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Hispanic Americans leaving Catholic Church in rising numbers, study shows

May 07, 2014

Hispanic Americans are increasingly likely to leave the Catholic Church, a major survey by the Pew Research Center has shown.

Today 55% of America’s 35 million Hispanic adults identify themselves as Catholic, Pew found. As recently as 2010, that figure was 67%.

Almost one-fourth of all Hispanic adults living in the US today—24%-- are former Catholics. The tendency to leave the Catholic Church was most pronounced among younger Hispanics, suggesting that the trend could accelerate.

When asked why they had left the Catholic Church, a majority of respondents (55%) said that they had merely “drifted away,” and 52% said they had ceased to believe the teachings of the Church. However a large number reported that they had found another religious community that was responsive to their needs.

A rising number of Hispanic Americans identify themselves as Protestant, with 16% identifying with the Evangelical Protestant tradition. The Pew survey found that among these Evangelical Hispanics, the level of religious practice was higher than among Hispanic Catholics.

Because Hispanic immigrants make up an increasing proportion of the US population, Hispanics account for a rising share of the country’s Catholic population, in spite of the marked attrition. In 2013, Pew reports, 33% of American Catholics were Hispanic, and that figure was still rising. If Hispanic immigration continues at a similar pace, and the Hispanic flight from the Catholic Church continues, the Pew report observes that “a day could come when a majority of Catholics in the United States will be Hispanic, even though the majority of Hispanics might no longer be Catholic.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - May. 08, 2014 4:36 PM ET USA

    In the mid-1980s I was looking for apologetics books written by Mexican priests. In Chihuahua the priest who ran the diocese's education establishment handed me a book that he had written. When I asked him about the percentage of Mexicans who were practicing Catholics, he replied "maybe 10%." This was the very figure that I had come up with by my own observations. The Mexican Revolution effectively killed Catholicism in Mexico, making it essentially an outlaw religion until 1992.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 08, 2014 9:22 AM ET USA

    I know a lot of Hispanic Catholics and I know they prize a totally orthodox and at the same time emotionally powerful body of beliefs. Step back and regard the Catholic Church in the US. Does it really fill this bill at this moment in time?

  • Posted by: Nuage - May. 07, 2014 11:54 PM ET USA

    Catholic Hispanics have also noticed this trend. Hispanic culture is social, warm, community based. Protestant communities respond well to these needs. Protestant ministers address the problems of daily life from a moral standpoint. They help families, will not hesitate to point out sinful behavior, and they respond to the practical needs of the souls in their charge. The supernatural Truths (for example, the need for Sanctifying Grace) are no longer taught by Catholic catechists.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 07, 2014 10:37 PM ET USA

    If we would concentrate on purifying ourselves and stop concentrating on "how many" "we" were losing the problem would take care of itself.

  • Posted by: Mirabilis - May. 07, 2014 10:00 PM ET USA

    Hispanics are no less immune to the liberal secular culture than any other community. In fact I would guess that the lack of community support for the faith is a major stumbling block to immigrants and first generation hispanic Catholics who come from societies where the faith is an integral part of family life--even in those families where the faith is merely cultural.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - May. 07, 2014 8:04 PM ET USA

    Although I'm suspicious of any research with the name "Pew" on it, this rings true. I went to a parochial elementary school in Fullerton, CA from 1956-64 which was jammed with at least 400 students. There were a few Hispanic kids, but most of us had European roots. By 2005, 34% of the local population was Hispanic/Latino -- but with enrollment down to less than 100, the school closed. Where were those Catholic Hispanic parents sending their kids? Not to Catholic school, it seems.

  • Posted by: shrink - May. 07, 2014 7:22 PM ET USA

    Between the public schools and the popular media attacks on the Catholic Church, these young hispanic kids don't have much of chance to see what the Lord has to offer. Since they are the next major wave of the rising demographic, their vote will push the Church into the closet--the new fruit of immigration 'reform'.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - May. 07, 2014 7:05 PM ET USA

    And the USCCB thinks that all these Hispanics flooding across our borders are going to be a boon for the American Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: unum - May. 07, 2014 7:04 PM ET USA

    We see only token efforts by our diocese to offer effective ministry to Hispanic Catholics, so many do "drift away".