Skip to comments.Immigration: A cause of growth of the American Catholic Church?
Posted on 04/03/2006 11:45:46 PM PDT by dangus
Further church membership notes, relating to ethnicity:
Consider two facts: First, the Catholic Church in America is growing. Second, the Hispanic population in America is exploding. Cardinal Mahony and radio talk-show host Mike Savage both seem to think the second fact is the explanation for the first. They have polar-opposite feelings about this fact, and they both show high contempt for each others feelings. (Not that Cardinal Mahony singled out Mike Savage by name.) But are the two related?
The Census Bureaus 1990 data report 22.3 million Hispanics. By 2003, that number increased to 39.9 million. Various studies have found that between 50 percent and 90 percent of Hispanics identify themselves as Catholics. A Georgetown study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate proposed that some the wild variations are due to language issues in the survey, and the extreme difficulty in establishing how many Hispanics live in America when various reports claim between 9 million and 18 million illegal aliens, mostly Hispanic, live in America. The seemingly precise data from the Census Bureau is an artifice of statistical modeling, so the data are only as good as the model.
The Georgetown study concludes that about 70 percent of Hispanics identify themselves as Catholic... but later finds that only 52% of self-identifying Hispanic Catholics are registered with their dioceses or parishes, and they are those registrations which the Catholic Church uses to compute its membership. So while the study trumpeted the huge numbers of Hispanic Catholics, the study found that only about 35% of Hispanics can be counted as Catholic.
Many Americans are of the false impression that Catholicism is virtually the state religion in Mexico. It is not. In fact, Mexico has harshly persecuted the Church, murdering priests and nuns and creating thousands of martyrs. Although President Vicente Fox has improved relations with Catholicism gradually, the Catholic church in Mexico is in much the same state that the Russian Orthodox church was under Soviet rule. But since prosetylization was suppressed, and charity could be called prosetylization, and the Catholic Church in Mexico provided much-need charitable assistance, the poor were better off if they could claim they already were Catholic.
But the contentious claims of being Catholic really need nothing so complex. In Mexico, Catholicism was, for a long time, virtually the only church. Thus, indicating oneself is not Catholic is practically akin to professing oneself not Christian. This isnt so odd. After all, in America, the number of people belonging to a denomination other than Catholicism is much less that half the number of people who claim to be Christian, but not Catholic.
Because of these unique factors, certain other groups of Hispanics are much more likely to belong to a Catholic church than Mexicans, so among some groups, it is likely that over 35% are likely to be Catholics, while for Mexicans it is less. Nonetheless, the data shows that the recent influx of illegal aliens is doing quite little to inflate the number of registered Catholics in America:
35% of the 39.9 million (the number of Hispanics the Census Bureau claims lived in America) is about 14 million. 35% of the 22.3 million is about 8 million. So only about 6 million of the 68 million Catholics in America are accounted for because of the growth of the Hispanic population. Given that the population of the United States has grown by 40 million in that same period of time, thats not so much. In fact, registered Catholics make up nearly 1/4th of all Americans, one would expect that population growth would actually account for more of the growth of the Catholic Church, even if Hispanics had identical church-membership demographics as the nation as a whole.
Now there are some factors that can skew the data: Hispanics who have been in America for longer periods of time, or who were born in America are less likely to report their church membership as Catholic. On the other hand, they are far more likely, if they are Catholic, to be registered with a parish or diocese. Theres no solid information to determine which of these factors is greater. But it seems unlikely that if only 35% of Hispanics in America today are Catholic, that a significantly smaller portion in 1990 were Catholic. One safe presumption would be that of new Hispanic immigrants, those who are illegal would be much less likely to register with anyone.
One other ethnic note, this concerning black Christians:
Several accounts of the National Council of Churches membership data specify that mainline, mostly white denominations were declining, or that non-mainline Protestant denominations, including mostly black denominations were growing quickly. In truth, of the nine predominantly-black churches among the 25 largest churches (which were what the report covered), most did not provide new membership data. The only one which did showed a decline in membership. And many of the churches have, in recent years, drastically trimmed their membership figures. Whether this is due to curtailing exaggerations or actual membership declines would require more research, but it seems that claims of growth within mostly-black churches come from some mysterious origin besides the NCCs press release.
This was intended for the Religion topic. It is the third (and probably final) in a series of articles about Religious demographics.
I'm guessing that if any immigration reforms are challenged at the SC level, they'll side with the illegals? Just a thought.
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