Churches Ever Emptier. Two Shocking Surveys in the United States and Italy
In Japan, where Pope Francis will land tomorrow, those baptized into the Catholic Church are just 0.4 percent of the population. Without any sign of numerical growth.
But also in two Western countries with a solid Catholic presence the statistics are heading decisively lower. These two countries are the United States and Italy.
IN THE UNITED STATES
In the United States there is a noteworthy survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, to which on November 13 “L’Osservatore Romano” also dedicated an article:
On the whole, Christians of all confessions have dropped from 78 percent of the population in 2007 to 65 percent in 2019, while during the same years those who identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or without religion – the “nones” – have increased from 16 percent to 26 percent.
Separating the Christians into Protestants and Catholics, the former have dropped over the past twelve years from 51 to 43 percent, and the Catholics from 24 to 20 percent.
Christians who said they had gone to church for Mass or another ceremony at least once a month fell from 54 percent to 45 percent. While those who said they had done so a few times a year or never, apart from marriages or funerals, grew from 45 to 54 percent.
This drop in religious practice almost across the board involves both men and women, whether white or black or Hispanic, college graduates and the less educated. What marks a strong difference are above all age and political proclivity. The “millennials,” meaning those born in the 1980s and early 90s, together with those who vote for the Democratic Party are the Americans who show the strongest drop in religious practice and the most decisive growth of the “nones.”
Among the “millennials” today Christians are 49 percent and the “nones” 40 percent. Those who go to church at least once a month are 35 percent and never or almost never 42 percent.
Among American citizens of Hispanic origin, ten years ago Catholics were the majority, 57 percent. Today they are less than half, 47 percent, with the “nones” rising in the meantime to 23 percent.
The area in which the drop in Catholics is most pronounced is the Northeast, where over the past ten years they have fallen from 36 to 27 percent of the population. Almost unchanging, instead, is their slight presence in the South, where they were 17 percent ten years ago and are 16 percent today. In the South, however, there has been a more marked drop among the Protestants, who have fallen in ten years from 64 to 53 percent of the population.
Among the Protestants, the only index on the rise is that of the “born again” and “Evangelicals,” who went from 56 to 59 percent of the total over the last ten years.
While among Democratic Party voters the most glaring change is the growth of the “nones,” who jumped over the past ten years from 20 to 34 percent.
In Italy as well, Catholics are on the decline. This is proven by the most recent of the periodic investigations of the IPSOS, the president of which, Nando Pagnoncelli, reported on them in the latest issue of “Vita e Pensiero,” the magazine of the Catholic University of Milan.
Compared with ten years ago, the committed Catholics, who attend religious functions at least weekly and are involved in volunteer work, have fallen by 2 points and are today 9 percent of the population.
The observant Catholics, who attend religious functions at least weekly but do not do volunteer work, have fallen from 21 to 14 percent.
The lukewarm Catholics, who attend religious functions occasionally, have fallen from 39 to 34 percent.
Non-practicing Catholics are holding steady, around 12 percent.
While those who identify themselves as non-believers have almost doubled, from 14 to 27 percent of Italians, with the biggest spikes among young people – 46 percent between the ages of 18 and 24, and 39 percent between the ages of 25 and 34 – and among the most dynamic and educated classes, especially in the North.
In the European elections of the spring of 2019, Lega Nord was the party most voted for by practicing Catholics, both observant, with 32.7 percent of the votes, and lukewarm, with 38.4 percent.
After this comes the Partito democratico, with 26.9 percent of the votes among the observant and 20 percent among the lukewarm, and the Movimento 5 Stelle, with 14.3 percent among the observant and 18.9 percent among non-believers.
If one adds together the votes given to Lega Nord, to Forza Italia, and to Fratelli d’Italia, among Catholics the center-right is decisively in the lead, with 48.2 percent among the observant and 55.9 percent among the lukewarm.
The elevated appreciation expressed by Catholics for the leader of Lega Nord, Matteo Salvini, turns out to be predominantly connected to the issues of migrants and security. Pagnoncelli writes:
“As much as the Church and the pope have explicitly and fervently spoken out for a policy of welcome, albeit ‘tempered,’ among the more observant Catholics as well there prevails an attitude of endorsement of more restrictive policies. At the times of the strict closure of ports practiced by Salvini, a relative majority of committed Catholics, 44 percent, espoused the strict stance of blocking all disembarkation, a consensus that arrived at an absolute majority among observant Catholics, with 51 percent.”
It must be noted that the migratory phenomenon is influenced by a largely distorted perception. It should be enough to consider that on average Italians maintain that foreigners represent 30 percent of the resident population, against the 10 percent in reality, and that Muslims are 20 percent of residents, against the actual 4 percent.
In any case, the refusal of new arrivals is accompanied by serene and civil relations with foreigners already present in Italy. “This basic ambivalence,” Pagnoncelli comments, “is represented well by the moms of a parish in northern Italy who typically spend Sunday afternoon sewing clothes for the children of disadvantaged foreign families, but say they are in favor of the tough stance and of the closing of the ports, and speak out enthusiastically about Salvini. Or by the Lega Nord activist who went to great lengths to find a nightgown and a robe for a Nigerian woman who was alone and about to give birth.”
So in Italy, between the Church, the pope, and Catholics opinions are not aligned, even in the most practicing segments. This is a phenomenon that concerns the entire Western world, where individual opinion counts more and more. Even when one listens to what the Church says, the decision is made alone. Pagnoncelli concludes:
“Faith and politics are two fragments of a multiple individual identity, fragments that shape less and less the opinions and attitudes of believers who appear to be far from a unified and consistent vision of themselves. This passage, and the necessity of relating to it, is also central for the Church. And Catholics are part of this changing society.”Condividi:
- 22 novembre 2019