(The Economist) Roman Catholics in America: What crisis?

American Catholicism is becoming knitted into a broader Latin American faith. This matters, even for those who care little for religion. Catholic institutions are estimated to employ more than 1m people. (Walmart, the nation’s biggest private employer, has 1.3m workers in America.) Catholic institutions run 5% of the nation’s schools and 10% of its hospitals. A quarter of Americans describe themselves as Catholic, a proportion that has remained steady even as the share of Baptists and other Protestants has fallen. By one estimate, America will have 100m Catholics by the middle of the century.

The steadiness in the Catholic share of the nation’s souls disguises a lot of change. Americans like to switch religions. Data from the Pew Research Centre suggest that more than half of adult Americans have changed religion or denomination at some point. The Catholic church does particularly badly from such exchanges: for every convert it wins, four people leave. As a result, fully 10% of Americans are ex-Catholics. If abandoning Rome were a religion it would be the nation’s fourth-largest, says David Campbell of Notre Dame University. The outflow began before the scandal about child abuse by priests and the church’s habit of covering it up erupted, but that has not helped to win converts.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

2 comments on “(The Economist) Roman Catholics in America: What crisis?

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Much to ponder here that’s highly significant, even if little is new. In particular, the stats on the huge number of ex-Catholics should make us Anglicans take notice. What an incredible opportunity we have, when some 10% of the national population are ex-papists. If I, as an evangelical and charismatic Anglo-Catholic, were to start a new church (but alas, I lack the right gift mix to be a church planter), I would probably zero in on that huge pool of ex-Catholics as my #1 target audience. At least in Richmond or much of the Bible Belt in the SE, why go to the trouble of starting a new Anglican church if it’s only yet another bland Protestant church with a thin veneer of liturgy? Why not offer something really different from the vast majority of churches? Why not set it apart from the pack? The potential is so vast…

    David Handy+

  2. Anthony in TX says:

    Rev. Handy,

    Most, if not all, of the ex-Catholics I know grew up in families that never went to church. That’s right – never. Their families come from Irish, German and Mexican-American roots, and for one reason or another, they just stopped attending/caring. Could it have been the sweeping changes on the ground after Vatican II? Maybe. Who knows. One of the saddest things, in my opinion, is that they reject a religion they know very little about. Prayer and Fasting might be the only way to bring them back to any form of Christianity.