F Rosa Rubicondior: Religion In The USA -The Decline Gathers Pace - Two-Thirds Of Baltimore Catholic Parishes To Close

Monday 22 April 2024

Religion In The USA -The Decline Gathers Pace - Two-Thirds Of Baltimore Catholic Parishes To Close

Baltimore Archdiocese's Proposal Could Cut City Parish Locations by Two-Thirds - The Tablet

In contrast to the view we in Europe sometime have of the USA where fundamentalist religion and far-right Christian nationalism seem to be growing, especially in their political influence, the reality is that religion in the USA is following Europe's lead and losing its grip on the population.

Symptomatic of this decline is the recent announcement that the Catholic diocese of Baltimore, Maryland, is to close about two-thirds of its parishes and amalgamate them with others, because the numbers attending church services has declined too far to make them economic to keep open, with their own priest.

They are now facing a similar problem to that experienced in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe. The biggest problem for the Anglican Church in the UK is what to do with all its unused and boarded-up churches? Many of these are listed buildings, having special historic or architectural significance and the burial grounds are protected by law, so the owners (the C of E) have a legal duty to maintain the buildings that can't be demolished, sitting on land that can't be built on.

In Baltimore, the problem has been getting increasingly acute for several years now. As the Catholic online news magazine, The Tablet, reported on 18 April 2024:
The Archdiocese of Baltimore follows other dioceses around the country that have looked at the number of parish sites in light of changing demographics, and the human and capital resources to continue ministering effectively. Priests from the 61 parishes at 59 worship sites in the study area — all of Baltimore City and some close-in parishes in Baltimore County — were briefed on the latest proposal April 9, moving the process from the draft stage to a time for recommendations to Archbishop William E. Lori. Seek the City organizers have pointed out that there are far more seats available in the pews in the city than people attending Mass, and there are more funerals than baptisms. “It’s getting progressively harder to do more with less,” and still be realistic, Byrd said. The latest iteration envisions 21 parishes at 26 worship sites.

The reasons for this decline can be readily seen in the Gallop research findings in 2023:

Although the left-hand chart shows a more or less steady level of self-identification as Catholic, as leavers are replaced by Hispanic immigration, the right-hand chart shows the importance that Americans attach to their religion has been in sharp decline while those attaching low importance to it has been rising steadily.

These charts are somewhat ambiguous in that religious people are more likely to be more satisfied with more influence of organised religion in public life while those with no religion or for whom religion is of low importance to them are likely to be dissatisfied with increased influence, and the more religious a person is the more they will be inclined to think religion is losing its influence.

These charts probably better reflect the true position of religious belief in the USA and how the decline is impacting on the Catholic Church in Baltimore, in that there has been a marked decline both in affiliation and attendance.

The left-hand chart shows how the percentage of Americans who never attend church or synagogue has risen from 10% in 1994 to 31% in 2023 while those attending weekly has fallen from 32% to 21% over the same period. At the same time, as the right-hand chart shows, those with a great deal of confidence in the church or organized religion has plummeted from 43% to just 16% in the 50 years since 1973. At the same time, the percentage of those with very little confidence has rocketed from 7% to 30%.

Underpinning these changes is a falling belief in the fundamental precepts of Judeo-Christian religions, God, angels, The Devil, Heaven and Hell, the supernatural elements of a religion which is gradually falling to the advance of science: The last three charts, from a March 2024 Gallup report underscore the problem facing not just the Catholic Church but other religions in the USA as America catches up with Europe in the rejection of superstitions. Of course, the Catholic Church has had its problems in the recent past with priests at all levels, from the lowest parish priest to bishops, archbishops and cardinals involved in paedophile rape, and its cover-up and facilitation, but other flavours of Christianity haven't fared much better either, especially with the abandonment of any pretense of morality and 'family values' of the evangelicals and Southern Baptists in their craven support for the far-right white supremacist Repugnicans in general and the odious, serial adulterer, sex-offender, seditionist and criminally insane, Donald Trump in particular:


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