The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The Latino paradox

Latino immigrants are having a powerful impact on the American Catholic Church — but a new study raises questions about whether that impact will last:

New arrivals from Spanish-speaking countries have helped the Catholic Church maintain its status as the dominant religion in the U.S., according to a new Trinity College report slated to be released today.

In fact, the report said, without the influx of 9 million Latino Catholics from 1990 to 2008, the denomination would have lost ground.

But the influx of immigrants masks another trend documented by the study: The longer Latinos live in the U.S., the less likely they are to identify themselves as Catholic.


“As they spend more time in the United States, they have so many other options,” said Ariela Keysar, a Trinity demographer who worked on the report with sociologist Barry A. Kosmin and Juhem Navarro-Rivera, a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut.

“They are able to pick and choose from faiths that are different than the one they grew up with,” Keysar said.

Sometimes, the religion of choice is none at all. The number of Latinos who identify with no religion grew from 6 percent of the Latino population in 1990 to 12 percent in 2008.

That doesn’t surprise the Rev. Jose Mercado, pastor at St. Augustine Church in Hartford and director of the Hartford Archdiocese’s Office of Hispanic Evangelization.


“People get more secularized and they lose the sense of the religious,” Mercado said. “Other things take the place of God — careers, money … that’s a big factor not only within the Hispanic community but among Catholics as a whole.”

When Mercado visits Puerto Rico, where his parents were born, he is struck by how much of a community’s life orbits around the church. “It’s the social center, the religious center,” he said. “In the United States, faith is not that visible.”

Check out the link for more.  USA Today has this write-up on the study, as well. 

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Russ Gaddi

posted March 16, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Maybe its because tradition changes, because if they truly cared about Catholicism, they would never leave it…or maybe its because they actually began to read the Bible and noticed a huge contradiction between Catholicism and the Bible and surely, we are to believe the Bible right? What do you guys think?

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Your Name

posted March 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I disagree with the “actually began to read the bible” statement. As a lifelong Catholic, I can tell you that I, along with many others, do in fact read the bible. I refer to myself as a “born again Catholic”. Being a Catholic is not my “religion” it is who I am and how I was raised and what I believe. It is a part of my culture. Unfortunately quite a few Catholics do feel a disconnect and I remind them that your religion of choice will not cement your relationship with God. A good relationship requires work and effort on your part. This is where the break happens.

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posted March 17, 2010 at 1:30 am

There are more Protestants in the United States than there are Catholics. Roman Catholicism is the single largest DENOMINATION of all U.S. Christian churches, but it is not the “dominant religion” in the U.S.

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posted March 18, 2010 at 12:33 am

How many of those 9 million were LEGAL immigrants?
Once you start breaking laws it is soooo easy to keep breaking them!
Anyone who has broken the law to remain in this country is a criminal and criminals become increasingly set in their defiant lawlessness.
Immigrant groups who came here legally like the Poles, Italians and Irish remained Catholic because they had a tradition of honesty and righteousness to support them in their journey toward becoming American Catholics.
Illegals fall away because their foundation of criminality leads them away from the Truth and the Light.
Encouraging desperate people to break the law is profoundly shortsighted and destructive for everyone.

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