Posted by: frroberts | May 12, 2015

Bulletin Note: How to stop the bleeding in the Catholic Church

A recent Pew Survey regarding American religious affiliation gives us Catholics in the United States some interesting food for thought regarding how we are failing to pass on the faith to the next generation, the reality of ethnic diversity in the Church in our country, and how to move forward.

The eye-catching numbers have to do with the number of people leaving the Church.  31.7% of the United States population was raised in the Catholic faith.  12.9% of our country’s population are former Catholics.  After factoring in converts, the Catholic population in America is 20.8%.  Catholics only account for 16% of the population under the age of 35.  This 16% number is actually much worse than it appears because a majority of Catholics under the age of 35 are Hispanics, many of whom have Catholic parents who were born outside of the United States.  Were it not for immigration from Latin America, our numbers would be plummeting.

If we continue to fail to win converts and retain younger Catholics at the present rate, there is a real possibility that thirty-five years from now (2050) Catholics will be only a little more than 10% of a population, down from nearly 25% in 2000.

Whites constitute only 59% of the Catholic population in the United States today.  As I stated earlier, more than half of the Catholic population under the age of 35 is Hispanic.  By 2050, it is nearly certain that white Catholics will be a minority in the Catholic Church in the US.  Catholic immigration and low white birth rates play a huge role in this shift.  If we fail to embrace change and use our resources in way that addresses the situation that we face, the Church in America will become a shell of its former self.  We would make a huge mistake if we think that Hispanics will continue being Catholic simply because of their ethnic background.

How do we reverse the trend of decline?

The first step involves a recognition that we cannot continue doing things the same way that we have always done them and expect different results.  We have to learn to adapt.

The Pew survey indicates that the groups of Christians that focus on the person of Jesus Christ tend to do better than groups that do not.  The number of Evangelical Christians is growing.  Many of these are former Catholics who left the Catholic Church because they were not being fed in parishes that were spending most of their energy focusing on ethnic identity, politics and simply maintaining the status quo.

Two weeks ago I worked with five members of both parishes to craft a parish cluster mission statement.  The most important phrase in that statement is “we exist to devote ourselves to the teaching of Jesus.”

As we pray this week, let us practice some brutal honesty and ask ourselves the question, “To what extent to I really devote myself to the teaching of Jesus?”


  1. Fr. Roberts: Here is a short Fr. Robert Barron video on the Pew Survey’s results from 2010. A good one.


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