• The share of new U.S. Catholic priests identifying as theologically “progressive” has dropped so low that the tendency has “all but vanished,” a study finds. The study, conducted by The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, is based on a new analysis of the project’s 2022 National Study of Catholic Priests. Billed as the largest of its kind in more than 50 years, this national study consisted of a survey of bishops, with 131 responses, a survey of 10,000 priests, with more than 3,500 responses, and in-depth interviews with more than 100 priests. The current analysis echoes the earlier study in finding among priests a widespread lack of confidence and trust in their bishops. When priests were asked to locate their theological outlook on a spectrum from “very conservative/orthodox” to “very progressive,” none of those ordained after 2020 described themselves as “very progressive.” A graph shows that the proportion of priests identifying as “somewhat progressive” or “very progressive” dropped from almost 70 percent among those ordained in 1965–1969 to less than 5 percent among those ordained in 2020 or later. According to the researchers, there was a similar drift away from political liberalism and toward “moderate” and “conservative” positions. They caution that while the study may show how priests perceive themselves relative to others, it tells little about what makes one consider oneself “progressive,” “moderate,” or “orthodox.”

    (The Pillar,

    Source: The Catholic Project, Catholic University of America.


  •       Source: Springtide.

    According to a new study, a majority of young Americans from different and no faiths say that they have experienced a sacred moment, though what they consider sacred may be different from previous generations. Springtide Research Institute’s study, “The State of Religion & Young People 2023: Exploring the Sacred,” surveyed more that 4,500 young people between 13 and 25 years of age. Fifty-five percent responded that they had had “experiences that evoked a sense of wonder, awe, gratitude, deep truth, and/or interconnectedness in [their] life.” Of these respondents (who could select more than one of the following options), 69 percent said that they had experienced a sacred moment more than once in nature, 68 percent said they had done so in the privacy of their home, and 55 percent said this had occurred at a place of worship. More of the respondents said they felt connected to nature than to a higher power. Nearly a third of those surveyed told Springtide they had never participated in a spiritual or religious community. Fifty-six percent said they considered their daily or weekly engagement in art as religious or spiritual practices. This was also the case with 54 percent of those who spent time in nature, 49 percent of those who read, and 45 percent of those who prayed. Sixty-eight percent said they were at least slightly religious (32 percent slightly, 25 percent moderately, and 10 percent very), while 78 percent said they were at least slightly spiritual (32 percent slightly, 29 percent moderately, and 17 percent very).

    (The study can be downloaded from:


  •     Source: National Center for Complementary and
        Integrative Health

    Despite New Age practitioners’ use of non-conventional and holistic health techniques, many are also invested in genetic testing, an established medical practice that seems contradictory to their more spiritual orientation. In a recent study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in November), Christopher Scheitle, Katie Corcoran, and Bernard DiGregorio analyzed a probability sample of 50,000 individuals from the AmeriSpeak panel, looking at measures related to science, religion, and what are considered paranormal activities. The researchers found a positive association between individuals’ involvement in New Age practices, such as the use of crystals and acupuncture, and their use of direct-to-consumer genetic health tests. This association proved to be strong even after accounting for such control variables as education and interest in science and scientific knowledge. Scheitle, Corcoran, and DiGregorio argue that this finding can be explained by the affinity New Age practitioners have for individualized health care outside of institutional boundaries. They speculate that if something like genetic health testing can be reconciled with New Age healing practices, a “shared framing around personal autonomy and anti-institutionalism” could potentially resolve other conflicts between spiritual beliefs and scientific practices.

    (Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,


  • In contrast to the Catholic Church’s growth in the rest of Africa, Catholicism in Ghana is experiencing decline, church statistics show. According to the Catholic news service The Pillar (November 14), available records show that the Catholic population in Ghana increased steadily from 1880 until 2000, when its share of the total population reached 15.1 percent. Since then, Catholics’ share dropped to 13.1 percent in the 2010 census, subsequently declining to 10.1 percent in the 2021 census. This means that the church lost approximately 230,000 of its members within the last 10 to 11 years. Ghana’s statistics run contrary to broader African trends, with the number of Catholics on the continent rising from 257 million in 2020 to 265 million in 2021. The ratio of Catholics to the wider African population also grew slightly. Bishop Gyamfi, who has led Ghana’s bishops’ conference since 2022, cited rapid urbanization as an important factor in Catholicism’s decline in the country. He said that while “the church appears to post decent percentages in rural communities, it is hemorrhaging most rapidly in the urban centers…The census data suggests that when Catholics move from the rural areas to the urban centers, they fail to sustain their Catholic faith and fall prey to other sects.” The proportion of Ghanaians identifying as Pentecostals has increased from 24.1 percent in 2000 to 31.6 percent in 2021. There has also been a rise in the percentage of Muslims in Ghana, from 17.6 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent in 2021. The overall proportion of Christians barely changed in the same period, rising from 71.2 percent in 2010 to 71.3 percent in 2021.

    (The Pillar,

    Parish church in Ghana (source: Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church).


  • According to the most recent population census conducted in 2021, Northern Ireland is the only country in the UK that has seen Christian growth, although it has also experienced a significant increase in non-affiliation and an aging of churchgoers. Northern Ireland (and also Scotland) records particular Christian affiliations in its census, something that England and Wales have refused to do. Christian adherents make up 80 percent of Northern Ireland’s population, much larger than their 52 percent share in Scotland, 44 percent in Wales, and 46 percent in England. The 2021 census showed a population increase in Northern Ireland of 0.5 percent compared to 2011, but a 1.7 percent increase in Christian adherents. This was due to the 0.9 percent increase in the number of Roman Catholics, who make up of 53 percent of Northern Ireland’s Christians, as well as the 2.2 percent increase in other denominational groups, including blacks and charismatics, who only make up 9 percent of all the Christians. The three main Protestant churches all saw declines: the Anglicans by 1.2 percent, Presbyterians by 0.9 percent, and Methodists by 1.9 percent. In addition, the census showed that since 2011 there has been a considerable increase of 6.1 percent in the number of those with no religion. They now represent 17 percent of Northern Ireland’s population, a proportion that is still dwarfed by their 36 percent share in Scotland, 47 percent in Wales, and 37 percent in England. In his newsletter FutureFirst (December), editor Peter Brierley writes that the age patterns are reason for concern. Twenty percent of the Church of Ireland’s adherents are under 20 years old and 26 percent are 65 or over; the distribution for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively, and for the Methodist Church in Ireland, 18 percent and 29 percent.

    Source: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

    Brierley notes that, in contrast, the Roman Catholic Church has 28 percent under 20 years old and 14 percent over 65, “a very great difference, and the combined non-institutional denominations are 25 percent and 17 percent, somewhere between the Catholics and the Institutionals (mainline) in both percentages. Other Religions, however, have 28 percent who are under 20 but only 8 percent 65 and over, this latter indicating they have far fewer older people, some of which are likely to be immigrants or other newcomers, though they are only a small part of the population (1 percent).” Brierley adds that the age structure is actually more significant than the figures suggest because the percentage of those 75 and over is increasing faster in the mainline churches than the others. “In other words, it is not just that the combined institutional churches are significantly older than the population as a whole, but very much older. In 2021, 7.9 percent of N. Ireland’s population were 75 or over, [but this group accounted for] 12.7 percent of the institutional churches…[B]y 2031, 9.6 percent of the population will be 75 or over, which could mean 15.5 percent for the institutional churches. While many elderly people are still active and can play a positive part in church life, and therefore should not be bewailed or assumed to be a ‘negative’ in statistical interpretations, replacement inevitably involves younger people coming to faith, though not necessarily into institutional, traditional church structures.”