Report: Church Membership Among Catholics Declined Nearly 20% Since 2000

The report, based off a Gallup poll of more than 6,100 U.S. adults from 2018-2020, was published on Monday.

A family prays in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on June 28, 2020.
A family prays in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on June 28, 2020. (photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — The percentage of Catholics who say they are a “member” of a church has dropped by nearly 20 points since the year 2000, according to a new report by Gallup released on Monday.

Among respondents who said they were Catholic, only 58% actually said they were a member of a church. This figure is down 18 points from the 76% of Catholics who said they were a member of the Church, in a previous Gallup survey from 1998-2000.

In the past decade, Catholics saw a twice-as-steep decline in members than did Protestants, which saw a 9% decline in professed members of churches from 73% to 64%.

The report, based off a Gallup poll of more than 6,100 U.S. adults from 2018-2020, was published on Monday. Gallup says it asks Americans about their “religious attitudes and practices” twice per year.

In canon law, a baptized Catholic’s membership at a parish is conferred by territorial residence and not strictly by registration. 

According to the report released on Monday, overall membership in houses of worship has continued its pre-existing decline in the U.S., reaching a record-low point of 47% in the survey conducted from 2018-2020. The figure is the lowest since Gallup began its survey in 1937, when 73% of Americans identified with a church or house of worship.

“The U.S. remains a religious nation, with more than seven in 10 affiliating with some type of organized religion,” Gallup stated. “However, far fewer, now less than half, have a formal membership with a specific house of worship.” While this could be due in part to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the report said, “continued decline in future decades seems inevitable.”

The report follows pre-existing trends of a rise in the “nones,” Americans who do not identify with any religion in particular, as well as decades-long declines in weekly church attendance.

Membership has declined with each successive generation. While 66% of “traditionalists” born before 1946 and 58% of baby boomers say they are members of a church, only 36% of millennials say they are a member of a church.  Nearly one-third (31%) of millennials say they do not belong to any religion in particular.

This decline in membership was even more pronounced among Hispanic Americans, among whom only 37% say they are a member of a church.

Church membership also declined more steeply among Democrats and residents of the Eastern U.S. than among political Republicans and Independents, and residents of other U.S. regions.

a young parishioner prays inside St. Thomas Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Church Membership Falls Below 50% (April 17)

America’s political divide grew a little wider this week with the announcement by leading Democrats in the House and Senate that they were introducing a bill to pack the Supreme Court by adding four more Justices. This week on Register Radio we talk to Register legal analyst Andrea Picciotti-Bayer about the implications for the high court and American culture. And then, church membership in the U.S. fell below 50% for the first time ever. What are the factors in play, and what does it mean for the Church going forward? We are joined by Register writer Jonathan Liedl.

Nicaraguan police place Bishop Rolando José Álvarez under house arrest Aug. 4 at the diocesan chancery in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua Needs More

EDITORIAL: Although the Vatican has offered a muted response, Pope Francis must do more to condemn human-rights abuses in Nicaragua before the Ortega regime exploits papal silence to justify its immoral actions.