Tuesday, February 26, 2008

U.S. Catholic Landscape

A recent survey from The Pew Forum shows some interesting trends in the U.S. Roman Catholic population:

“While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration. The Landscape Survey finds that among the foreign-born adult population, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46% Catholic vs. 24% Protestant); among native-born Americans, on the other hand, Protestants outnumber Catholics by an even larger margin (55% Protestant vs. 21% Catholic).”

“…Another example of the dynamism of the American religious scene is the experience of the Catholic Church. Other surveys - such as the General Social Surveys, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago since 1972 - find that the Catholic share of the U.S. adult population has held fairly steady in recent decades at around 25%. What this apparent stability obscures, however, is the large number of people who have left the Catholic Church. Approximately one-third of the survey respondents who say they were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic. This means that roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics. These losses, however, have been partly offset by the number of people who have changed their affiliation to Catholicism (2.6% of the adult population) but more importantly by the disproportionately high number of Catholics among immigrants to the U.S. The result is that the overall percentage of the population that identifies as Catholic has remained fairly stable.”

“…Major changes in the makeup of American Catholicism also loom on the horizon. Latinos, who already account for roughly one-in-three adult Catholics overall, may account for an even larger share of U.S. Catholics in the future. For while Latinos represent roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics age 70 and older (12%), they account for nearly half of all Catholics ages 18-29 (45%).”
Perhaps Catholic apologist's time would be better spent promoting immigration.

22 comments:

Hidden One said...

If anything, it'd be better spent on educating Catholics.

Consider the words of St. Jean Marie Vianney, Cure of Ars: "I often think, my children, that the greater number of Christians who perish, perish for lack of instruction. They do not understand their religion."

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Interesting statistic:

These losses, however, have been partly offset by the number of people who have changed their affiliation to Catholicism (2.6% of the adult population)...

2.6% of 301 million is 7.8 million, which would put the number of Protestants who have converted to Catholicism as larger than the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church of the United States and the Episcopalian Church. In fact, as a separate denomination, former Protestants who converted to Catholicism would rank as the fourth or fifth biggest denomination in the U.S.

The real big story is in the implosion of the mainstream Protestant denominations.

But I absolutely agree with the Hidden One, catechesis is essential. The Protestant converts to Catholicism are invariably better educated about Catholicism than Catholics who became Protestants ever were.

Carrie said...

2.6% of 301 million is 7.8 million, which would put the number of Protestants who have converted to Catholicism as larger

It does not state the "2.6%" are former Protestants. It says they changed from another faith or no faith at all.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

That's a pretty weak response for a post that was originally tweaking the nose of Catholics.

First, I can plead my personal experience, which is that the all of converts I know came in from Protestant background and were very strong Protestants before they found the fulfillment of Christianity within Catholicism. This is dramatically different from the former Catholics I'm acquainted with whose knowledge of their former faith was primitive at best.

Second, as a matter of statistics, given the fact that something like 90%+ of the non-Catholic US population is Protestant, we can reasonably conclude that something like 7 millon of the 7.8 million converts were Protestants.

That is still a number larger than all but one or two of the major Protestant denominations combined.

I know that your original intent was to bask in the notion that Catholicism was hemorhaging members, but the "conversion to" figure is nothing to sneer at.

Carrie said...

That's a pretty weak response for a post that was originally tweaking the nose of Catholics.

I'm not looking for an argument. Just trying to keep you from presenting inaccurate facts.

Unfortunately, by your second comment you seem uninterested in getting the facts straight and will continue to try and make your case without supporting evidence.

Carrie said...

Second, as a matter of statistics, given the fact that something like 90%+ of the non-Catholic US population is Protestant, we can reasonably conclude that something like 7 millon of the 7.8 million converts were Protestants.

Actually, if you use the stats from the article, only 68% of the non-Catholic US population is Protestant. If you need me to walk you through the math, I can.

Second, your 301 million Catholics number is way overblown.

I found the following stats on the US Catholic population:

Catholic population 64 million (2007)
source

76.9 million Catholics
source

Catholic Population 69 million (2006)
source1
source2

Now, if we went with the 69 million value, using your math, 68% of the 2.6% converts equals about 1.2 million. Of course, that is assuming the converts reflect the population demographics for which you have no proof, but even if I give you that, your “estimate” is way off.

The stats from USCCB give a figure for converts: “In 2005, 73,684 people were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. In addition, 80,817 adults and 943,264 infants were baptized.” (source). I doubt all 73,684 were Protestants, there are probably some Mormons or JWs thrown in, but we’ll assume all are former Protestants. That works out to about 6.7% of newly baptized as Protestants. These actual statistics are not even close to what you are pushing, nor are they impressive.

------- Theo ------- said...

In the Name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Has it come to this, that instead of desiring to be fishers of men, we seek to raid, or worse, poison our neighbor’s hatchery?

I'm uninterested in what these statistics tell us about the relative strengths of our communions. I'm much more interested in what they tell us about the state of Christendom and I'm most interested in what our reactions to them tell us about ourselves.

People who identify themselves as Christians comprise a significant portion of this planet's population--and the positive effects of Christendom on the world are many and extraordinary--yet we diminish our mission when we run to silence others who work in the Master's name.

"Shall we tell them to be quiet, Lord?" How did He answer his disciples?

What does the Apostle tell us?

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!


Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place
and gave him the name that is
above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.


This is not a "sloppy-agape" call to "I'm OK. You're OK" mush. Clearly any of us who dare to call ourselves by His name are obliged to do His will in this world as servants for God's glory. If that is what we seek here, then mayhap we will start to see a real shaking and know the true reward for service. But if we seek our own satisfaction: the smug security in thinking we have one-upped someone online or that we somehow just defended by our own strength the very ramparts that the gates of Hell will not prevail against, then that will be our only reward.

Of the totals given for any particular denomination in that survey, what percentage is actually practicing of ANY communion?

Shall I seek to lay up treasures in heaven, or two minutes of internet satisfaction? Shall I tweak a sinner's nose and make his eyes water or shall I lift his head and turn his eyes to the light? May we all choose the better. May we shine like stars.

With great fear, knowing my guilt is clear for all to see and with apologies to you, my betters, and while depending on His mercy, I remain by grace,
Your servant and brother,
--Theo
May God have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tim said...

P.S.B. & Carrie--

I disagree with the intrachristian fight here. Both sides of Christianity have our problems, and we don't need to rub each others' noses in them. But at the moment, I'll stick with the demographics, where both of y'all are making some honest mistakes:

The article says the converts to the RCC are 2.6% of the adult population, not the total US population. And I read it from the context as adult *US* population, not adult *Catholic* population. So that's about 218 million, rather than 301 or 69 million. 2.6% of that is 5.6 million. And as Carrie noted, we don't know what percentage of those are ex-Protestants. Perhaps the bulk (since it's the majority religion), but that's simply a guess, not backed up with data. Furthermore, the United Methodist Church has 8.1 million members in the US, larger than the converts number, no matter whose calculations you take.

On the other hand, the Pew Forum says the ex-Catholic numbers are 10% of the total US population (not just adults, I gather). That's 30 million. But it doesn't say how many are converts *to* Protestant churches.

As for the knowledge of ex-Catholics about the denomination of their birth: it may well be true that ex-Catholics know less about Catholicism than converts to the RCC do (who have presumably read up on it or been specifically taught it as adults). But it might also be true that ex-Protestants are less knowledgeable about the denominations of their birth than are Catholics who join these churches as adults. It's an anecdote that either side could use, so it's a wash. It's not an argument that works in either side's favor but is simply a matter of human nature, independent of the nature of these denominations.

Carrie said...

The article says the converts to the RCC are 2.6% of the adult population, not the total US population.

Good catch. I was going off of what PSB said and I should have checked that figure more thoroughly.

I disagree with the intrachristian fight here. Both sides of Christianity have our problems,

I don't consider Catholics brethern in Christ so this doesn't apply for me.

and we don't need to rub each others' noses in them.

Not my intent. These facts show a less than rosey picture of Catholicism's impact which is counter to what you will hear coming from many Catholic apologists' blogs.

Carrie said...

People who identify themselves as Christians comprise a significant portion of this planet's population--and the positive effects of Christendom on the world are many and extraordinary--yet we diminish our mission when we run to silence others who work in the Master's name.

Theo,

You have been around here long enough to know that I don't consider you a brother in Christ. If you feel the discussions on this blog are not worth your time, stop reading. Why are you wasting your time lecturing people here when you could be out do more important work?

Carrie said...

The article says the converts to the RCC are 2.6% of the adult population, not the total US population. And I read it from the context as adult *US* population, not adult *Catholic* population. So that's about 218 million, rather than 301 or 69 million. 2.6% of that is 5.6 million.

After a second look, there is still something wrong with these numbers.

The 69 million is a figure from a Catholic agency on the number of U.S. Catholics. There are approximately 69 million Catholics in the U.S. so your 218 million is wrong.

All of this is a bit moot - we have an actual number of "converts" reported from the Catholic Church which I gave above.

------- Theo ------- said...

Theo,

You have been around here long enough to know that I don't consider you a brother in Christ.


Carrie, dear Sister in Christ:
Yes. I have.

If you feel the discussions on this blog are not worth your time, stop reading. Why are you wasting your time lecturing people here when you could be out do more important work?

If I felt these discussions not worthwhile, I would not participate in them. I value my time and in fact I would not have posted did I not think it important.

Dear sister, if you imagine my sincere prayers and exhortations for Christians (myself included) to behave as Christians or the Scripture that accompany them is lecturing, may you find extra grace abounding for you on that Great and Terrible Day. What a lecture that will be for us all! If the voice of Balaam’s donkey is too much for you to bear, the voice of Balaam’s God will be a trial indeed. May he have mercy on us all.

I venture that Balaam never considered his donkey a brother, and for good reason. Nevertheles, he would have been wise to heed it.

With all prayers for your blessing and continued growth in imitation of Christ, I remain your servant and brother,
--Theo

------- Theo ------- said...

"Why are you wasting your time lecturing people here when you could be out do more important work?"

Actually, that was a very interesting thing to say. What, Carrie, do you suppose would be more important work for me?

Sincerly asked,
--Theo

Carrie said...

What, Carrie, do you suppose would be more important work for me?

All the stuff you were recommending: "Shall I seek to lay up treasures in heaven, or two minutes of internet satisfaction?".

I venture that Balaam never considered his donkey a brother, and for good reason. Nevertheles, he would have been wise to heed it.

What needs to be heeded is God's Word and not from the mouth of a false teacher.

Theo, if you have nothing to add to the actual subject of the post, I would appreciate you not commenting. We are generally pretty lax about the freedom in these comboxes, but I truly am tired of the tangentials. It seems I have requested this from you before, please try to respect that.

------- Theo ------- said...

Tim wrote:
"it may well be true that ex-Catholics know less about Catholicism than converts to the RCC do (who have presumably read up on it or been specifically taught it as adults). But it might also be true that ex-Protestants are less knowledgeable about the denominations of their birth than are Catholics who join these churches as adults. It's an anecdote that either side could use, so it's a wash."

Your points here are excellent, Tim. However, we should realize that even were we to nail down every "crosser" and his reason it would not demonstrate which communion has the better understanding of truth. The truth of the universe is not up for popular vote. These statistics tell us very little. How we react to them tells us much more.


Carrie wrote:
"Theo, if you have nothing to add to the actual subject of the post, I would appreciate you not commenting."

My apologies, Carrie, but I think you misunderstand.

My original post was long, but on topic. I addressed the subject of the article by saying I believe the statistics are not as important as how we react to them--seeking to use them as weapons--or how we ought to react to them.

This point I deem still applies--and you have helped illustrate it with your reaction--attacking the deliverer while ignoring the message.

I believe the tangents (my "non-Christian" status in your judgment, the false accusation that I find these discussions worthless, the assertion that I have more important things to do, etc.) were all introduced by you. Respectfully, I will indeed avoid them; however, please do not blame me for tangents you introduce should I respond to clarify.

May we all shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life.

In perfect truth (if not perfect execution),
--Theo

ct said...

Carrie, is it that you don't consider the RC 'teaching church' - i.e. the clerical hierarchy - and the propagandists (the RC apologists) your brethren in Christ (an understandable position) or do you also include all self-identified RCs. I am as hardcore anti-Beast, anti-antichrist, anti-Roman Catholic as they come, but I see some everyday RCs that strike me as similar to conservative evangelicals. Doctrinally maybe they are incurious, but so are many evangelicals.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

If anyone is interested, I'm an attorney that represents Protestant churches that seek to leave their denominations. I argued for St. Luke's (formerly) Methodist Church before the 5th DCA, which led to a rather famous decision for the many Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists looking to depart their moribund liberal denominations.

That said, there appears to be an amazing willingness to ignore the significance of the reported statistics. The statistics said that 2.6% of the (adult) population has converted to Catholicism. I did some quick math and came up with 7.8 million based upon a total population of 301 million Americans.

I never said that there were 301 million Catholics in the United States.

Also, the 68% is the percentage of Protestants in a population that includes 24% Catholics. When you exclude Catholics from this population, Protestants become something like 90% of that population.

Is it fair for me to use the total population rather than just the adult population? Why not? We know that the total population of converts includes families with minor children - at least, I know for a fact that that is true. Therefore making the assumption that only adults convert, as suggested by Tim runs counter to common sense.

We might also reasonably conclude that the percentage of minors who accompany their families will approximate - or be larger - than the number of minors in the general population.

So, 7.8 million is a reasonable number, and certainly more reasonable than 5.6 million, which is predicated on the idea that no adult convert brings their minor children with them.

I will largely concede Tim's point about the UMC's reported figures of approximately 8 million in membership. In point of fact, the current UMC membership is below 8 million, and given its rate of decline may be substantially below 8 million (and if the street talk I've heard is true, may be around 4 million.)

However, that still leaves the approximate 8 million Catholic convert - which is the same size as the UMC, or, if it is only approximately 6 million (assuming that no children are ever brought into Catholicism by their parents), that would be a contingent as large as the PCUSA and ELCA combined.

Obviously, I will not be surprised when more nits are picked in the above.

My point is only to suggest that it is unwise to dismiss the continuing vitality of a faith that manages to continue to attract numbers that dwarf - without immigration - many of the long-established mainline Protestant denominations.

Carrie said...

I never said that there were 301 million Catholics in the United States.

Sorry, I misunderstood your figure, although I still don't see how your 7.8 million jives with ~78,000 converts from UCSSB.

Also, the 68% is the percentage of Protestants in a population that includes 24% Catholics. When you exclude Catholics from this population, Protestants become something like 90% of that population.

No. When you exclude the 24% Catholic and then recalculate the breakdown of who is left, you have 68% Protestant. I will post the math in the next comment.

Is it fair for me to use the total population rather than just the adult population? Why not? We know that the total population of converts includes families with minor children

Using children doesn't support your argument that Protestants are knowingly choosing the RCC. Children go with their parents, they are not choosing to convert.

However, that still leaves the approximate 8 million Catholic convert - which is the same size as the UMC,

You cannot overinflate your numbers based on children. Does the 8 million Methodist number include children?

This argument about how many Prot converts to Catholicism really doesn't mean much to me, I just want you to use accurate figures to make your argument. What I provided in this post was a loss of Catholic membership that is hidden by an influx of immigrants. The source is there, you can see it yourself.

Carrie said...

From the Pew Forum stats:

Protestant-51.3
Catholic-23.9
Mormon-1.7
JW-0.7
EO-0.6
Other Religions-4.7
Unaffiliated-16.1
Unsure-0.8
TOTAL-99.8

If you remove the 23.9% of Catholics and add the rest up again you get a total of 75.9. Divide the 51.3 Protestants by 75.9 and you get 68%. The % Protestants in the non-Catholic population is 68%.

Carrie said...

Carrie, is it that you don't consider the RC 'teaching church' - i.e. the clerical hierarchy - and the propagandists (the RC apologists) your brethren in Christ (an understandable position) or do you also include all self-identified RCs.

Ct,

This is way off-topic and I don't want this thread to go down that road if possible so I will give you a short answer.

Yes, I do not consider any professing Roman Catholic as brethern because their profession of faith is not credible. While there may be some regenerate RCs, I have no way of judging that other than by their profession of faith. Roman Catholicism is not a credible profession of faith, therefore I cannot accept anyone who calls themselves a Roman Catholic as a brother/sister in Christ (even though they could be).

Triablogue spells out this idea very well here

I know Catholics will try to paint me as egotistical and exclusionary, but that is not the motive. If we can agree that the Roman Catholic Church is not a legitimate church of Christ, then we should expect any regenerate members to come out of her for their own benefit. And I think giving a pass to individual members of the RCC is a slippery slope that causes great confusion amongst both Catholics and Protestants.

True believers should not be part of a false church. And members of a false church should be considered as potentially true believers with great suspicion. This is an area were I would rather err on the side of caution.

------- Theo ------- said...

"I know Catholics will try to paint me as egotistical and exclusionary, but that is not the motive."

Speaking as one Catholic, I do not ascribe any nefarious motivation to Carrie, Rho or any others of strict Reformed theology who take this stand. My own best understanding of Christian doctrine is that I must accept her as a sister in Christ; however, those who hold "sola fide" as an essential and necessary hallmark of Christianity could not return this honor and be true to their understanding.

Those who understand Catholic doctrine know that we take it as dogmatic that the "sola" of sola fide is not the full gospel, and we reject it as a teaching. As much as I believe she is wrong (and clearly I believe it with 100% confidence), I would not want her to add to her misunderstanding (from my viewpoint) by insisting she also be untruthful and unfaithful on top of it.

I hope and pray that any mature Catholic would also understand and respect this on these grounds.

Given that it is we Catholics who insist in our brotherhood, it is our responsibility to fellow Christ's direct command and prefer them and as St. Paul instructs us, to treat them as our betters. At the same time, if any person (let alone one we believe is a brother) treats us as if we are his enemy, we also have specific instructions on how to behave--and they do not involve tearing down, but blessing.

I've not been long in this on-line subculture of Catholic / Protestant dialog; however, I'm rapidly becoming more aware that I need to look much closer at my own house--as we who profess Christ in the ancient Catholic faith must recognize the implications of our profession. To obey is better than sacrifice.

May God bless you with ever greater strength to serve him fully and be made ever better and brighter lights to the world. May God have mercy on me, a sinner.


By grace I remain your servant and brother (though you do not know it) in Christ,
--Theo

------- Theo ------- said...

"...it is our responsibility to fellow Christ's direct command..."

errrr--that should have been "follow": it is our responsibility to follow Christ's direct command.

--Theo