The Times (England), Aug. 17, 2002
The rapidly changing demographics of the United States has presented the Roman Catholic Church with a huge new influx of members.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in America and are already the largest ethnic group in the American Catholic Church.
The 25 million Hispanic Catholics — who make up more than 35 per cent of all Catholics in the nation — are responsible for 71per cent of the Church’s growth over the past halfcentury, according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Even so, church leaders are acutely aware that they must do more to integrate the new Hispanic immigrants into the Church. As many new Hispanic immigrants to the United States discover the country’s great diversity of religious practices, increasing numbers of are turning away from the Catholic Church. As many as 600,000 Catholics a year leave their parishes for less formal churches and other religions.
As recently as a decade ago, two thirds of all Hispanic adults (68 per cent) said that the Church they attended most frequently was Catholic; today that proportion is down to just half (53 per cent), according to a recent survey.
The Catholic Church hierarchy has been slow to wake up to religious demographics. At present there are only 25 Hispanic bishops in the United States, according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Of those, only 11 head a diocese, four are retired and the rest are auxiliary bishops assigned to dioceses with large Catholic populations.
Furthermore, the Church has only one Hispanic priest for each 10,000 Latino Catholics, compared with one English-speaking priest for each 1,200 other Catholics of European descent. Many seminaries are having to combine theological study with Spanish language classes.
Profile of Catholic diversity in US
Roman Catholic Hispanics: 25 million
As a proportion of Catholic community: 35 per cent, projected by 2010 to be 50 per cent
Hispanic Catholics with college education: 13 per cent. Non-Hispanic Catholics with college education: 25 per cent
Percentage of Hispanic Catholics registered with a parish: 54 per cent. Percentage of non-Hispanic Catholics registered with a parish: 70 per cent
Median income of Hispanic households: $22,330 (£14,860)
Median income of white households: $31,231 (£20,800)