A Downturn Described And a Way Back Prescribed – On the Shocking Decline in the Number of Marriages

I was ordained just over 21 years ago. In those days, I used to have a lot more marriages and baptisms. In fact, my calendar was usually quite full from May – July with weddings.  Sometimes I would have two weddings on one Saturday. There was real competition for a bride to get her date. And, as for baptisms, I remember that sometimes doing 15 at a time on a Sunday afternoon was not uncommon. Even in those days the older priests all said business was way down.

These days the decline in marriage is very evident. In some of the smaller parishes there hasn’t been a wedding for several years. Even in the larger ones, as few as four or five a year isn’t uncommon.

Most of my information  on this has been anecdotal until now. However, I was introduced to a great blog by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). The Blog is Here: CARA Blog. There is lots of good data available and plenty of graphs and charts that paint a statistical picture of the Church. Some of the pictures are troubling indeed. Consider this one that depicts the decline in marraige and baptisms over the past 50 years:

You can click on the Chart to get a clearer picture. The chart depicts the number of marriages and baptisms per 1000 Catholics in the USA. As you can see, the number of baptisms has really plummeted  from over 36 in the 1950s to just over 12 in 2009. That’s a drop of 76%! Marriage has shown a similar and steady decline from about 12 in 1950 to just under 3 in 2009. That too is a drop of almost 75%

This depicts a major crisis in marriage and the family and I don’t think I am exaggerating to say that trends like these are civilization killers. Conditions are far worse in Europe it would seem, though I do not have statistics to present here.

The CARA Blog is more sanguine than I and states:

Despite these trends, the absolute number of Catholics in the United States continues to grow because the number of children born and raised Catholic has been generally sufficient to replace previous generations (life expectancies have risen as well) and other Catholics are added to the population through adult conversion from other faiths and through immigration of Catholics from other countries (even as some who are raised Catholic leave the faith at some point). Since the 1940s, the percentage of the U.S. population self-identifying as Catholic has remained remarkably stable at about 22% to 24%. [1]

In other words, thank God for immigrants. Without them the Church here would be in a far worse crisis. But even with them, it appears we are in a rather significant crisis and will likely see Churches and schools continue to close and consolidate in the years ahead.

More than ever, we the clergy and and Catholic families need to powerfully re-evangelize on the vocation of marriage emphasizing its high calling and dignity. It is absolutely essential that marriage become a frequent focus of preaching, teaching and parish celebrations. Marriage should be encouraged among the young, taught of soberly and realistically, but also in a way that emphasizes its dignity and high calling. Much celebration can and should accompany a wedding in the wider parish. Perhaps the old custom of announcing banns of marriage can be reintroduced. Newly married couples returning from honeymoons might be publicly blessed at a Sunday Mass and a yearly recognition of married couples at Masses should be  considered.

A second facet of this should include a re-evangelization on the value of larger families. I ask the couples I prepare to consider having a larger family. I remind them that we are depending on them in very important ways to bring forth children and raise them Catholic. I remind them that the Scriptures say to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:18), not just to replace yourself. Hence three or more children is an expectation that seems implied by the Biblical text. Some of the couples think I’m crazy, but,  little by little, my parish is getting used to hearing about larger families again.

And there is some good news on this front statistically. The percentage of people considering three or more children to be an ideal family size is going up again. This number reached its low in 1998 when only 36% of respondents considered three or more children ideal. But the number is rising steadily since then and last year 43% of respondents considered three or more children ideal [2].

So, here is a worthy task: recovering respect for the gifts of marriage and children. We may not see sudden reversals, but we can chip away at it. Even to get young people used to hearing of the blessings of marriage and children is a start. I have often joshed with my parishioners that one of the pillars of my evangelization plan is have our young people get married (FIRST), have lots of babies and raise them Catholic. They often laugh though they know I am not merely joshing. They’re getting used to hearing of large families again. To some extent that is going to have to be the first step: reintroducing concepts as rational and normal which had been discarded as crazy and out of date. Little by little, this tide can change. Little by little, brick by brick. The first step to making a 1000 mile journey is to put one foot in front of the other and just keep doing it.

Here’s a little sermon clip of mine that I posted originally back in January:

35 Replies to “A Downturn Described And a Way Back Prescribed – On the Shocking Decline in the Number of Marriages”

  1. We hope and pray that somehow we are able to atone for and reverse the sins of our past with our two children, Father. The first step was walking into the Church …

  2. When I was going through my mother’s papers after her death, I found baptismal certificates for my grandmother, my mother, and myself. The certificates identified each child as follows:

    Ella, Tochter von Daniel und seiner Frau Emma (1913)
    Edith, daughter of Chester and his wife Ella (1941)
    Cynthia, daughter of Walter and his wife Edith (1966)

    so, out of curiousity I pulled out my daughter’s baptismal certificate

    c, daughter of C and Cynthia (2001)

    Two words no longer on the certificate! No presumption of a marital relationship. I find that unfortunate, although certainly it is better for a child born out of wedlock to be baptised than left outside the family of God.

  3. My family did not inculck and teach us about God, no wonder why my brothers and I made so many mistakes in life growing up. Why is there a reluctance of some priests to embrace this new evangelization Pope Benedict XVI is calling the Church to, Also Archbishop Wuerl published Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the vision of which I am currently reading and find very good. If the local parish priest is waiting for their parishioners to be on fire to spread the good news, he will be waiting for a long time, because when you go out to evangelize you take the Lord Jesus with you. Another thing, the RCIA is somewhat helpful, but it is very diluted in teaching the catholic faith – this faith Journey should be substituted with a program such and “The way! Or the neocatechumenal way or some other program that gives concreate evidence that Jesus is Alive today!

  4. When are people going to learn to use SHAPES, as well as colors, to denote things in graphs? Over 5% of the population is red-green color blind; to us, this chart is useful only in that it shows that both marriages and baptisms have significantly declined. Which line is which is a pure guess for the red-green color blind.

  5. As I have found out in my own family, it is hard to evangelize about marriage and children when the priest where they go to church on occasion has allegedly told them that it is okay not to be married in the church and it is okay to use birth control, that we don’t have to listen to what the Pope has to say, etc. You get the picture. I speak of Church teaching but they contradict me with what their priest has told them. Who are they going to believe. The problem I am afraid is what is being preached by priests and in some cases the head of religious education who do not adhere to Church teachings. Religious education in most parishes is watered down, politically correct Catholicism. Add to that the anti-Catholic bias in the media and it is small wonder that things are where they are today.

  6. Good sermon. Our previous pastor preached a good sermon on marriage but apart from that I haven’t heard a good sermon on marriage for many years. Strange when that’s the usual vocation for most people. We should hear them more often, for the married and especially for young people. (Beautiful Church)

  7. This is a sad set of statistics.
    A non-scientific observation or two:
    The cost of a church wedding has gotten out of hand. In a parish where I once lived, there was a minimum fee of $400 for rental of the church for an hour. I don’t recall anyone objecting to a customary stipend for the the priest or deacon officiating, but this seemed to be on some kind of sliding scale.
    In my parish, with just one priest, he decided to no longer do weddings, and only rarely would hear confessions. People either had to go through a time-consuming process to get permission to marry in another parish, or would settle for a simple civil process; quicker, cheaper and legal, if not in the eyes of the Church.

  8. Vocations in general need to be given more attention. When was the last time you heard marriage, vocation to priesthood or being a sister or nun mentioned in a sermon? On the Sunday that the Wedding at Cana gospel is given, marriage is usually mentined and that is about it. One would think there is no problem at all in the U.S. with regards to marriage.

    “More than ever, we the clergy and and Catholic families need to powerfully re-evangelize on the vocation of marriage emphasizing its high calling and dignity. It is absolutely essential that marriage become a frequent focus of preaching, teaching and parish celebrations. Marriage should be encouraged among the young, taught of soberly and realistically, but also in a way that emphasizes its dignity and high calling. Much celebration can and should accompany a wedding in the wider parish. Perhaps the old custom of announcing banns of marriage can be reintroduced. Newly married couples returning from honeymoons might be publicly blessed at a Sunday Mass and a yearly recognition of married couples at Masses should be considered.”

    This seems spot on to me.

    “A second facet of this should include a re-evangelization on the value of larger families. I ask the couples I prepare to consider having a larger family. I remind them that we are depending on them in very important ways to bring forth children and raise them Catholic. I remind them that the Scriptures say to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:18), not just to replace yourself. Hence three or more children is an expectation that seems implied by the Biblical text. Some of the couples think I’m crazy, but, little by little, my parish is getting used to hearing about larger families again.”

    Well said!

  9. Quick comments.

    First of all, marriage is meaningless outside of the Church. This needs to be accepted. While those outside the Church may enjoy having weddings and celebrations, there is no believable sense of permanence. I point this out only to emphasize that evangelization on marriage and the family will only find good soil within sincere Christians. Yes, I understand that marriage is defensible on Natural Law grounds, and that marriage and family go hand-in-hand to raise “healthy” children. However, who, outside the Church, really cares except people who might have a financial interest in making sure there are enough tax-paying citizens and worker-bees in the future? Ergo, bring people into the Church, then you will be able to help them understand marriage and family again. (Although, I will say that there might be non-Christians who are very orthodox in their understanding of such things, and this may be an avenue through which to evangelize.)

    Second, I would hazard a guess that these trends are not only due to declining populations of Catholics, but declining populations of faithful Catholics. I still look around at Mass sometimes and can’t help but wonder “Are some of these families contracepting? Are they really raising their children in the Faith?” Chide me for even thinking these thoughts, but isn’t it strange that such thoughts even occur to someone in the Church? Shouldn’t we be able to assume that everyone at Mass is on the same page, so to speak?

    I, the pessimist I am, wonder if these statistics are not rosier than reality.

    However, I, the optimist I am, have observed first-hand a renewed commitment to the Church’s teachings on these matters. There is hope, but we must be realistic about the possibility of a smaller Church in the future. The damage which has been done over the last few centuries is not easily overcome.

    1. You are not wrong to wonder if the people at Mass are all on the same page, i.e., loyal to the Magisterium. I guarantee you that many of those around you are likely not.

      I attend Mass faithfully (pun intended), and have even taken to attending one weekday Mass, when possible.

      However, most of my beliefs go very much against the Church, starting with being pro-choice, pro-contraception, and pro gay rights. Although I was raised Catholic, I am a Prostestant in belief, and I am very quick to correct those who think that I am a devout Catholic. (Don’t worry, I do not take the Eucharist.) I do not believe that any one faith, Christian or otherwise, has pegged God and his mysteries correctly.

      So, why do I attend Mass? I still do believe in a God and want to set aside some formal time to acknowledge Him each week with others, a small sense of community. I know the routine of the Mass, so I can “fit in.” I don’t have to learn the routine of another faith’s worship service.

      Two co-workers attend the same parish as I do, and they are both like me. Neither takes the Eucharist, either. One has been an usher for many, many years. Both are in their 60s (one, his late 60s) and were raised in the faith prior to Vatican II, so, as devout Catholics are wont to do, probably because it’s soothing to do so, you cannot brush off their disbelief in the faith on not having been taught properly. There are many more like them. In fact, I could figure out who those many more were when we had a Priest for Life attend a few months ago. The ushers handed out a card containing a prayer to end abortion. As the congregation recited it, I looked around and made note of those who weren’t even reading the card. There were several.

      As for those using contraception, how do you propose finding out, and trying to rein them in? You also can’t assume that because someone has been married X years and has no or few children that they are contracepting. Many suffer from infertility. Those and the single people are the forgotten ones of the Church. It is very painful not to be able to have children, and even more painful not to find a mate and not even be able to try to have children.

      The Church does a horrendous job of reaching out to both groups. If you are married and have lots of kids, you are glorified. If you suffer from infertility, well, uh, hmm…it’s your Cross, yeah that’s it, it’s your Cross and unite your suffering to Christ! That will make everything better every time you hear a priest talk about having large families! Not. If you are single, well then, uh, embrace your single vocation (even though you dearly yearn for a mate) and by all means, don’t, *ahem*, satisfy yourself. That will make you feel so much better when you hear about the blessings of married life and a large family. Not. And both of you groups, please step out of the way of the mothers so they can get their carnation from the Knights of Columbus on Mother’s Day weekend, okay?

      Apologies for any spelling and/or grammatical errors; I am in a hurry this morning.

  10. It is important for young people, engaged couples, and newly married couples to see big, happy families at Mass every Sunday and to interact with them at church events. For a lot of us–I’m in the young adult bracket–we’ve never been exposed to big families. I grew up with one brother and had one aunt and no first cousins–the biggest family I knew had 3 kids, and they were the exception (granted, I grew up Protestant in the northeast). After converting, moving to the south, getting used to my husband’s family where most of the aunts and uncles have 3 to 5 children, and joining a parish full of young adults, young families, and larger families (4+ kids), my “ideal” family size has definitely gotten bigger, and larger families have become more “normal” to me. If not for the witness of the families I saw every Sunday and for the advice from the mothers of large families I met through NFP and pro-life ministries, I probably wouldn’t have reexamined my expectations for family size.

  11. one more thing–parishes need to be welcoming to babies, children, and parents. At one parish I went to, the priest saw us coming in with our four-month-old in his car seat and immediately and firmly directed us to the chapel/cry room with all the other parents of small children. It’s great to have somewhere like that for when children get upset and need to leave Mass, but segregating families away from the community is counter-productive (see my comment above about the witness of families at Mass).

    I know many people get upset with the kid whose parents let him jingle keys through the Consecration or who runs around swinging a hymnal at the pew, but they are the exception. Most parents try to keep their children quiet and calm, but we as a community need to realize that babies and children are part of that community and have the same need to be near Jesus in the Mass as older people. How we treat families in our parishes tells a lot about how we view marriage and children–and often has something to do with how many children we see at Mass.

  12. Yes, if it weren’t for immigrants, the >80% of married U.S. Catholics who contracept—due in large part to their pastor’s and bishop’s unfortunate silence in informing them about Humanæ Vitæ, etc.—could not keep the U.S. Catholic church alive. As a result, most bishops become politically leftist (even the generally “conservative” ones, e.g., do not support a state’s rights to enact legislation tough on illegal immigration) to the detriment of homosexuals’ and aborted unborn Americans’ souls.

    This is really interesting, and I think it tells it all:

    “Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic. These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration. The Landscape Survey finds that among the foreign-born adult population, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46% Catholic vs. 24% Protestant); among native-born Americans, on the other hand, Protestants outnumber Catholics by an even larger margin (55% Protestant vs. 21% Catholic).” (p. 6).

    “…the Catholic share of the U.S. adult population has held fairly steady in recent decades, at around 25%. What this apparent stability obscures, however, is the large number of people who have left the Catholic Church. Approximately one-third of the survey respondents who say they were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic. This means that roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics. These losses, however, have been partly offset by the number of people who have changed their affiliation to Catholicism (2.6% of the adult population) but more importantly by the disproportionately high number of Catholics among immigrants to the U.S.” (p. 7).

    If 40 million Americans are foreign born, and 46% of them are Catholic, about 6% of the U.S. population are foreign born Catholic. So about 70% of the Church’s growth is due to immigrants! (I think conversion rates are currently about 1/3 of what they used to be before Vatican II, and I think immigration has quadrupled.) And about 13% of those who loose their faith are foreign-born Hispanics (so ~1.3% of U.S. pop.; CARA), so it does look like the future of the U.S. Church can rely heavily on immigration even if at most ~22% of them become “Americanized” (i.e., secularized) and lose their faith. Although about twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanics have abortions (CDC), still their birthrate is sightly higher (about replacement level), but let’s pray that it doesn’t drop through increased contraception and abortion, the evil fruits of American secularism. We desperately need more evangelization, though; Fr. Kino et al.’s efforts were great, but we cannot passively rely on them forever.

    Basically, the Church in the U.S. could be about 20% bigger [68 million current U.S. catholics + 1/4 of 57 million aborted (=~14 million, since ~1/4 of Americans are Catholic) = ~82 million] were all the ~14 million Catholics not aborted. This would actually make the Catholic percentage about 27% of the U.S. population. Now that would be growth; and imagine if the evils of contraception were mentioned more frequently at masses.

    Of course there’s much more to the war than numbers (cf. 2 Samuel 24:1-10); they’re only an indicator, not our god.

    In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the USCCB contributed to the voting confusion among Catholics, who for the most part would not have voted for Obama if bishops educated them, like some courageous bishops did in their dioceses, both that he is the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history and that abortion is indeed worse than all the other life issues combined—much worse; over 50 million Americans have been killed in this massacre since Roe v. Wade in the early ’70s. And now they are on illegal immigrants’ side because Mexican Catholic immigrants have been what saved the U.S. church from becoming proportionately fewer in the U.S. population since Vatican II. Sadly, the bishops condone both lying and stealing—which Mexican immigrants must to to come here illegally—and they tacitly condone both contraception and abortion, both of which U.S. Catholics do at roughly equal rates as non-Catholics. God help us!

    1. I’m curious to hear Msgr. Pope’s response to these statistics and perspective. It’s not anymore the Church’s fault for social and demographic shifts than it is parishoner’s fault the Church has floundered in it’s decisiveness in leading the flock of it’s faithful since Vatican II.This opened a can of worms and all sides are having to eat crow.Evangelize according to the American Heritage dictionary is:1) To preach the gospel.2) To convert to Christianity. Is the Church on a moral, demographic or political crusade by ( trying to shore up it’s constituent base just to cut it’s losses?) I don’t see the Church’s objective as sinister but the right hand doesn’t appear to know what the left hand is doing. The Church has always stood it’s own ground but it sees the world as an open range without regard for fences when it comes to it’s mission. That’s a hard sell in a world where many see themselves as an island and you want to convince them you are working in their best interest. The role of the state is to protect life, liberty and the persuit of happienss. The role of the Church is to guid mankind to salvation. The state by upholding the constitution as given consent by the governed and the Church through upholding and teaching of the scriptures, catechism and sacrements.God will take care of the rest. You can’t stack the deck without someone feeling cheated.

  13. One sad dynamic is that when some Catholics finally do marry, since they are in their mid-30s already they can only have a few children (and that is if they are lucky and get pregnant right away). My wife and I would love to have a large family, but we didn’t marry until I was 35 and she was 36! BTW, she was raised agnostic and now cherishes her faith, and I fell away at 14 in an angry response to family problems and the “thin soup” that was 80s catholicism.

  14. How much of this is because of the growing percentage of Hispanics in the American church? It is very, very common in Latin America to only have a civil ceremony and that cultural choice is evident here. I can’t tell you how many times I have approached Hispanic couples about convalidating their marriages. Some do. Some don’t. But, often, it is because they are saving for the huge party that goes along with a church marriage. However, when you have three kids who have school fees and activities and medical expenses – and whatever – I think that the savings (rightfully) go to those necessities. And the ‘getting married by church’ part just gets delayed.

    I make a point of saying “It doesn’t need to be expensive. It can be very simple – and you can go to communion when your kid makes his First Communion….” But that doesn’t sell, because I think there is some social shame in not having a big party.

    In fact, in a parish where we do a LOT of weddings, and we have a Spanish mass, it is rare to do a Spanish wedding.

  15. It would be interesting to normalize the data in these graphs against trends in the US population as a whole.

    A quick google took me here: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/haines.demography

    And I see that births per 1000 in the US :

    1950:23 , 1970:17.4, 1980:15.1, 1990: 15.8 , 2000:13.8

    In other words births in 2000 declined to 60% of the number in 1950.

    A quick visual on your graph reads baptisms per 1000 about 34 and in 2000 about 17 so a decline to about 50%.

    So although it is worse than society at large, it is very much a trend with the demography of wider society (less children means less baptisms) although Catholics still seem to have more children whether in 1950 or 2000. But we would have to separate out self identifying catholic population who dont get their children baptized (which has increased since the 1950s) to see how it really compares to the wider demographic trend.

    Either which way, its bad news and the points made in this article are correct.

  16. “abortion is indeed worse than all the other life issues combined—much worse; over 50 million Americans have been killed in this massacre since Roe”
    As far as demographics are concerned, the worst thing ever was the invention of birth control.
    I wonder what the birth and marriage stats are amongst atheists and agnostics?

  17. I am an anchoress and there have been men interested in me. But none of them measured up to what this wonderful sermon had to say about men. There I was, trying to be true to Jesus, and they would talk for hours about how they could outdo Jesus, but they never liked me for long. They would not be committed to me nor do even the slightest kind thing for me. One had sex with his girlfriend outside my window and later married her with a justice of the peace also in front of my window instead of getting a sacramental marriage. Obviously, he had no respect for his new wife or me. Another also had sex outside my window and took out his feelings for me on her. Today’s men don’t know what to do anymore. It was easy to keep my vows, in spite of the fact that there are still a few little boys trying to impress me. Jesus won the day every time, and I suffered hardly anything. But if I were a single girl, I might have a nervous breakdown without having the rock of Ages to stand upon. I am glad I didn’t have to have children, for surely these men would not have been good fathers. Thumbs up to my vocation and my blessed celibacy!

  18. I taught the Baptism Prep class in my parish for ten years and saw firsthand the decline in the numbers of parents who were coming for instruction. When I started, there would be at least a dozen couples at this (mandatory) monthly class; in my last few years, the average was five or less.

    The pastor of a local parish has also noted the increase in the number of Catholic funeral services held in funeral homes, as opposed to funeral Masses in the church. Perhaps it has to do with adult children who have left the faith and feel uncomfortable attending their parents’ funeral Masses.

  19. My husband and I share in this concern. We began about ten years ago to do one on one mentoring for marriage preparation in our parish. We realize that we are getting the “cream of the crop” so to speak because these couples are actually taking the step to marry in the Church. It is difficult to see that even among this group there is almost no understanding of what marriage is truly since probably 90% are cohabiting, and I’m sure contracepting as well.

    We have been using Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in our marriage preparation and have had over 50% of the couples become interested in NFP as a result. We find that very heartening and are trying to begin to reach out to young adults before they are engaged to help them understand what sexuality and marriage are all about so they don’t make the wrong choices that will cause them problems and remorse in the future.

  20. It used to be that marriage offered legal protection to women and children. With no fault divorce and other changes, women and children, particularly women who have chosen to be at home mothers, are in awful postions in the case of divorce. Even in situations of abuse, when men sue for full custody, they get it 70% of the time nationally. I would have been in a much better position legally to protect the children if I had been just cohabiting. The Church needs to be aware that the nightmare that is family court is a huge detriment to marriage.

  21. Bad sermon. It’s perversely man-bashing, man-blaming (females inititate 91% of divorces-Shere Hite 1987), and as faulty as bradamante’s feminist-invented 70% number.

    Also, if marriage preparation begins when the couple is engaged to be married then it has started too late. Catechising about marriage should begin no later than during preparation for the sacrament of confirmation and continue in formal life-vocation preparation catechism classes for quite some time after confirmation.

    1. Just quoting the text – A man shall leave….. a man shall cling. One of the ways back is for men to lead. And if they are going to lead they have to ta responsibility and stop crying about how bad women are.

      1. I will agree with your second paragraph. Having lived in Salt Lake City, and had many faithful Mormons as friends, I think that Catholics could do well to imitate some of their practices. They generally spend 3 or 4 hours every Sunday at church, and more than half of that time is spent in classes, which, among other things, teach about how to be good husband or a good wife, good father or mother. They do this every week long before they are married, and continue after they are married. Not advocating converting to that church, just saying they have some good ideas (they have a few bad ones too).
        But your first paragraph makes me wonder- I didn’t listen to the sermon until after I read your post. Seems to me that Msgr. Pope wasn’t bashing men; he was bashing males who are old enough to think they are men, but are in fact still boys, regardless of their calander age. My wife left me, and of course if I had tried to follow her I would probably have ended up in jail as a stalker. I think Msgr. Pope understands this reality, but is trying to say that a MAN will do whatever is possible to keep his wife from leaving.

  22. The questions of marriage and children have been addressed since before the 20th. century. Educators and noted progressives have stated in the past that the world has too many people in the world. Like in China they wish folks to only have one child, or better yet have none at all. In todays world people think in social justice ideology, however bad it may be. We need to wake up in this country and reject those who postulate these believes for they are wrong.

  23. I wonder how the trend would look going back 75, 100, or 150 years normalized to population size. Without discounting the precipitous drop since WWII, it is well known that the “baby boom” following the war set us on a relative high w.r.t. marriage and children. Would going back further show the post-War trend as a “hump” on the curve or a pause in an even older decline. I could not get any of that from the CARA site.

    Also, as noted by some other commenters, neither of these declines occur in isolation from the broader loss of faith in God and His Church. It would be impossible to expect such family devotion and reverence during this time of faithlessness and irreverence. It has and always be about personal apostolate, not programs, slogans, or broad initiatives.

  24. I’m alarmed that the solution prevented for growing the church is to ask couples to have more children. It seems to deny the fact that Christ called us to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.” Evangelism is, indeed, about reproduction of believers, but NOT in the literal sense of having children in order to produce new Catholics. The Catholic church would grow immensely if there were a greater focus on reaching the unbelieving masses. There is a limit to how many children each couple can birth and raise, but there is no limit to numbers a couple could win to the church if they were asked to simply evangelize. This sort of evangelism is utilized to huge success throughout the nation in the Protestant churches, and they are growing – while the Catholic church shrinks.

  25. The graph may be misleading if it doesn’t account for the dramatic change in longevity since 1940. Back then, according to the CDC, the average life expectancy was 63 years. Today it is 80 years. It stands to reason that with so many more elderly Catholics, relative to 70 years ago, that number of baptisms and marriages per 1000 Catholics will be lower.

    Does the graph measure more than the increase in life span? How do we separate it out as a factor?

Comments are closed.