Skip to comments.Church Attendance in the U.S.: Numbers and Challenges
Posted on 06/13/2014 1:40:51 PM PDT by NYer
Forty years ago, as the falloff in Sunday Mass attendance by American Catholics was becoming too obvious to ignore, Catholic voices began to be raised here and there saying it didn’t really matter. “You aren’t a good Catholic just because you go to church,” these people seemed to enjoy telling us. “What counts is what you do outside church.”
Two responses, which too seldom were offered at the time, were relevant to that. One was that evidence was lacking to show that most Catholics who skipped Mass had found other ways of expressing their presumed religious fervor. The other reply, arguably more to the point, was that the Second Vatican Council had only lately stressed the centrality of Sunday Eucharist in Catholic life, and staying away from Mass was hardly consistent with that.
And now, four decades later? A new study underlines the evident reality that the slippage in church attendance persists. It also offers the cold comfort of situating the decline in Mass attendance in the context of a decline in churchgoing by American Christians generally. The notable exceptions, it seems, are white evangelical Protestants, for whom the weekly attendance rate is around 60%. Hats off to them! For the rest, including Catholics, the numbers range from depressing to dismal.
The study, by a group called the Public Religion Research Institute, also compares what people say about their church attendance in live telephone interviews with what they say when they are answering questions in the impersonal medium of an online questionnaire. In brief, they are more likely to admit to not going to church in the latter situation than when actually speaking to somebody else.
Although the media made much of this finding, this particular disparity has always been recognized and often been reported, at least in general terms. In the present instance, its significance as it applies to the Catholic respondents can be seen in the fact that while 41% claimed to go to Mass weekly or more often when talking to an interviewer, that fell to 37% when the question was answered online. The same pattern existed for other Mass attendance categories: “occasionally”44% on the phone, 34% online; “seldom or never”15% telephone, 33% online (up a whopping 18%).
Attendance was, as noted, considerably higher among white evangelical Protestants (and among black Protestants too) and substantially lower among white mainline Protestants. Not surprisingly, attendance at church was lowest among the religiously unaffiliated, with “seldom or never” the response of 73% in phone interviews and 91% online.
If there is any consolation to be found here, it may actually reside in people’s tendency to overstate their church attendance when they are talking to someone else. Reflecting, as it obviously does, the universal human craving to look good in others’ eyes, this suggests that some people feel a residual sense of embarrassment verging on guilt about not going to church as often as they know they should.
Here perhaps is an opening here for getting at least some of these people back to regular attendance. It’s a simple argument: If you want X, you have to do Yfor instance, if you want to be a fan of the local ball team, you have to watch them play once in a while or at least you need to read about them in the sports page. Just so, if you want to be a friend of God, the minimal requirement is dropping in at church and saying hello on Sunday. That’s what friends do.
Benedict XVI: The days of culturally transmitted Catholicism, or what some might call Catholicism by osmosis, are over and done with.
Know your faith! Be prepared to defend it!
It stands to reason attendance should be higher at evangelical churches and lower at mainline Protestant churches: most evangelical churches didn’t exist 40 years ago, so anyone who attends them has chosen that church more recently. On the other hand, most of the members at mainline Protesant churches are simply those that haven’t bothered to switch churches because there religion isn’t terribly important to them. You really can’t compare attendance figures between churches; you can only look at their relative motion over time.
Mass has become feminized. The music is oriented towards ten-year-old girls. I still go but I offer it up for the souls in Purgatory.
Catholics are not alone in this. In my area of town a Presbyterian and a Methodist Church both recently closed their doors due to declining attendance.
Obama has single handedly made more people go to church by giving them good reason to in the past 6 years. People tend to look to the church when things aren’t looking good...
Just as a Doctor cannot keep current on medicine without reading medical journals and/or attending seminars regularly, a Christian cannot avoid getting corrupted by the sewer pipe of popular Libtard culture without regularly reading the scriptures and/or attending a church which affirms those values.
Church is my weekly inoculation against the world.
Oliver North once said he read two things every day, the Bible and the Washington Post. That way, he knew what both sides were thinking.
If any Catholic is ignorant of his faith that is no one’s fault but himself. It takes a special person to be a Catholic. Sissies need not apply.
Perhaps if the American bishops would stand for something of value that is disseminated through the parish priest to the congregation rather than the Socialist crap that they now push, then their attendance and donations would, without a doubt, increase.
Forgive me if I have already posted this information to you on a prior thread but, sometimes, it is necessary to jolt fellow catholics from a liturgical stupor. Like you, I struggled to attend Sunday mass; in my parish, it was liturgical abuses. Recognizing that the majority of pew catholics are ignorant of this, I took on the pastor, one abuse at a time, single handedly. First up was a liturgical dance. An invitation was extended to young catholics preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to perform a liturgical dance. After the "shock and awe" of the moment wore off, I wrote to the diocesan office for liturgy and worship to complain, citing a NCCB document banning liturgical dance in the US.
Not surprisingly, the diocesan response supported the pastor, citing a VCII document on multiculturalism. There was nothing "multicultural" about our lilly white parish. Undaunted, I wrote a 2nd letter, citing [Sacrosanctum Concilium "The faithful have a right to a true Liturgy, ..." I also copied Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect - Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican.
The liturgical dance never took place. Score one victory for us!
Next up was the absence of a crucifix on or near the altar, in compliance with the GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal). While still embroiled in that battle, I watched a EMHC drop a consecrated host on the sanctuary floor and not know how to respond. The pastor met her gaze then averted his eyes. She bent over, picked it up and redeposited it in her glass communion bowl. This was the last straw. I bent my head in prayer and asked our Lord to guide me to "a holy priest, a reverent liturgy and a community in need of whatever my God given abilities may be".
That same day, I compiled a list of Catholic parishes within a certain range of home, which included 2 Eastern Catholic Churches. Each week I attended mass at a different parish on that list. When I went to the Maronite Church, our Lord let me know in no uncertain terms that here is where I belonged. That was more than 10 years ago and I have never looked back. It has been a joy filled experience to celebrate mass each week in such a beautiful and reverent manner. And, true to my commitment, I have been called on to serve in multiple capacities. In the process, I discovered gifts and abilities that had never been used and were in much need.
You have two options. You can continue to attend mass at this parish and complain about it; or, you can commit this to prayer. Our Lord said: "Ask and it shall be given to you; knock and the door shall be opened to you".
Pax et Bonum
We were going to a parish for decades and things had improved greatly until we got a new pastor and things went very goofy. We tried other parishes and recently found one which is pretty darned good. The liturgy is reverent including 75% of the music, so my complaining is out of habit. I have plenty to be grateful for and need to quit my whining.
Funny thing is, we see a LOT of people there who also left Our Lady of Toon Town parish.
Check the new missalette. All the music in it is traditional music. No Haugen, Hurd, Schutte, etc.
I was so excited I sent a note to my Archbishop thanking him for this and asking that the music issue that will come out the first Sunday of Advent reflect the same.
We shall see.
I've been of the opinion that the Bishop gave us a church for our parish so he could get all the trouble-makers in one place. So be it.
LOL posting immigration reform polling numbers on a thread about declining Catholic attendance!
“Catholicism by osmosis;” can also be said as “Christianity by osmosis” for all Christians, be they Catholic or Protestant. We took our society, culture and religion for granted while there were those against all three working to undermine them. We much teach our Christianity and demonstrate it by how we live and by our actions.
At the end of the month, my parish pastor is planning to take a much needed for health reasons break or sabaithical. My parish is going to be gettin a new priest. Pray that he is a good and holy one that will lead my parish by example.
Look at the bottom of that graphic, please.
Church membership and attendance was the norm in the 1950’s. Now it is not.