Friday, February 14, 2003

On A Catholic Blog for Lovers I saw the following entry.

A Fruitful Vine

The Catholic Bishops of the USA each year publish statistics about the Church in America in the 2003 Source Book. While statistics do not tell the whole story (and may not be totally reliable even!), this survey can give us some glimpses and maybe a shot of hope as well. Just think of the humble beginnings of the Catholic Church in the United States. God has prospered the vine He has planted! May it be pruned and bear even more fruit!

65,270,444 Catholics (23% of the U.S. population);

45,713 priests;

4,719 seminarians;

13,764 permanent deacons;

75,500 religious sisters;

5,690 religious brothers;

1,007,716 infant baptisms;

79,892 adult baptisms;

81,240 persons received into full communion through conversion from a Christian denomination;

3,391,581 students educated in Catholic schools and colleges;

82,395,935 patients treated in Catholic hospitals;

5,811,381 patients treated in other Catholic health care institutions;

7,017,845 individuals in need of help who were assisted by Catholic Charities.

Needless to say, as the resident critic, these are not good numbers. The first point is that trends are generally more important than absolute numbers. Secondly, potential numbers, i.e., what the numbers ought to be is more important than the present numbers.

In what direction are these numbers trending?

As far as 65 mill Catholics and the 82, 000 converts from other faiths, those aren't spectacular numbers considering that we could have had a far greater number of Catholics. One statistic I don't see is how many Catholics have left the Church and how many are inactive. That's important. We can't be happy that there are 65 million Catholics in the US when that number could easily have been in excess of 80 million.

82, 000 for conversions is a paltry number and pathetic if you consider that a significant number of those are from marriage, which does produce great Catholics BTW (nothing against marriage converts). We only have to look at the Pentecostals who are raking people in by the millions. Now, their beginnings were very, very humble, but they now number in the hundreds of millions. Talk about Jabez-like, "Lord bless me and enlarge my territory."

I like the Catholic charities number of 7 million, but for a Church 65 million strong, whose essential mission is social justice, this is not great. The 82 million treated by Catholic hospitals is a good number, that's what we should see for the Catholic charities number.

As far as Catholic education goes, the 3.5 million number is not good and it seems that this is for all education from beginnings up to College. I can understand small college numbers, but the grade, middle and high school numbers would need to go up significantly if we are going to boast about them. This also impacts our lobbying efforts for vouchers because . . . I'm not getting into this one today, but I am suspect of the voucher program, I think there should be a stronger commitment to public schools.

1 million infant baptisms, this seems to be the primary way we grow as a Church, which is indicative of the death of the missionary and evangelical spirit which should permeate Christianity.

Anyway, there you have it. You can say half full or half empty, either way, there is half of the glass that needs filling.


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