Catholic Church Grows While Other Denominations Shrink

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Two reports issued late last week show impressive growth in the Catholic Church both in the U.S. and worldwide with denominations preaching a liberal message showing the most significant declines.

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) is reporting that the 2010 “Annuario Pontifico,” known as the Pontifical Yearbook, was presented to the Pope on Saturday morning by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Fernando Filoni. The report details the administrative actions of the Pope in 2009 as well as Church statistics through 2008.

Some of the more interesting statistics include:

? Nineteen million new Catholics were added to the Church from 2007 to 2008, bringing the worldwide total to 1.166 or 17.4 percent of the world’s population.

? The total number of bishops around the world increased by 1.13 percent.

? The number of priests rose from 405,178 in 2000 to 409, 166 in 2008.

? Forty-seven percent of all priests serve in Europe, 30 percent in America, 13.2 percent in Asia, 8.7 percent in Africa an 1.2 percent in Oceania.

? The number of consecrated religious decreased from 801,185 in the year 2000 to 739,067 in 2008, with Europe registering the biggest drop (17.6%) followed by Oceania (14.9%) and America (12.9%). These numbers rose by double digits in Africa and Asia.

? There was also an increase in the number of seminarians in the Church. In 2007, there were 115,919 studying for the priesthood. In 2008, that number jumped to 117,024. The increases were in Africa, Asia and Oceania, with Europe’s numbers decreasing by 4.3 percent and America’s numbers remaining the same. 

? The number of nuns decreased by nearly 8 percent in the same time period, with the steepest decline seen in Europe (-17.6%) and the Americas (-12.9%).

Another report, issued by the National Council of Churches shows that while the Catholic Church in the U.S. grew by 1.5 percent in 2008 to 68.1 million Catholics, the more liberal Protestant denominations are continuing to decline.

For instance, the Presbyterian Church in the USA shrank 3.3 percent and now has about 2.9 million members. American Baptist Churches in the USA decreased two percent to 1.4 million, while the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lost 1.9 percent of its membership, which now stands at 4.7 million.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest denomination after Catholics, lost 0.24 percent of its membership and now stands at 16.2 million. It also declined in membership in the year prior.

In spite of the increasing secularization of American society, denominations that have chosen not to compromise their message seem to be the ones making all the gains. Aside from what is being described as “robust growth” in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) grew by 1.7 percent to almost 5.9 million members and the Assembles of God grew by 1.3 percent to about 2.9 million.

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