Catholic Church Attendance in Steep Decline


Gallup released a new survey called “Catholics' Church Attendance Resumes Downward Slide” which is based on multiple Gallup surveys conducted near the middle of each decade from the 1950s through the present, and it says:

“From 2014 to 2017, an average of 39% of Catholics reported attending church in the past seven days. This is down from an average of 45% from 2005 to 2008 and represents a steep decline from 75% in 1955.”

As Gallup reported back in 2009, the steepest decline in church attendance among U.S. Catholics occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, when the percentage saying they had attended church in the past seven days fell by more than 20 percentage points.

Meanwhile, since 1955, there has also been a slow but steady decline in regular church attendance among older Catholics. This includes declines of 10 points or more in just the past decade among Catholics aged 50 and older, leading to the current situation where no more than 49% of Catholics in any age category report attending church in the past week.

Of course, this decline is most evident among the younger generations. Actually, only 25% of people aged 21-29 attend church weekly. If we compare that percentage to 73% from 1955, we can see that the decline is significant. “The number of young people professing no religion, nationwide, was only one percent in 1955. Today it is 33 percent. That is an increase of 3200 percent!”, the Catholic League calculates. The Gallup didn’t offer the explanation of such trends among Catholics, but the Catholic League gives even seven core reasons for such decline:

  1. The declining role of religion in elementary and secondary education has been dramatic.
  2. Higher education has become increasingly hostile to religion, especially Christianity.
  3. The pop culture, as manifested on TV, the movies, and music, is marked by a libertinism that is at odds with Christianity.
  4. The ascendancy of moral relativism—the denial of moral absolutes— has engulfed society. The nation’s cultural elites are responsible for this outcome, including, sadly, some religious leaders.
  5. Declining marriage rates, and birthrates among married couples, has made it easier for parents to neglect their religious duties, including obligations to their own children.
  6. Those over the age of 60 are the baby boomers, a generation that in their youth experienced the decadence of the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them entered their senior years without a strong religious background.
  7. The Catholic clergy — which in the 1950s expected the faithful to attend church, and they did — lowered their expectations in subsequent decades, yielding predictable results.

As we can see, learning without indoctrination from the earliest years creates more people with no organized religious affiliation. The Patheos offers much better explanation for such trend among Catholics:

All the child abuse scandals; the continued anti-LGBTQ, anti-women, anti-contraception views held by Church officials; understanding that you don’t have to attend Church to be a good person; a backlash against faith-based harm throughout the world; the realization that Catholic dogma is just absurd; constant pushback against irrational dogma by atheists; etc.

As for the Protestants, this situation has not changed much - the percentage of Protestants who reported attending church weekly from 2014 to 2017 (45%) has been fairly steady over the past decades.

Photo Credits: BB Direct

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