As Pope Francis begins, American Catholic identity hits 40-year low

Strong Catholic identity is at a 40-year low in the United States, according to new analysis by the Pew Forum … Continued

Strong Catholic identity is at a 40-year low in the United States, according to new analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The analysis, released to coincide with the election of Pope Francis, paints a far different picture of the United States’ 78.2 million Catholics than the hype around the conclave would suggest. Only 27 percent of Catholics would call themselves “strong” adherents, down from 46 percent in 1974. Protestants, meanwhile, feel more faithful than ever, according to the report.

Pew also found that only one in five Catholics attends services every week, versus almost 40 percent of Protestants. Catholics born before Vatican II still attend Mass weekly, according to Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; younger members increasingly do not.

While strong Catholic identity has been on the decline for years — American Catholics are famously lax in adhering to church social teachings, and indifferent to Vatican pomp — the most dramatic dip came in the early 2000s, amidst the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Previous Pew research indicated that media coverage of the scandal reached a fever pitch in 2002, about the same time that feelings of strong Catholic identity started to drop off.

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  • justbeamensch

    Congratulations to the Catholics for marching onward into the 17th Century.

  • aero405

    I was interested to learn recently that sex abuse cases amongst Catholic clergy are nearly identical to that of the general populace in frequency… surprising to me because I think the “fever pitch” reporting by media really painted a sensationalized picture that they were practically the norm, which is what I myself believed until I did my own digging. Certainly the church can be fairly criticized, expected to mend the problems it’s caused (to the degree that’s possible), etc… but I wonder which really came first, the loss of Catholic following or the sensationalized scandal reporting?

    In any case, the new Pope should bring interesting changes, hard to imagine it won’t be for the better, and if it is then I’m sure a strengthening of American Catholic “identity” will follow.

  • Indep3

    I find a curious, but strong, correlation between Catholocism and the Republivcan Party in this country. Both grow increasingly irrelevant to mainstream Americans.