Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


CARA Research on "State of the U.S. Church"

Update 3/13: With the election of Pope Francis here is CARA's spotlight on the Church in Argentina.

With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, CARA's phones were busy Monday. A lot of reporters were writing the same overview stories about the Church in the United States and had very similar questions. Part of CARA's mission is to help them and others find data that can answer these questions. This post, an idea from CARA researcher Melissa Cidade, serves as an index of sorts for CARA's recent research profiled on this blog which speaks to many of the questions we receive (...another great place for answers is CARA's Frequently Requested Statistics page):

Catholic Population Changes

The Catholic Church is growing, affiliation has been stable for decades, and the Catholic population is becoming more diverse. However, since the recession, growth in the Hispanic/Latino(a) Catholic population percentage has stalled. Another worrisome sign is a decline in Catholics entering the Church as measured by infant baptisms.

A Micro-scoping View of U.S. Catholic Populations
Pies, damned pies, and statistics: Is the Catholic population growing?
The Future of Religious Affiliation in America
The Reverts: Catholics who left and came back

Mystery of the "Missing" Catholic Infants
Were U.S. Catholics Raptured? ... Again?
Coming Home?

A Portrait of Black Catholics in the United States
Update 2/28: The Latino Catholic Majority?

Mass Attendance

Although Mass attendance fluctuates by region, nationally it has remained stable since 2000 when CARA began tracking this in random-sample surveys of the adult Catholic population. Mass attendance increases with age and we see this rising over time, even among young adult Catholics as they enter their 30s and 40s (i.e., life-cycle effects).

Sunday Morning: Deconstructing Catholic Mass attendance in the 1950s and now
We Know What You Did Last Sunday (…We read your diary)
Reigniting Sacramental Activity: There may be a devil in the details
“C and E” Catholics Decoded
Is there any Catholic Left in “Lapsed" Catholics?
The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future
The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance

Priestly ordinations have been rising slightly in recent years. However, these remain behind the pace needed to replace aging priests. Although significant numbers of Catholics express interest in priestly or religious vocations there are many hurdles for them to overcome to live out this calling including discouragement from family and friends and issues related to education loans.

Millions of Never-Married Catholics Have Considered Vocations
Author Meets (Online) Critics: CARA Vocations Study 
Spotlight on Vocations: Interested but Discouraged
Data in Context: New Ordinations and Seminarians
Student Loans: A Drag on Vocations

Parish Life

After a decade of closures and consolidations parishes are serving ever larger communities. More and more Catholics are choosing the parish they prefer rather than attending their territorial parish. A growing number of lay ecclessial ministers are serving in these parishes.

Perspectives from Parish Leaders: U.S. Parish Life and Ministry
Parish Drive By

Twenty Years of Change and Stability: Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the U.S. Church
Who Will Be Behind (Parish) Door Number One?
The Supersizing of U.S. Catholic Parishes

How the Church Works
Far too many seem to believe in a "Dan Brown Novel" version of how the Catholic Church works. The Church is not a multinational corporation and is not the rigid hierarchical structure many assume. The reality is that it operates as a much more decentralized institution with considerable local autonomy. At the same time these institutions still tilt internationally a bit more towards Europe and North America (e.g., numbers of voting-eligible cardinals), even as the Catholic population has become much more globalized.

Spot the difference...
The College: Re-growth in Numbers but Not Necessarily in Geographic Diversity
Which is more difficult, closing a parish or establishing a new one?
Update 2/28: All bets are off...

Update 3/08: When in Rome

Catholics and the “Nones”

Many young American Nones (i.e., those without a religious affiliation) are former Catholics (...some of whom are likely to rejoin the Church later in life). Most Nones are not atheists! There has been no measurable growth in the U.S. atheist population percentage in recent decades (self-identified, beyond margin of error). More so parents trying to raise atheists kids are much more likely to "lose" them to a religion than parents of Catholic kids are to "lose" them to "Noneness.

The Schisms of the Religiously Unaffiliated
Secularization, R.I.P.?
The New “Catholic Vote”: The Quiet Rise of the None/Others

...Of course some journalists will be simply captivated by the "Next Pope" question. I think John L. Allen, Jr. said it best in noting that "The trash heaps of history...are littered with supposed experts who tried to predict the next Pope." Conclaves are inherently unpredictable. I think the closest thing the Church may have to a Nate Silver-like figure is  Rocco Palmo (...using a bit different of a methodology for a different topic). But to duplicate Silver's work one would need surveys of voting-eligible cardinals (good luck!). This is something the world will just need to wait for...

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