per year, which represented  28.8% of all live births in the diocese during that period. From 2004 through 2011, however, the diocese averaged only 3,227 infant baptisms per year, which represents just 19.5% of all live births in its 12 counties during those same 8 years. (The 2012 DOR infant baptism number is 2,460 – 186 [or 7%] fewer than in 2011 – but NY State has yet to publish county-by-county live birth data for 2012, so the above chart ends, for now,  at 2011.)

Following Gray, it seems unlikely that DOR’s Catholics suddenly began having substantially fewer babies than their non-Catholic peers 8 years ago. Rather, it seems more probable that a significant number (about 38%) of DOR’s new Catholic parents are now less likely to present their infants for baptism than they had been in the relatively recent past.

What Does This Mean For the Future of Catholic Schools?

The number of infant baptisms in any given year is a good indicator[3] of the size of the pool of potential Catholic kindergarteners 5 years later, the number of potential Catholic 1st graders 6 years later, etc., etc. Thus it is possible to use infant baptism data to estimate the maximum number of Catholic children available to our Catholic elementary schools over time.

Here is what that estimate looks like compared with actual registration numbers[4] for the country as a whole …

USA Potential and Actual Catholic K-8 Students, 1981-2017

As the chart shows, the number of K-8 aged Catholic children peaked at 9.27 million in 2005 and has been in decline ever since, while the actual Catholic population of our Catholic schools has been in decline since 1995, when it stood at some 1.78 million.

DOR presents a similar but more disturbing picture[5] …

DOR Potential and Actual Catholic K-8 Students, 1981-2017 copy

Here in DOR the peak in the number of K-8 aged Catholic children came in 1994 when it reached 63,487 and that number has been falling off the cliff ever since (it will reach 28,274 in 2017). Furthermore, the number of Catholic children in our Catholic schools has been in decline since 1996 when it stood at approximately 14,300. In 2012 it was down to about 3,550.

The Catecetical Story at a Glance

Catholic schools are but one of two formal means employed to educate our children in the faith, with the second being Religious Education (RE) programs (referred to as CCD programs in many dioceses). One may estimate the number of Catholic children receiving some kind of formal instruction by adding the enrollment data for Catholics in Catholic schools and that for RE programs. Furthermore, this sum, when compared with infant baptism data, can also provide an estimate of the number of Catholic K-8 aged children receiving no formal education in the faith[6].

Nationally, the data looks like this …

USA K-8 Formal Catechesis, 1981-2012


As can be seen, there has been a slow but steady nationwide increase in both the number and percent of our Catholic children not involved in any formal program of instruction.  For example, from 1981 through 1983 65% of our K-8 aged Catholic children were receiving some kind of formal instruction in the faith (25% in Catholic schools and 40% in RE programs), leaving some 35% formally uncatechized, but by 2010 through 2012 only 46% of our children were in formal programs (14% in Catholic schools and 32% in RE), while 54% were receiving no formal instruction.

Here’s what that data looks like for DOR over the same time period …

DOR K-8 Formal Catechesis, 1981-2012


While the DOR data is somewhat choppier, the overall trend is clear. From 1981 through 1983 we were doing much better than the national averages, with 87% of our K-8 aged Catholic children receiving some kind of formal instruction in the faith (31% in Catholic schools and 56% in RE programs), leaving only 13% formally uncatechized. However, by 2010 through 2012 our numbers had deteriorated to slightly worse than the national averages, with just 42% of our children in formal programs (10% in Catholic schools and 32% in RE) and 58% receiving no formal instruction in the faith.

Sacraments of Initiation

In addition to infant baptismal counts the OCD data also includes totals for first communions and confirmations. The counts for these last two sacraments are mostly for children receiving them at the usual ages, but they do also include people receiving them later in life (e.g., converts). Since over 95% of all baptisms in any given year are infant baptisms, it would be expected that a similar percentage of first communions and confirmations would be made by those who were baptized as infants. In other words, ignoring the numbers of first communions and confirmations made by converts should not lead to significant error.

For the purposes of this analysis it will be assumed that those who were baptized as infants celebrated their first communions at age 6 and their confirmations at age 13.  (This is not universally true but a difference of a year or two won’t affect the results, as the numbers of first communions and confirmations do not vary significantly from year to year.)

With this in mind it becomes possible to estimate how many children born and baptized in any given year go on to receive their first communion and then continue on to be confirmed: All one needs to do is to offset the annual first communion and confirmation numbers on the chart by 6 and 13 years, respectively. When we do this for the national data we see the following …

USA Sacraments of Initiation by Year of Birth, 1990-2012

As the chart shows, there is only a 10-year period (from 1990 to 1999) in which we have baptismal, first communion and confirmation data for the same groups of children. During those 10 years 86% of the children baptized as infants went on to receive their first communions and 61% of them continued on to confirmation.

The data for DOR  looks like this …

DOR Sacraments of Initiation by Year of Birth, 1990-2012

Although the DOR data is choppier than the national data (again), it does show that in those same 10 years 77% of those baptized as infants received their first communions and just 50% of them went on to celebrate confirmation. Both percentages are about 10% lower than the corresponding  national numbers.


Citing a lack of data and being wary of what he termed “common sense” explanations, CARA’s Mark Gray did not want speculate on the precise reasons behind the drop infant baptisms he reported. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that, among the long list of possibilities he does mention, a decades-long failure of catechesis is nowhere to be found.

Fr. Joseph F. Wilson of the Diocese of Brooklyn, however, is not so reticent. Over a decade ago he wrote,

Forty years ago, we dismantled an extremely effective method of catechesis, the handing on of the Faith from generation to generation. We replaced it with coloring books, rap sessions, freethinking, freewheeling and finger painting, and that is NOT an exaggeration. At least two generations of Catholics have grown up almost entirely ignorant of Catholic doctrine, and securely in possession of a do-it-yourself morality.

And a decade before that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger proclaimed,

the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious.

With all due respect to Dr. Gray, the above data would seem to show that decades of abysmal catechesis is one “common sense” explanation that deserves serious consideration.



[1] Official Catholic Directory. Data for a particular year is contained in the following year’s edition. For example, data for 1990 will be found in the 1991 edition of the OCD.

[2] 1997 data may be found here. Data for any year from 1998 through 2011 is available at, where YYYY represents the 4-digit year.

[3] A good indicator, not a perfect one. Some of the reasons are: (1) The reported number of infants baptized will almost certainly include not only those less than one year of age but also slightly older children. (2) Not taken into account is the loss of DOR-baptized children due to their families having moved out of the diocese prior to the children having reached high school age. It would be expected, however, that this loss would be essentially offset by the arrival in the diocese of families with similarly-aged children baptized elsewhere.  (3) Minor baptisms would also increase the pool of potential Catholic K-8 students but they are ignored here for two reasons: (a) no national count of minor baptisms is available from OCD for any year, and (b) DOR did not begin reporting minor baptisms as a separate category until 2008.

[4] The number of K-8 Catholic school students reported by the OCD has been adjusted to reflect the fact that our schools serve non-Catholic as well as Catholic children. Thus the chart shows only Catholic children. Data reported sporadically by the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) makes this adjustment possible. This data shows that the percentage of non-Catholic students has varied almost linearly (R squared = 0.9517) from about 11% in 1981 to 15% in 2011. See chart here.

[5] It is difficult to ascertain the percentage of non-Catholic children enrolled in the DOR Catholic school system. A thorough search of the diocesan website, the Catholic Schools website, the Catholic Courier website and the Catholic Courier online archives has produced no such number for any year. However, there do exist online articles which indicate that, if anything, the percentage of non-Catholics in our schools is higher than the national average.

See, for example, this excerpt from a 1986 article in the Courier Journal, when the nationwide non-Catholic enrollment was 11.5% …

In Monroe County, the average Catholic elementary school serves 16 percent non-Catholics, according to the Urban School Study, which was conducted for the diocese by Taddiken, a consultant for the Center for Governmental Research. In the City of Rochester, however, the average school includes 31 percent non-Catholic students. And the percentage in some individual city schools is as high as 90 percent.

And in 1997, when the nationwide figure was 12.8%, the following comment appeared in the Catholic Courier …

… non-Catholic students make up the majority — from 85 to 90 percent — of the student bodies in Rochester’s inner city Catholic schools, according to Timothy Dwyer, diocesan superintendent of schools. Dwyer added that about 20 percent of the students in schools located in outer Rochester and the suburbs are non-Catholic. In schools outside Monroe County, 10 to 15 percent of the students are non-Catholic, he said, with a lower percentage, 4-5 percent, particularly in rural areas.

Given this, it seems appropriate to apply the NCEA’s non-Catholic student percentages to the number of DOR Catholic school students reported by the OCD. Doing this should, if anything, result in a slight over-estimate of the actual number of Catholic students in our local Catholic schools.

[6] The OCD does not collect data on home-schooled Catholic children. Since they attend neither Catholic schools nor RE programs this analysis will necessarily include them in the formally uncatechized group. However, an estimate from 5 years ago places the size of this group at 80,000 to 100,000 nationally (presumably including high schoolers), or less than 2% of the calculated size of the formally uncatechized group.

Locally, the St. Thomas Aquinas Homeschoolers of the Rochester Area (STAHRA) is an organization which provides “information, experiences, and a supportive community for Catholic families who choose to educate their children at home.” The organization reports a membership of approximately 60 families. Even if one assumes a generous 5  K-8 aged children per family (i.e., 300 children in all), the local Catholic homeschooled children would only represent about 1% of the calculated number of formally uncatechized children in DOR.

Fishy Data

July 26th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

In a recent post I wrote that the Democrat and Chronicle “seems to have made up a number out of whole cloth in order to ‘prove’ what may be charitably termed an ‘exaggeration of the truth.'” The data in question was the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester in 2010, with a D&C editorial citing a figure of “about 354,000.” That number was so far out of line with the 310,172 reported in the 2011 Official Catholic Directory (OCD) that it almost jumped off the page when I first read it.

Well, it now does appear that the D&C did have a source for its number, so the question becomes: How reliable is that source?

The D&C’s source seems to have been and if you go to its page for the Diocese of Rochester you will find that 354,000 number listed for 2010. This site does not rely on the OCD for its data but uses the Annuario Pontificio (AP) instead. Suspecting a possible transcription problem I emailed site owner David Cheney but, after checking, he assured me that he had copied the data from the AP accurately. He also wrote that he was in the process of adding AP data for 2011 to his site and that DOR’s 2011 AP data was “in line” with its 2010 data. That 2011 DOR data was posted last night and can be found at the above link.

So now the question becomes: How reliable is the AP data?

Following is a screen shot of a spreadsheet I developed to compare the AP data with both the OCD and U.S. Census data (click on the image to make it more readable or download the spreadsheet from here):

A close look at this data reveals several problems.  For instance, the AP is reporting that tens of thousands more people (the average is 51,833) were living in the diocese during 2010 and 2011 than the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) could account for. It also reports that the total population of the 12 counties comprising DOR grew by some 13,000 people in that one year, while the USCB estimates that growth at a mere 759. Unless one believes that the USCB could be that far off, these discrepancies alone should raise a big enough red flag to call the entire AP data set into question.

But there’s more. The AP is reporting that the number of Catholics in DOR grew by 3,000 from 2010 to 2011. The 2012 OCD, however, using data provided by DOR, says that the diocese welcomed 3,217 new Catholics into the Church through baptism in 2011 along with another 239 already baptized candidates at Easter of that year (and most likely a handful more throughout the year) for a total growth of some 3,456 souls. However, we also buried 3,819 of our brothers and sisters during the year, leaving us with a net loss of some 363 Catholics. If the OCD is remotely accurate with its figures (and, again, they are supplied to it by DOR), then approximately 3,400 more Catholics would have had to have moved into DOR than moved out for the AP numbers to reflect reality, a remarkable demographic shift that surely would have been noted by someone, somewhere. (It wasn’t.) Furthermore, since 2000 the largest year-over-year increase in the number of DOR Catholics reported by the OCD (again, based on data supplied by DOR) was 1,500 (from 2001 to 2002; see spreadsheet here). Had the diocese suddenly doubled that number one would think they would have mentioned it. (They didn’t.)

And there’s still more. The AP data indicates that DOR closed 18 parishes in 2011. Really? Which ones? How did the D&C miss that story? How did Cleansing Fire miss that story?

I could go on (the AP data regarding both the number of priests and the number of deacons also raises questions) but I think the picture is clear enough.  There are so many issues with the AP data that no one in his right mind should use it as a source for a newspaper article – or anything else – until those issues are resolved.

And so the question finally becomes: Did the AP somehow make an incoherent mess of the data it received or did someone send it incorrect information?  And, if the answer is the latter, then who? And why?

Those are questions for someone else to answer.

We’re doing something wrong

September 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

I tell my relatives and best friends, “If you want your children to fight for their faith, send them to public school. If you want them to lose their faith, send them to Catholic school.”*

A two-year, $1 M study of “nearly 2,500 American high school graduates between the ages of 24-39” was recently conducted by Cardus (a Canadian group that describes itself as “a think tank dedicated to the renewal of North American social architecture”) in partnership with the University of Notre Dame.  The study examined “43 different categories of academic, spiritual and civic life,” with graduates of public, Catholic, private (both religious and secular) and home-school programs being surveyed.  The results were published last week.

So how did Catholic high school graduates fare, compared to all their counterparts?  Well, if secular measures are important to you, the answer would be “Pretty well.”  But if you are a parent (or grandparent) who believes he is paying for a solid Catholic education, “Buyer beware!” might be a more appropriate answer.

For instance, the study determined that, compared to their public high school counterparts, Catholic high graduates were  “less likely to believe in moral absolutes, to respect the authority of the Catholic Church, to believe in the infallibly of Scripture or to condemn premarital sex.”

A story on the survey goes on to report,

“In many cases, the difference in outcomes between Catholic and Protestant Christian schools is striking,” the study states. “Catholic schools provide superior academic outcomes, an experience that translates into graduates’ enrollment in more prestigious colleges and universities, more advanced degrees and higher household income.

“At the same time, however, our research finds that the moral, social and religious dispositions of Catholic school graduates seem to run counter to the values and teachings of the Catholic church,” the study concludes. “For example, students graduating from Catholic schools divorce no less than their public school counterparts, and significantly more than their Protestant Christian and non-religious private school peers. Similarly, having attended Catholic school has no impact on the frequency with which those graduates will attend church services, and Catholic school graduates are less likely to serve as leaders in their churches.”

The study also found, “On every measure of traditional religious beliefs, Protestant Christian school graduates show significantly more adherence to the church teachings than their peers, findings that hold up after rigorous controls, indicating the impact of the Protestant Christian school on the long-term religious beliefs of their graduates.”

The authors of the study concluded, “Protestant Christian schools play a vital role in the long-term faith of their students, while Catholic schools seem to be largely irrelevant, sometimes even counterproductive to the development of their students’ faith.”

Other results of interest to Catholic parents include the following:

  • The net effect of Protestant and religious home education was an increase in graduates’ reported attendance at religious services, while Catholic and non-religious private school grads reported a decrease in attendance.
  • Protestant and religious home educated graduates showed a net increase in belief in the Bible as an infallible guide for personal life and behavior, that premarital sex is wrong and that divorce is wrong, while Catholic and non-religious private schooling showed a net decrease in these beliefs.
  • Catholic schools – whose administrators also reported to Cardus a higher emphasis than their Protestant peers on academic achievement – produced more graduates attending top 20 universities and significantly more attending Carnegie Research I and II universities.

The Cardus team again summarized their findings: “This research finds that Catholic schools are providing higher quality intellectual development, at the expense of developing students’ faith and commitment to religious practices. Protestant Christian schools, conversely, are providing a place where students become distinct in their commitment to faith, but are not advancing to higher education any more than their public school peers. Graduates of Catholic schools and non-religious private schools show a significant advantage in years of education, while Protestant Christian school graduates have statistically identical attainment levels as their public school peers. Additionally, graduates of Protestant Christian schools attend less competitive colleges than both their Catholic and non-religious private school peers.”

The researchers suggested the differences between Catholic and Protestant schools may be directly tied to the institutions’ priorities, as measured by an included survey of over 150 private school administrators in the U.S. and Canada.

“These outcomes closely reflect the values reported by school administrators,” the study concludes. “While Catholic school administrators rank university as the top priority more than any other option, more Protestant Christian school administrators rank family as the top emphasis of the school.”

Full story here.

Cardus report here.


*This quote is widely attributed to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (see here, for example), although I have been unable to determine from which of His Excellency’s many books, homilies, TV shows, speeches, etc. it comes.

Church weddings (and baptisms) in decline

July 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

News Tribune, a North Central Illinois newspaper, has posted a report on a local trend away from church weddings. The story includes this analysis …

Among the reasons why civil weddings have grown in popularity:

  • Flexibility: Churches may restrict not only the venue but other elements such as music selection and personalized vows
  • Brevity: Civil weddings can be concluded in minutes
  • Participation: Guests may be more likely to witness the exchange of vows at a non-religious ceremony held at the same site as the reception
  • Interfaith marriages: Couples of differing faiths may prefer to bypass required pre-marital counseling or religious instruction.

With regard to its local Catholic Church the report says,

One denomination that does track marriage numbers regionally is the Roman Catholic Church. In the 26-county Diocese of Peoria, the number of church weddings has fallen 27 percent since 2000 — from 923 weddings performed in 2000 to 672 in 2010  — according to the Official Catholic Directory.

The Rev. William Gardner, pastor of St. Valentine and St. Mary churches in Peru, said he wasn’t surprised by the trend.

Gardner said he’s observed a growing shift toward secular ceremonies and attributes it to a societal change: Marriage is viewed more as “a partnership of life and love,” he said, and less as a solemn institution for raising children.

By way of context, the number of Catholic church weddings nationwide declined 33% from 2000 to 2010.

Here in DOR the story is even worse. The 2000 OCD reports 1,962 local Catholic marriages while the 2010 edition shows 1,049, for a drop of some 47% in just 10 years.

Given that trend it is not too surprising that DOR’s number of infant baptisms is also in sharp decline, falling 44% (from 4,637 to 2,579) over the same time period. (The nationwide drop was 16% over those same 10 years.)

Decades of “Jesus loves you – don’t litter” catechesis would seem to be having their predictable effect.

UPDATE: Mark Gray of CARA has also addressed the subject of the declining number of Catholic marriages.  See here.

The class of 2011

April 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has released the results of its annual survey of candidates for ordination to the priesthood.  The Class of 2011 includes 480 members, 329 (69%) of whom participated in the survey. Of those 329, 275 are scheduled for ordination as priests for 128 different dioceses and archdioceses, with the remaining 54 anticipating ordination as members of religious orders.

Some of CARA’s findings include …

  • The average age of ordinands for the Class of 2011 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31.
  • 8% are converts.
  • 82% report that both of their parents are Catholic.
  • 34% have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • 53% come from families of four or more children.
  • 47% attended a Catholic elementary school, 39% attended a Catholic high school and 39% attended a Catholic college.
  • 70% reported praying the Rosary regularly and 65% reported regular participation in Eucharistic adoration.

The same two figures that caught my attention last year continue to seem noteworthy:  About half of the potential ordinands come from large families and about half of them attended Catholic elementary schools.  As I wrote then,

Large Catholic families and Catholic schools continue to be seedbeds of vocations (see here and here for similar results from another survey). It’s too bad we don’t have very many of either in DOR.

Also of interest is the fact that 12% of the diocesan ordinands report that they had lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained less than a year before they entered the seminary.  Last year this number was 10%, while in 2009 it was 17% and in 2008 it was 16%.  CARA does not speculate as to the reasons for this phenomena or its apparent decline the last two years. It is, however, an open secret that many orthodox men who were raised in a “progressive” diocese like DOR and who have felt a call to the priesthood, have found it necessary to seek ordination elsewhere (see here).  In other words, DOR’s “priest shortage” is, in part, a self-inflicted wound.

Full CARA report here.

Selected stats online for U.S. dioceses

March 6th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

In obedience to St. Paul’s admonition to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), we note that has an interesting and potentially helpful statistics utility available on its site.

The data comes from the Official Catholic Directory and is a subset of what one would find in its annual issues.  This limited data is available for every diocese, archdiocese and eparchy in the United States, but only for the years 1976, 1991, 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2009.

A couple of examples follow …

The utility may be found here.

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.

A different slice of the pie

December 16th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

I recently called your attention to an article by CARA’s Mark Gray on the interpretation of statistics related to the U.S. Catholic population and Mass attendance. It began with this intriguing line,

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.

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington has also read that article and has come up with his own take on the numbers.  For instance,

In the early 1950s there were about 35 million Catholics in the US. Today there are are over 75 million. This number however does not distinguish between practicing and non practicing Catholics. It is estimated that just over 80% of Catholics attended Mass each Sunday in the 1950s. Today it is estimated that about 25% of Catholics go each Sunday. That means that in the early 1950s about 28 million Catholics were in Church each Sunday. Today that number, even with a growing Catholic population, has dropped to 19.2 million. In other words, almost 9 million fewer Catholics are in Church now as compared to the 1950s.

Msgr. Pope’s conclusions are worth pondering – and praying over.

In the end, I find looking at the CARA analysis helpful in distinguishing the true problem. The overall number of Catholics is, in fact rising. However the critical factor seems to be that Mass attendance has dropped dramatically since the 1950s, from over 80% to around 20-25% now. This indicates a very critical condition indeed. Tell me any organization in which 80% of its members were inactive that you would call healthy. Our condition is critical. It is helpful to know that we seem to have stabilized at this number. That is, we haven’t gone lower in over ten years. However I am concerned that the 25% number is soft and wonder if it will be stable for long. Rampant secularism, the moral malaise of many, a hostile culture etc. all stand to likely erode that number even further…

In the end, the greatest tragedy is not the numbers per se but the fact that almost 80% of our Catholic brothers and sisters are away from the sacraments, away from the medicine they need, and not having the gospel preached to them. These 80% live in a poisonous culture wherein their mind will increasingly darken without the help of the Sacraments and the Word of God. This is tragic and if we have any real love for them we will not rest until they are restored to God’s house. God asked Cain one day, “Where’s your brother?” And God still asks this of us. We may protest that we have murdered no one. And yet, many of them will die spiritually if we remain indifferent. “Where is your brother?…Where?”

Msgr. Pope’s full article is here.