Oct. 7, 2019
By Mary Elizabeth Williams
You know that moment in a once hugely popular, now hobbling along in its ninth season TV show when you watch a Nielsen grab in real time? Maybe it’s an abrupt time jump. Maybe it’s a surprise pregnancy. Maybe it’s the addition of a troubled yet cute boy that the family has to take in, for some reason. For the Roman Catholic Church, I think it’s this new "let's bring in some husbands" development.
The biggest Christian religion in the world is facing a serious ratings slump. Thanks to increasing acceptance of secularism, and a seemingly bottomless array of sex abuse scandals and stonewalling about meaningful reform, the numbers of self-identified Catholics have been falling off sharply in almost all parts of the world. According to the Pew Research Center, 13% of all U.S. adults identify as former Catholics. And even among those who currently claim the affiliation, the percentage of Catholics who are members of a church has likewise fallen off in the last two decades. In once sturdy Catholic footholds, the drop-off is even more dramatic — in 1970, 92% of Latin America was Catholic. It’s predicted that in the next decade, Catholics will be the minority there.