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Irish census: Catholic majority remains strong, but family breakdown soars

Catholic World News - March 30, 2012

Ireland remains an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, new census figures prove. But the statistics show an alarming rise in family breakdown.

The census figures, released March 30, show that 84% of Ireland’s people identify themselves as Catholic. The number of Catholics in the country has grown by 4.9% since the last census, in 2006. But because of heavy immigration, the Catholic proportion of the overall population declined; in 2006 that figure was almost 87%.

In terms of religious affiliation, the closest rival to Catholicism is the group that declares “no religion.” That group has grown by 45% in the past 5 years, and now accounts for 5% of the population. Immigrants account for a disproportionate number of those who claim no religious affiliation, the census figures show.

Perhaps the most striking trend revealed by the 2011 census is the sharp increase in divorce. Since 1986, the number of Irish adults who have been divorced or separated has skyrocketed: from just over 40,000 to 250,000, or roughly 600%. Today more than 21% of all Irish children—well above the European average—are being raised in single-parent homes. Another 6% of children are being raised by couples who are living together but not married.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 01, 2012 2:38 PM ET USA

    It seems that the waning of Catholicism in Ireland corresponds with the waning of Irish clergy in the southeastern U.S. As a catechist and apologist in the 1980s and 1990s, I battled liturgical abuses until the arrival of the FSSP in 1995. In July 2007, Pope Benedict wrote: "...deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience...And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church."

  • Posted by: Wolf of Gubbio - Mar. 30, 2012 6:33 PM ET USA

    Cultural Catholicism is worthless. Ireland is culturally Catholic. Rather than ask who's Catholic, a better question would be, Who believes in the Real Presence of JESUS CHRIST in the Holy Eucharist?

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