Church Membership Trends Downward

A brief report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., offers some statistics worth worrying over. For only the second time period since 1947, the annual number of people entering the church has dropped below one million. The Great Recession appears to have had a significant effect on U.S. fertility, and infant baptisms have tracked that overall decline. And now hastening the descent below one million has been a still unexplained collapse of “non-infant entries” (teens and adults) into the church that began in 2001. A CARA researcher noted that “something happened” the following year, beginning the decline. That something may not have been the crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, because numbers of non-infant entries actually went up briefly during the height of that trauma in 2002 and 2004. But the decline has been just about constant since then.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A youth takes the Eucharist from Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez during a Mass giving thanks for Pope Francis' announcement that Chavez will be elevated to the rank of cardinal, at San Francisco de Asis parish church in San Salvador, El Salvador on Monday, May 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
Rosa Chavez has a reputation as a man of the people, warm and quick to smile.
Fan leaves the Park Inn hotel in central Manchester, England, on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Over a dozen people were killed in an explosion following a Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena late Monday evening. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Pope Francis sent his condolences and prayers to all those affected "by this senseless act of violence" in Manchester, England.
In this photo taken May 19, 2017, a GPO worker stacks copies of "Analytical Perspectives Budget of the U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2018" onto a pallet at the U.S. Government Publishing Office's (GPO) plant in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The budget’s moral measure will be assessed by “how well it promotes the common good of all,” the bishops write.
Kevin ClarkeMay 22, 2017
A veteran activist provides a blueprint for creating a movement in the moment of Trump.
Nathan SchneiderMay 22, 2017