Nearly one in five US Catholics of Mexican origin, survey finds

(Photo: REUTERS / Fred Prouser)California Governor Jerry Brown (L) listens to Los Angeles Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez during ceremonies before Brown signed AB60 into law in Los Angeles October 3, 2013. Illegal immigrants living in California may soon be able to apply for driver's licenses under a law signed on Thursday by Brown, in the latest in a string of moves expanding privileges for such immigrants in the most populous U.S. state. The move marked a major victory for Latino and immigration rights activists who have fought for decades for such a law, which was expected to spur 1.4 million people to apply for licenses over the next three years.

With nearly one five in Catholics in the United States having Mexican ancestry, Mexico is the country of origin for the biggest group nationally in the church.

This is the finding of a survey released Monday by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA).

The poll found that 19 percent of U.S. Catholics have Mexican ancestry.

The reported entitled, "Cultural Diversity in the Catholic Church in the United States" was carried out by Mark Gray, Melissa Cidade, Mary Gautier, and Thomas Gaunt who belongs to the Society of Jesus.

To illustrate the changing Catholic demographic shift, CARA reported that in the 1970s, only 7 percent of Catholics said they were of Mexican ancestry.

(Image: CARA)

At that time the largest ethnic group in the Catholic Church was Italians. About 18 percent of Catholics in the 1970s were of Italian ancestry.

The report also found that about three in 10 U.S. parishes (29 percent) indicate that they celebrate at least one Mass a month in a language other than English.

"This is equivalent to more than 5,000 parishes. Four percent of all parishes celebrate Masses in three or more different languages (including English) at least once a month.

"Most of the Masses celebrated in a language other than English are in Spanish (81 percent)," the report said.

"Parishes that only celebrate Mass in English are significantly less racially and ethnically diverse than other parishes. On average, 88 percent of parishioners in these parishes are non-Hispanic white and no other average for any other race or ethnicity group attains 5 percent."

CARA's analyses of data revealed that about 6 percent of all Masses (weekend and weekday) in the United States are celebrated in Spanish.


Approximately 42.5 million U.S. residents who self-identify as non-Hispanic white are estimated to be Catholic, representing about 21.6 percent of the 196.8 million people of this race and ethnicity in the country. This represents the single largest racial or ethnic group among Catholics in the United States.

Some 29.7 million U.S. residents who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino are estimated to be Catholic, representing about 58.9 percent of the 50.5 million people of this race and ethnicity in the country. About 16.0 million of the nation's Hispanic or Latino Catholics are estimated to be born in the United States. Some 13.7 million are foreign-born.

A September CARA Catholic Poll (CCP) asked a national random sample of working-age self-identified Catholics, ages 16 to 64, "What is your ancestry or ethnic origin?"

The most common response was Mexican (19.0 percent) followed by Irish (16.6 percent), German (15.7 percent), Italian (12.5 percent), and Polish (7.6 percent).

It was an open-ended question using the U.S. Census method.

Illustrating the increase in Mexican immigration in recent decades, the survey found that only 5 percent of Catholics born between 1949 and 1960 said they are of Mexican ancestry. But 24 percent of Catholics born between 1951 and 1981 and 23 percent of Catholics born between 1982 and 1997 are of Mexican ancestry.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News