2002-10-13 Roughly 50.2 percent of our nation’s population of 281.4 million have some religious affiliation
October 13, 2002
Roughly 50.2 percent of our nation’s population of 281.4 million have some religious affiliation. Catholics are the largest single group at 62 million, while the total of the numerous Protestant denominations is 66 million. In the last ten years Catholics have experienced an increase of 16.2 percent. This rate is exceeded only by a few small sects.
While the 66 million Protestants have 222,000 congregations, the 62 million Catholics have just 22,000 congregations. The Jews numbering 6 million have 3,727 congregations while the 4 million Mormons have 12,000 congregations. Clearly, the Catholic parishes are far larger and thus those who staff them, often no larger and even smaller than the minor congregations, have far greater responsibilities.
Catholics are the religious majority in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Moslems number 1.6 million, which is less than thought, although methods of counting adherents make it difficult to reach an accurate figure.
The Catholics population declined 14 percent in Rhode Island, the state with the most Catholics per capita, percent while it increased 45% in Arizona and a remarkable 111% in Nevada. There were static or declining Catholic numbers in the Midwest and Northeast, with most growth elsewhere. At the present rate, by the end of this century mainstream Protestant denominations including the Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians with respective declines of 9, 5, and 2 percent, will no longer exist as significant entities.
In New York City in the past ten years: Catholics increased from 3,492,670 to 3,617,061; Jews decreased from 1,314,000 to 1,233,900; Muslims had no statistics then and now number 176,814; Baptists decreased from 130,482 to 121,436; Episcopalians decreased from 87, 692 to 80, 964.
The greatest increases have been among religious groups that are traditional in practice, and the greatest decreases have been among the liberal denominations. This contradicts pundits who urge the Church to water down doctrine to be more “relevant.”
The Holy See recently reminded us, in the document “Dominus Iesus,” that only the Catholic Church herself, and the separated Orthodox bodies, can legitimately be recognized as “Churches.” Christian sects or denominations are “ecclesial entities” for whose reconciliation the Church prays. Our children and grandchildren will grow up in a society without the old “mainline” Protestant groups. Two non-Christian groups, the Muslims and Mormons, will take the place of all Protestant denominations excepting the more vigorous Evangelical churches.
Most important, almost exactly half of all Americans have no religious affiliation. Catholics must 1) renew their own practice of the Faith, 2) in charity summon to unity the non-Christians and lapsed Christians of the disappearing denominations, and 3) convert the fifty percent of our nation who seek God but have not found Him.
Fr. George W. Rutler