Written by Sherry
Thursday, 26 February 2009 15:19
Don't shoot the messenger, folks.
But I see that word is spreading around the internet that the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, "long a highly regarded chronicler of growth and financial trends of religious institutions, records a slight but startling decline in membership of the nation's largest Christian communions. Membership in the Roman Catholic Church declined 0.59 percent and the Southern Baptist Convention declined 0.24 percent, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook, edited by the National Council of Churches and published by Abingdon. The figures indicate that the Catholic church lost 398,000 members since the appearance of the 2008 Yearbook."
This would fit CARA's figures which indicate a 700,000 drop in US Catholics between 2005 and 2008.
The Pew study last year underlined that it was large scale Catholic immigration that kept the Catholic population growing in this country. It would be interesting to know if one factor may be the significant drop in illegal immigrants entering the country since 2005 since the majority come from overwhelming Catholic countries.
According to the Pew Center (as reported by CNN) from 2000 to early 2005, the unauthorized immigrant population grew by an annual net average of about 525,000. The growth pattern started changing substantially in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, annual growth has averaged 275,000 undocumented immigrants."
Another factor might be the change of generations as the pre-Vatican II generation (who were much more religiously committed) die off and the millennials (the majority of whom are unchurched) rise up.
And how is this related to the fact that in 2006, the number of adults entering or being baptized into the Church dropped significantly for the first time in years to 136,778? (To compare: in 2005 154,501 adults entered the Church. A drop of 17,723 or 11.5% An aberration or something more?)
What is really startling is to see the difference in adult baptisms between 2005 and 2006. 80,817 were baptized in 2005 but only 49,415 in 2006 - a 31,402 drop or 39% drop in catechumens. (I can't find the 2007 figures. Can anyone else provide them or have they not been released?)
And then there is the Pew findings that 14-15 million Catholics have left for Protestantism or nothing much. And their children. And their children's children.
Fewer adults entering or being baptized. (And therefore, fewer children being raised Catholic) Fewer Catholic immigrants. Fewer cradle Catholics as the generations turn. The long term consequences of the fact that 1 in 10 Americans are former Catholics.
It begins to add up.
If we don't evangelize our own . . .
On a bright note, several of the dioceses we are working with are going to partner with the Catholics Come Home initiative: Corpus Christi this Lent. Omaha this coming fall.
But notice: we are having to make a real effort to go out to those who have left and articulate the basics of the faith, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Not just expect them to show up.