Friday, May 22, 2015

Patricia Miller's Takeaway re: Recent Pew Study Showing U.S. Catholic Church in "Demographic Free-Fall," with Notes about Recent Débacle re: LGBT Youth Conference in Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis

As I noted last week, the most recent Pew Research Center "Religious Landscape" report on the state of religious affiliation in the U.S. finds that, among Christian groups, the greatest loss of adherents in the period 2007-2015 has been in the Catholic community. Pew finds that nearly a third of American adults report having been raised Catholic, and of that group, 41% no longer identify as Catholic. 12.9% of American adults are former Catholics. As the Pew study notes, "No other religious group in the survey has such a lopsided ratio of losses to gains."

At Salon yesterday, Patricia Miller offers valuable commentary on these findings: as she notes, up to this most recent period studied by Pew, the U.S. Catholic church had been holding its own despite massive bleeding of adherents, as numbers of those exiting the church were roughly being made up by numbers of new immigrant Catholics. But now:  

But now it appears that the Catholic Church is in a demographic free-fall, as it sheds adherents faster than any faith other than the mainline Protestant denominations, which have been in decline for decades. Nearly one-third of all American adults were raised Catholic, but a stunning 41 percent—four in ten of those who marched to the alter in their little white First Communion dresses and suits—no longer identify with Catholicism. . . . 

Patti Miller adds: 

In fact, Catholic defection is the single greatest factor driving the much-heralded rise of the nones, who now account for just under 23 percent of the population. Almost one-third (28 percent) of nones are former Catholics, the single largest share of any religion. And in an irony that’s probably causing John Paul, the great promoter of orthodoxy as a bulwark against secularism, to turn in his grave, the share of nones in the country is now larger than the share of Catholics. 

All of which, she maintains, is not necessarily bad news for the rest of the nation: 

But what’s bad news for the church may be good news for the country. For years, the Catholic Church’s demographics—larger than any single Protestant denomination and located in key swing states in the Northeast and Ohio Valley—have given the U.S. Catholic bishops an outsize role in U.S. politics, which they use to espouse conservative positions diametrically opposed to those of the Catholic faithful. It was the Catholic bishops who single-handedly made coverage of abortion in the Affordable Care Act an issue that almost killed it and who ginned up the “religious liberty” meme to oppose both the contraception mandate and same-sex marriage—despite support of nearly two-thirds of Catholics on both issues.

As an aside that's not really an aside, it's interesting to read Patti Miller's analysis side by side with Jennifer Haselberger commenting recently on the refusal of the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis to permit a Catholic parish in the diocese to host a meeting of the LGBT + Catholic Youth Summit: Haselberger writes, 

Ironically, the same day that the Pew study became news it was announced that 'on orders from the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Christ the King Catholic Church [in Minneapolis] is no longer able to host the LGBTQ+ Catholic Youth Summit.' The first annual event, which is advertised as including a Catholic Mass, workshops on creating safe spaces in Catholic schools, discussions about the experience of being LGBT and Catholic, and tips on how to talk to people of faith about LGBT issues, will now be held at Edina Community Lutheran Church.

Archbishop John Nienstedt mandated the change [i.e., the refusal to allow a Catholic parish to host the event] because Kristen Ostendorf, fired from a Twin Cities Catholic high school in 2013 when she shared her orientation and relationship status with faculty members, was the keynote speaker.  Nienstedt claimed the youth attendees would be "confused about the truth of [church] teaching," reported The Column

And as Michael Bayly aptly concludes, this entire débacle "could appropriately be titled: How to ensure our youth join the documented exodus of Catholics from the church."

Michael's absolutely correct about that.

The graphic is from the Pew Research Center "Religious Landscape" report linked at the top of the posting.

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