We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
- How many Catholics are there in the world? Or in the USA? Or your town and state? Think about that for a moment.
- If one looks to the U.S. Census population figures just released for 2010, the answer is there are no Catholics in the USA. But the census population figures also show no Protestants, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus, Buddhists, or Unitarian Universalists. That’s because the Census Bureau is prohibited by law from asking mandatory questions about religious beliefs. The prohibition has not always existed and at various times throughout U.S. history, federal census takers have asked questions about religious belief. The practice was always controversial, as anyone familiar with either the American Constitution or Americans’ general personal constitutions might well imagine.
- In other countries, however, governments do collect official statistics on religious belief and church membership. Again, however, in many countries, such inquiries are also highly controversial.Just how do we know that there are 1.188 billion Catholics around the world? This is the “official” figure given by the Vatican’s Central Statistics Office in the Annuario Pontifico 2010 [Pontifical Yearbook 2010].
- This figure is derived from government statistics where permitted, private research, and of course, the Church’s own census taking, starting at the parish level. There are “independent” Catholic institutions engaged in demographic research such as Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Other authoritative sources are The Official Catholic Directory, published by National Register Publishing Co., the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and independent researcher David M. Cheney, who runs the website Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
- One source of independent research on religious affiliations is, strangely enough, The CIA World Factbook, published by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The 2011 edition of the Factbook covers 165 countries and includes statistics about religious affiliations in each country. The CIA data is consistent with other, nongovernmental research on religious institutions and affiliations.The worldwide Catholic population of 1.182 billion persons constitutes more than 17% of the world’s total population, making Catholicism the largest religious denomination in the world.The total U.S. Catholic population is reportedly between 65,400,000 and 77,800,000 persons. The lower figure is the “official” number; the higher 77.8 million number is based on self-identity survey data. In any event, researchers generally regard Catholics as making up about 24% (+/-1%) of the total U.S. Population and about 30% of all American Christians. The next largest religious group in the U.S. Is the Southern Baptist Convention with about 16.6 million members, about one-third the number of Catholics.
The “most” Catholic states in the U.S. are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, each with about 42% Catholic populations. California, Illinois, and Nebraska follow with 31% each.
The “least” Catholic state is Arkansas with a mere 5% Catholic population.
Of the nearly one-quarter of Americans who are Catholic, only a quarter of them (5%) are African-American. As for Hispanics, CARA recently reported that, “The proportion of Hispanics who are Catholic and Protestant remains unclear, partly because of varying survey methodologies and limited understanding of how that variation affects estimates of Hispanic religious identification.”
The CARA paper further states “Estimates of the proportion of Hispanics or Latinos in the United States who identify as Catholic vary considerably, from slightly over half to 90 percent [citing a 2000 Department of Health and Human Services report]. No clear consensus has emerged among scholars, and debate persists among church leaders and activists.
Methodologies and data from eleven different papers are then examined. The CARA researchers finally state “We conclude that 70 percent or slightly more is a reasonable estimate of the proportion of adult Hispanics who are Catholic, and 20 percent a reasonable estimate of the proportion Protestant or other Christian.”
How Many Hispanics are Catholic? A Review of Survey Data and Methodology, (P. Perl, J.Z. Greely, and M. M. Gray, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University, 2006).
A Catholic Gene Puzzler
1. In which of the following jurisdictions would one most likely encounter a Catholic?
B. Great Britain
C. East Timor
D. Arkansas USA
2. Which of the following countries has a Catholic population larger than the total populations of Los Angeles and Chicago combined?
3. Name four of the five “most” (greatest %) Catholic countries in the world.
4. In the Nicene Creed, Catholics profess to “believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” As a point of canon law, however, the Catholic Church consists of ______(number) of sui iuris churches in the Catholic communion.”
Put your answers in the comments. Correct answers will be posted Wednesday, October 5, 2011, in the comments.