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.

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