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Mass Attendance Down Over the Past 10 Years

A recent Gallup poll indicates that Mass attendance is down in the United States over the past ten years. The most significant drop is found in the demographic of those 60+ years old, which declined from 59% to 49% in just a ten-year span. Mass attendance among those from 30–39 rose, however, from 40% to 43% over the same period.

Many have wondered if a “Francis effect” would provide a boon to Catholic life in the United States. While these numbers do not necessarily indicate that such is not true, they make clear that any such impact has not staved the decline begun with the cultural crisis of the 1960s, at least in Mass attendance. While the poll did indicate that the number of people identifying themselves as Catholics seems to be holding steady, analysts assert that such stability likely has more to do with Hispanic immigration than a bolstering of Catholic identity.

Perhaps what Benedict XVI prognosticated is being born out. He once suggested that from

the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.[1]

Polls are indeed useful to indicate a certain measure of current health and future trends, but as Benedict XVI himself advised, we should “be cautious in our prognostications. What Saint Augustine said is still true: Man is an abyss; what will rise out of these depths, no one can see in advance.”[2]

Please find the CNA article here: “Mass Attendance in U.S. Down in Recent Years, Gallup Poll Finds.”


[1] Benedict XVI, Faith and the Future (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 116.

[2] Benedict XVI, Faith and the Future (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 102.

Jeremy Priest

Jeremy Priest

Jeremy J. Priest is the Director of the Office of Family Life and Pro-Life Activities for the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, OK. He recently completed his STL at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, IL. He and his wife Genevieve have two children and live in Tulsa.