Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Like Bernie Madoff being made Pope

An excerpt of something over at H&PR, by Fr. Joseph Sirba:

(I could reprint the whole thing in its entirety, because it is ALL brilliant and quite worthy of your attention. But for now this will have to do. As usual, all emphases are mine.)
2) In point of fact, massive Catholic losses have been hidden by the large number of Catholic immigrants coming to the United States in recent years. Of the present 23.9 percent of adults who call themselves Catholic, about 77 percent of that number (or 41,406,750) were born in the United States whereas about 23 percent of that number (or 12,368,250) are immigrants, mostly Hispanic. Here it should be noted that if Catholic immigrants were not replacing native-born Catholics who are leaving the faith, the percentage of the population that identifies itself as Catholic would be lower than it is now, only about 18.4 percent of the population—or less than one in five—rather than the almost one in four Americans who identify themselves as Catholics today. Of further interest here is that among those Catholics seventy and older, 85 percent are white, 12 percent are Latino, 2 percent are “Other/Mixed” and 1 percent are black. However, among those eighteen to twenty-nine, 47 percent are white, 45 percent are Latino, 5 percent are “Other/Mixed” and 3 percent are black, which makes white Catholics a minority (less than 50 percent) among the youngest age group in the survey.

3) Massive losses among native-born Catholics have not only been significant but staggering, so much so that those who conducted the survey wrote in their analysis, “Catholicism has lost more people to other religions or to no religion at all than any other single religious group.” It should be noted that this statement is true both in terms of absolute numbers as well as in terms of percentage of the U.S. population. However, it is not true when figured as a percentage of the Catholic population alone. Figured that way, Catholic losses as a percentage of the Catholic population were 24 percent, behind only Methodists, whose losses stood at 25 percent. By way of comparison, Presbyterian losses were at 21 percent, Baptists were 18 percent, and Lutherans and Episcopalians were each 16 percent. On the other hand, nondenominational Protestants grew a whopping 200 percent, the percentage of unaffiliated grew 120 percent and Pentecostals grew 12 percent.

4) 10.1 percent of the adult population in the United States now consists of people who have left the Catholic Church for another religion or for no religion. To put it another way, one out of every ten people in the United States (or 22,725,000) is an ex-Catholic. It should be noted here that these are not non-practicing Catholics who, when asked about their religion, would identify themselves as Catholic. Rather, these are individuals who were baptized and raised Catholic but who no longer identify themselves as Catholic.

What is extra interesting is where all these +/- 23 million Catholics went. Father wants us to notice teh two largest numbers:

Evangelical Protestant: 6,509,250

*Unaffiliated: 9,780,750

You'll kindly note that Evangelical Protestantism isn't known, exactly, for it' or fondness for grey areas. In fact, it's most known (and derided, I think) for its certainty in teaching what it teaches. So it's curious, that. (Perhaps the notion put forward by our more, um, Spirit-of-Vatican-2 brethren that people leave due to the Church's unyielding nature on ____ may have some flaws therein.)

But what about the remaining 53-odd million Catholics? (This is where the lovely and gracious Mary Jo gets up and cheers)
Furthermore, of those 53,775,000 American Catholics who remain in the fight, except for the elderly, most are so poorly catechized that they continue to be highly vulnerable to invitations from evangelical congregations or to the secularizing influences in our society.
(Again, I can't emphasize enough how worthwhile the entire article is.)

What's it all mean?
At this point, allow me to repeat that this survey merely quantifies what pastors across the country have been aware of for many years now, namely, that large numbers of individuals who were baptized Catholic have left the Catholic Church. It also reveals that if we exclude the Catholic immigrant population, we are doing far worse at retaining members than even the weakest of the mainline Protestant denominations.
And here are the bits that will have the lovely and gracious Karen hopping up and down and hollering "YES! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" at full lung capacity:
In a word, our problem has been dissent tolerated by weak leaders, which in turn has led to confusion as to what we as Catholics believe and how we should live.
[...]our bishops need to do several things. First, make sure that everyone is presenting a clear message. All remaining dissenters must be expunged from their positions within diocesan offices, major parishes and influential positions in the Church. This is especially crucial in Catholic colleges and universities, which form the weakest link in the nascent renewal we are experiencing. For the most part, they are still seriously undermining the faith of our young people
and especially
It’s now far beyond the time for half measures. We must act now to clean up the messes that remain and to develop reasonable, workable plans to move forward. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). Tolerating dissent has led us to where we are today. It’s time for some intolerance.


* Defined as "I definitely believe in God, but that's as far as I got."