Report commissioned by bishops finds diversity abounds in U.S. church

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

BALTIMORE (CNS) — The Catholic Church is one of the most
culturally diverse institutions in the United States and Catholic institutions
and ministries need to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said a report
presented to the country’s bishops Nov. 15.

The report, by the Center for Applied Research in the
Apostolate at Georgetown University, was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church in 2013 to help
identify the size and distribution of ethnic communities in the country.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, chairman of
the committee, called the study “groundbreaking” because he said it combined,
for the first time all available data from Catholic and non-Catholic sources and mapped
the multicultural and ethnic diversity of the church nationwide.

Of the world’s estimated 1.3 billion Catholics, the study
found, less than 6 percent live in the United States.

Of the U.S. Catholic population: 42,512,591, are white (non-Hispanic); 29,731,302 are Hispanic or Latino; 2,905,935 are Asian, Native Hawaiian; 2,091,925 are black, African-American, African,
Afro-Caribbean; and 536,601 are American Indian or Alaskan Native.

“The Catholic Church in the United States has always been a
very diverse entity, but it is the first time that all available data was
brought together to map this diversity nationwide in remarkable detail,” said
Archbishop Garcia-Siller. “It is also the first time that parish life was
looked at from the point of view of the experience of diversity. Multicultural
parishes are a growing phenomenon in the United States. This is what makes this
study so fascinating and groundbreaking.”

To arrive at the numbers, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, it identified 6,332
parishes with “particular racial, ethnic, cultural and or linguistic” communities,
about 36 percent of U.S. parishes. In
2014, CARA says it began conducting “in-pew surveys” at those parishes and by
May 2016, surveys had been completed at most of those parishes

Of those who responded to the survey, the median age was 52 and
considerably higher, 62, for non-Hispanic white Catholics. Latino Catholics
conversely had a median age of 39.

Another distinction in the report: Catholics born before and
after the Second Vatican Council.

The report said three-quarters of those U.S. Catholics born
before the Vatican II are non-Hispanic white Catholics. And more than half, 54 percent, of what it calls
the millennial-generation Catholics (born 1982 or later) are Hispanic or Latino.

“The thought and behavior of today’s millennial Catholics will
likely have a profound effect on the future of the church in the United
States,” said CARA in a statement., given that millennials are “removed from
pre-Vatican II Catholicism.”

Many of those have Catholics parents with “little or no
experience with the traditional Catholic practices and catechesis,” the CARA statement
said, adding that this doesn’t mean they are “anti-religious” yet.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller asked the bishops to look at the
data, see how it speaks to their regions, and said it could help dioceses plan,
set priorities and allocate resources.

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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