US Roman Catholics
Perhaps more American Catholic than Roman Catholic
So what are the current facts about Roman Catholics in the United States of America?
How many American Catholics these days?
American Catholics now make up about 23% of the US population. (The USCCB’s Kennedy Directory says we now make up 22%). Although we remain the largest single denomination, our numbers are decreasing. There is a very significant drop in Catholic membership throughout New England.
18% of American Catholics are in the 18 to 29 age group, 41% in the 30 to 49 age group, 24 % the 50 to 64 group and 16% are 65+.
Weekly church attendance:
33% of us attend church at least once a week. The US national average for weekly religious service attendance is now 24%. The only religious group with a higher weekly attendance rate is the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints: 44%.
Racial and ethnic composition:
American Catholics are: 65% white, 2% black, 2% Asian and 29% Hispanic
Literal Interpretation of Scripture among Catholics
American Catholics are not biblical fundamentalists. While 23% say the Bible contains the Word of God and is literally true word for word, 39% say the Bible offers the Word of God, but is not literally true word for word; and 27% of say the Bible is simply a religious book and is not the Word of God.
Interpretation of Religious Teachings Among Catholics
American Catholics are not rigidly doctrinaire. Some see this as a sign of US secularization. Others see it is a sign of religious maturity. In any event, 77% of American Catholics agree that there is more than one true way to interpret official Catholic Church teachings, and 79% believe that many religions can lead to eternal life
When we look at American Catholics and ethical issues, we see quite a mix.
Despite the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to abortion, a slim majority (51%) of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 44% oppose abortion in most or all cases. This breakdown is nearly identical to the views of the public as a whole. However, white Catholics who attend church at least once a week (60%) and Latino Catholics (53%) are more likely than Catholics as a whole to oppose legalized abortion in most or all circumstances.
Catholics are slightly more supportive of gay marriage than is the public as a whole and when asked about homosexuality, 58% said homosexuality should be accepted by society. When it comes to the use of torture against suspected terrorists, however, 25% of the US population says it can never be justified and 20% of Roman Catholics. On the issue of the death penalty, a majority of Catholics express views that are in tension with the Catholic Church’s teachings against capital punishment. In the August 2007 Pew survey, six-in-ten Catholics expressed support for the death penalty, while only about one-third (35%) opposed it
Political party engagement
Some US bishops will not like this, but 33% of US Catholics are Democrats with another 16% leaning that way. And 23% are Republican with another 10% leaning that way. 10% are independents.
One thought on “Who are American Catholics today and what do they think and believe?”
i find the stats interesting and quite consistent with my own experience as a retired Catholic pastor. I consider myself a centrist with leanings toward the left. However, as a pastor, I insisted that there be room at our table for ‘everyone’ regardless of gender, transgender, political affiliation, age, etc. I have had my fill of clericalism to last a lifetime and view this as a primary issue facing the Catholic Church. However, I grew up in a family in which major decisions about life — including our faith life — were made at our family table rather than by the pope or the pastor or the nuns at school — speaking of which, my life in Catholic elementary school (1944-50) was a disaster and am still facing issues that have haunted me for years. I have forgive those poor elderly nuns because they themselves were victims a an inbred, dysfunctional system that pretty much destroyed their humanity.
I remain a priest/pastor ‘at large’ in because I believe in our tradition and I am committed to helping the thousands who still want to be Catholic but without the shackles that have bound them for years. True religion should be a liberating experience.