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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


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

Xavier High School students fill West 16th Street during the National School Walkout Day. (Credit: Shawna Gallagher Vega/Xavier High School)
Our student body generated dialogue around a topic that we did not all agree on.
Devin OnMarch 23, 2018
Protesters gather near the Manchester Central Fire Station in Manchester, N.H., Monday, March 19, 2018, where President Donald Trump madee an unscheduled visit. Trump is in New Hampshire to unveil more of his plan to combat the nation's opioid crisis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
To suggest the use of the death penalty as a way to address the opioid epidemic ignores what we know already to be true: The death penalty is a flawed and broken tool in the practical pursuit of justice.
Karen CliftonMarch 23, 2018
(Images: Wikimedia Commons, iStock/Composite: America)
An angel whispered in my ear: “Fred, ‘Be not afraid.’”
Fred DaleyMarch 23, 2018
(photo: Music Box Films)
“Back to Burgundy” is about family tensions boiled up by both the financial and artistic challenges of the wine business.