A look at statistics (from 2014) about the Catholic Church in the U.S. may give us cause to think we are “circling the drain.”
- In the past 25 years, there has been a net loss of 2,137 parishes in the U.S.
- In 1990 there were 19,620 U.S. Catholic churches: today there are 17,464.
- The New York archdiocese announced the consolidation of 112 parishes in October 2014, and was considering closing another 38 parishes.
- The Boston archdiocese has closed more than 125 parishes since 1990.
- In 2012 Boston consolidated the remaining 288 parishes into 135 “’parish collaboratives.”
- In the Chicago archdiocese, Catholics declined from 43 percent of the population in 1980 to 35 percent in 2015.
- Chicago had 1,000 fewer priests in 2014 that it had in 1980. In the last 20 years of Cardinal Francis George’s administration, everything was down:
- 2000 fewer nuns
- 21 fewer parishes
- 74 fewer Catholic elementary schools
- 11 fewer Catholic high schools
- 10,000 fewer baptisms,
- half as many weddings
- 33 percent fewer funerals each year
- In the U.S. Catholic priests are an endangered species. There are nearly 20,000 fewer priests in the U.S. than 25 years ago dropping from 52,124 to 38,275
- Today, there are 3,496 parishes with no resident pastor.
- Half the diocesan priests in the U.S. will retire before 2019 and many dioceses in the U.S. do not have sufficient funds to pay their pensions.
- Religious orders of brothers and sisters are disappearing even faster than diocesan priests. There are only about 50.000 U.S. nuns today, down from almost 180,000 in 1965.
- The only really bright spot in the vocations picture is the permanent deaconate. We have more than 17,000 permanent deacons, from about 900 in 1975. Maybe marriage helps.
- Sacramental participation is way down.
Today, only 24 percent of U.S. Catholics go to Mass on a typical Sunday. In 1970, it was closer to 50 percent.
In 2014, there were less than half as many Catholic weddings as in 1980:
more than 200,000 fewer infant baptisms than in 1980;
and 50,000 fewer funerals than in 1990.