Catholic Church in the United States

The Catholic Church in the United States is the ecclesiastical communities in full communion with the Holy See in Rome and the rest of the Catholic Church. With 23% of the United States population as of 2018, the Catholic Church is the country's second largest religious grouping, after Protestantism, and the country's largest single church or religious denomination when Protestantism is divided into separate denominations.[2] In a 2020 Gallup poll, 25% of Americans said they were Catholic.[3] In another study around this time, applying data from the Secular American Studies (using a survey tool of the researchers' own devising) in conjunction with the General Social Survey, three authors found that most Catholics registered in the study as either "Religionists" or "Secular Religionists," with 10% registering as "Secularists," "meaning that their religious identification is purely nominal."[4] The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world, after Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.[5]

Catholic Church in the United States
TypeNational polity
TheologyCatholic theology
GovernanceUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Latin Church)
PopePope Francis
USCCB PresidentJosé Horacio Gómez
Prerogative of PlaceWilliam E. Lori
Apostolic NuncioChristophe Pierre
RegionUnited States and other territories of the United States, excluding Puerto Rico.
LanguageEnglish, Spanish, French, Latin
FounderJohn Carroll
Baltimore, Maryland, Thirteen Colonies
Branched fromRoman Catholic Church in England and Wales
Members70,412,021 (2017)

In the colonial era, Spain and Mexico (Mexico, after 1821)[6] established missions (1769-1833) that had permanent results in New Mexico and California (Spanish missions in California). Likewise, France founded settlements with missions attached to them in the Mississippi River region, notably, St. Louis (1764) and New Orleans (1718). English Catholics, on the other hand, "harassed in England by the Protestant majority,"[7] settled in Maryland (1634) and founded the first state capitol, St. Mary's City, Maryland.[8][9] In 1789, the Archdiocese of Baltimore was the first diocese in the newly independent nation. John Carroll became the first American bishop. His brother Daniel Carroll was the leading Catholic among the Founding Fathers of the United States. George Washington in the army and as president set a standard for religious toleration. No religious test was allowed for holding national office, and colonial legal restrictions on Catholics holding office were gradually abolished by the States. However, in the mid-19th century there was political anti-Catholicism in the United States, sponsored by pietistic Protestants fearful of the pope. In the 20th century anti-Catholicism continued, especially when a Catholic was running for president as in 1928 and 1960. The number of Catholics grew rapidly in the mid to late 19th century and 20th century through high fertility and immigration, especially from Ireland and Germany,[10] and after 1880, Eastern Europe and Italy. Large scale Catholic immigration from Mexico began after 1910 and in 2019 Latinos comprise 37 percent of American Catholics. Parishes set up parochial schools, and hundreds of colleges and universities were established by Catholic religious orders, notably by the Jesuits, who founded 28 such schools of higher education. Nuns were very active in teaching and hospital work. Since 1960, the percentage of Americans who are Catholic has fallen slowly from about 25% to 22%.[11] In absolute numbers, Catholics have increased from 45 million to 72 million. As of April 9, 2018, 39% of American Catholics attend church weekly, compared to 45% of American Protestants.[12]

About 10% of the United States' population as of 2010 are former Catholics or non-practicing, almost 30 million people.[13] People have left for a number of reasons, factors which have also affected other denominations: loss of belief, disenchantment, disaffiliation for another religious group or for none, indifference. Compared with other religious groups, Catholics are fairly evenly dispersed throughout the country, though Catholics are generally more concentrated in the Northeast and urban Midwest. However, the continuing growth of the American Hispanics community as a share of the U.S. population is gradually shifting the geographic center of U.S. Catholicism from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and the West.[14] Regional distribution of U.S. Catholics (as a percentage of the total U.S. Catholic population) is as follows: Northeast, 24%; Midwest, 19%; South, 32% (a percentage that has increased in recent years due to a growing number of Catholics mainly in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, with the rest of the Southern states remaining overwhelmingly Protestant); and West, 25%.[15] Owing to their numbers, more Catholics (13.3 million) reside in households with a yearly income of $100,000 or more than any other religious group.[16]

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