U.S. Hispanics Are Becoming Less Catholic

The number of Hispanics who identify as Catholic in the U.S. have dropped four percent over the past four years, while Hispanic Protestants are on the rise.

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Catholicism has a famed strong grip on Hispanic communities—and it is loosening. A Gallup poll released earlier this week found that the number of Hispanics who identify as Catholic in the US dropped from 58% to 54% between 2008 and 2012. Over the same four-year period, Hispanics who identify as Protestant rose slightly, from 27% to 28%.

This demographic shift reflects a trend happening in Latin America. According to the polling service Latinobarómetro, the number of Catholic Hispanics in Latin America dropped 11% from 1996 to 2010, while the number of evangelicals, often a synonym for Protestants in Latin America, rose 9%.

(MORE: What You Need to Know About the New Census Numbers on Hispanic Births)

Gallup also found that Hispanic Protestants are far more religious than both their Catholic and non-Latino church brothers and sisters. Nearly two-thirds of Protestant Hispanics say they are “very religious.” Just 43% of Catholic Hispanics identify that strongly, a few points higher that the national average of 40% for all religious Americans. That gap is consistent across age groups.

It would be too simple to call the trend the Hispanic flight from Catholicism. Many Latino Catholics, especially in Latin America, also identify with evangelical-like and Pentecostal-like practices and incorporate them into the Catholic mass. In the United States, Latino Catholics often attend evangelical services because they are conducted in Spanish and incorporate cultural elements—like food and dance—from their home countries. “Most Latinos are becoming Protestants within their ethnic identity and not as part of an assimilation process,” explains Juan Francisco Martínez, professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, in his book Los Protestantes.

(MORE: Why We’re Still Catholics)

Latinos still represent a vibrant future for the Catholic Church. Nearly half of all Catholics under 40 in the United States are Hispanic. The top two Catholic countries in the world are Hispanic ones—Brazil has 127 million Catholics, and Mexico, 96 million. As the cardinals prepare to choose the Pope Emeritus’ successor, the argument for a Latino pope only grows stronger.

 

38 comments
swesleymcgranor
swesleymcgranor

Culturally and spiritually the Hispanic is inherently Catholic, or in bondage to such. I also say that those you count as Protestant, are not Protestant. One must believe in the Triune God. The apostolic-oneness types do not.

nieot
nieot

Catholism is the oldest Religion going back to the Apostles. It is over 2000 years old and has an un broken history of faith. It challenges every human being and will continue to be a witness of truth till the end of time. 

NeilAllen
NeilAllen

Most Catholics are old, uneducated, or don't have access to truth and the Internet.  Once they find the truth, they know this filthy ruch cult of child rape isn't God's church.

MrObvious
MrObvious

That's a good thing; no one should be religious by automation. It should be a choice that truly matters. 

thoreaupoe
thoreaupoe

@PoliticalLogic @TIMEPolitics as an Hispanic atheist I would celebrate this, but most are just becoming evangelical instead #barf

hugosays
hugosays

@ch1c425 @time i blame HwalMarr

MNavarroRD
MNavarroRD

@TIME What is your concept of hispanic? Brazil is NOT hispanic! It was colonized by the portuguese! It is latin, even iberic, not hispanic.

Violetworld
Violetworld

@TIME and more Jehovah's Witness right?

multiversetrvlr
multiversetrvlr

@TIME That's like saying U.S. Jewish are becoming less Jewish.

Republiqueta809
Republiqueta809

@Carlitosway67 ¡Hola, corazón! Perdona, no había visto tu comentario. Gracias por compartirlo conmigo. ¡Abrazos!

nyakwalangulo
nyakwalangulo

@TIME and it wont make us afraid course we are strong.

RafaelDCLXVI
RafaelDCLXVI

@TIME Brazil is not an Hispanic country. You could call it Latino, but not Hispanic, as it refers to Spanish colonization

dzurita37
dzurita37

@TIME it's a sad reality, unfortunately many Hispanics don't truly know their catholic faith otherwise they would never change religions.

RafaelDCLXVI
RafaelDCLXVI

@TIME Brazil is not an Hispanic country. You could call it Latino, mas not Hispanic, as it refers to Spanish colonization

kitschmich
kitschmich

La comunidad católica en E.U. va en declive. ¿Anacronismo y pederastia tendrán que ver?| http://t.co/cX5K3puVzd (Art. en inglés) vía @TIME

mromarg89
mromarg89

i would call myself and Easter Sunday Catholic | Retweet @TIME

DaleRAntoine
DaleRAntoine

@TIME and moving towards what denomination? Just curious

notsacredh
notsacredh

I wonder if Hispanics are also reflecting the trend nationwide of increased non-involvement in religion.

candido_22
candido_22

@NeilAllen Certainly you do not know anything about Catholicism and its ancient religious legacy. Your hatred and bias do not allow you to see the beauty of this global Faith either... As a Catholic, I certainly will never want to be like you and think the way you do, which is very horrendous, hateful and truly ignorant! 

PoliticalLogic
PoliticalLogic

@thoreaupoe yes, I posted another story titled that way yesterday. Oh and I agree with you.

ch1c425
ch1c425

@hugosays you blame everyone else but yourself!

Cophee_Blak
Cophee_Blak

@Boxingwithgod @elizabethjdias sign of improvement

notsacredh
notsacredh

I would call myself a not-a-chance-of-ever-going-to-church atheist.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@sacredh There may be some of that, but for he most part Hispanics still identify as religious.

Evangelical Protestants are very active in Latin America and among Hispanic populations here. And they're actively proselytizing, as in going door to door, which we Catholics still find very uncomfortable (and, frankly, good for us on that). But the Catholic Church has just always kind of assumed that Hispanics were Catholic and would always be Catholic, so we kind of let any outreach lapse. Evangelical Protestants swooped in to fill that void. Some of them here even allow Hispanics to bring their devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe and their Christmas-season posadas traditions to the Protestant churches.

It's kind of ironic, because in Latin America, the Catholic Church is one of the strongest voices for social justice (poverty issues, land use, violence, predations by mining companies, etc.), while the Protestants for the most part aren't involved in that. They're preaching the prosperity gospel to people mired in poverty. And up here, the evangelical churches are part of the religious right, and we all know where they stand on poverty and immigration issues.

NeilAllen
NeilAllen

@candido_22 @NeilAllen I grew up with it, K-12, and know what they teach you, and I know the truth.

Did you know that confession was "invented"?  They just made it up based on the second half of John 20:23, and blatantly ignored the 2nd half.

Did you know priests sign an oath to their bishop that overrides their oath to God? 

The Catholic church isn't God's church.  Jesus started a church 2000 years ago, and it split in many directions.  If you think its the most filthy rich, and the largest organized child rape cult, be ready to answer to God for that.

hugosays
hugosays

@ch1c425 that's how geesus made me....i blame hom.

Boxingwithgod
Boxingwithgod

@Cophee_Blak progress I'd bet they are becoming younger and more educated as well.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Thanks for the reply Sue_N. As someone that has never believed, all religions look very similar to me. Maybe that's why I don't think the Muslim religion is bad. I just think that their fringe elements are more vocal and crazy than the mainstream western religions. Still, I think it's just a matter of degree.

Cophee_Blak
Cophee_Blak

@Boxingwithgod yea, can't have iPhones around and still believe in what people with pointy hats say