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The Catholic Church in the United States is part of the worldwide Catholic Church. With 78.2 million members, it is the largest church in the United States, comprising 25 percent of the population. The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world, after Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines. It is also the largest Catholic minority population, and the largest English-speaking Catholic population.
Catholicism arrived in what is now the United States during the earliest days of the European colonization of the Americas. The first Catholic missionaries were Spanish, having come with Christopher Columbus to the New World on his second voyage in 1493. Subsequently, Spanish missionaries established missions in what are now Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, California, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. French colonization came later, in the early 18th century, with the French establishing missions in French Louisiana: St. Louis, New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, the Alabamas, Natchez, Yazoo, Natchitoches, Arkansas, Illinois, and Michigan.
The number of Catholics has grown during the country's history, at first slowly in the early 19th century through some immigration and through the acquisition of territories (formerly possessions of France, Spain, and Mexico) with predominately Catholic populations. In the mid-19th century, a rapid influx of immigrants from Europe (Irish, German, Polish and Italian) made Catholicism the largest religion in the United States. This increase of Catholics was met by widespread prejudice and hostility, often resulting in riots and the burning of churches, convents, and seminary. The anti-Catholic nativist Know Nothing movement was first founded in the mid 19th century by Lewis Charles Levin and others in an attempt to restrict Catholic immigration. This party believed that the United States was a Protestant nation and the influx of Catholics threatened its purity and mission, even its very existence. Other anti-Catholic political movements followed in the violent tradition of the Know Nothings, including the American Protective Association, OUAM, JrOUAM, and the second Ku Klux Klan among others.
Since the 1960s, the percentage of Americans who are Catholic has stayed roughly the same, at around 25%, due in large part to increases in the Hispanic, especially Mexican American, population over the same period which balanced losses of self-identifying Catholics among other groups.
Catholics gather as local communities called parishes, usually headed by a priest, and typically meet at a permanent church building for liturgies every Sunday and on holy days. Within the 195 geographical dioceses and archdioceses (excluding the Archdiocese for the Military Services), there are 17,644 local Catholic parishes in the United States. The Catholic Church has the third highest total number of local congregations in the US behind Southern Baptists and United Methodists. However, the average Catholic parish is significantly larger than the average Baptist or Methodist congregation; there are more than four times as many Catholics as Southern Baptists and more than eight times as many Catholics as United Methodists.
Currently, 6 dioceses/eparchies are vacant (sede vacante):
Eastern Catholic Churches are churches with origins in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that have their own distinctive liturgical, legal and organizational systems and are identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Each is considered fully equal to the Latin tradition within the church. In the United States, there are 15 Eastern church dioceses (called eparchies) and two Eastern church archdioceses (or archeparchies), the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh and the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
The apostolic exarchate for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the United States is headed by a bishop who is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. An apostolic exarchate is the Eastern Catholic Church equivalent of an apostolic vicariate. It is not a full-fledged diocese/eparchy, but is established by the Holy See for the pastoral care of Eastern Catholics in an area outside the territory of the Eastern Catholic Church to which they belong. It is headed by a bishop or a priest with the title of exarch.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter was established January 1, 2012, to serve former Anglican groups and clergy in the United States who sought to become Catholic. Similar to a diocese though national in scope, the ordinariate is based in Houston, Texas and includes parishes and communities across the United States that are fully Catholic, while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and traditions.
As of 2013[update], 9 dioceses out of 195 are vacant (sede vacante). Another seven bishops, including three Archbishops and one Cardinal, are past the retirement age of 75.
The central leadership body of the Catholic Church in the United States is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made up of the hierarchy of bishops (including archbishops) of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands, although each bishop is independent in his own diocese, answerable only to the Holy See. The USCCB elects a president to serve as their administrative head, but he is in no way the "head" of the Church or of Catholics in the United States. In addition to the 195 dioceses and one exarchate represented in the USCCB, there are several dioceses in the nation's other four overseas dependencies. In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the bishops in the six dioceses (one metropolitan archdiocese and five suffragan dioceses) form their own episcopal conference, the Conferencia Episcopal Puertorriqueña. The bishops in US insular areas in the Pacific Ocean—the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Territory of American Samoa, and the Territory of Guam—are members of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific.
No primate exists for Catholics in the United States. In the 1850s, the Archdiocese of Baltimore was acknowledged a Prerogative of Place, which confers to its archbishop some of the leadership responsibilities granted to primates in other countries. The Archdiocese of Baltimore was the first diocese established in the United States, in 1789, with John Carroll (1735–1815) as its first bishop. It was, for many years, the most influential diocese in the fledgling nation. Now, however, the United States has several large archdioceses and a number of cardinal-archbishops.
By far, most Catholics in the United States belong to the Latin Church and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. Rite generally refers to the form of worship ("liturgical rite") in a church community owing to cultural and historical differences as well as differences in practice. However, the Vatican II document, Orientalium Ecclesiarum ("Of the Eastern Churches"), acknowledges that these Eastern Catholic communities are "true Churches" and not just rites within the Catholic Church. There are 14 other Churches in the United States (23 within the global Catholic Church) which are in communion with Rome, fully recognized and valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. They have their own bishops and eparchies. The largest of these communities in the U.S. is the Chaldean Catholic Church. Most of these Churches are of Eastern European and Middle Eastern origin. Eastern Catholic Churches are distinguished from Eastern Orthodox, identifiable by their usage of the term Catholic.
There are 19 U.S. cardinals.
Five cardinals currently lead U.S. archdioceses
Three cardinals are not currently diocesan bishops:
Eleven cardinals are retired:
There are 454 active and retired Catholic bishops in the United States:
270 active bishops:
184 retired bishops:
The Church has over 41,406 diocesan and religious-order priests in the United States; over 30,000 lay ministers (80 percent of them women); 17,000 men who are ordained as permanent deacons in the United States (a permanent deacon is a man, either married or single, who is ordained to the order of deacons, the first of three ranks in ordained ministry; they assist priests in administrative and pastoral roles); 63,032 sisters; 5,040 brothers; 16 US cardinals; 424 active and retired US bishops; and 5,029 seminarians enrolled in the United States. Overall, it employs more than one million employees with an operating budget of nearly $100 billion to run parishes, diocesan primary and secondary schools, nursing homes, retreat centers, diocesan hospitals, and other charitable institutions. Catholic schools educate 2.7 million students in the United States, employing 150,000 teachers.
Leadership in the Church in the United States falls to its bishops. They are the shepherds of particular cities and their surrounding areas, called dioceses or sees. There is one non-territorial diocese in the United States for Catholics in the armed forces. There are approximately 430 bishops and archbishops who shepherd the nation's 195 dioceses and archdioceses. Each diocese is led by one bishop, known as its ordinary. Some dioceses (usually those that are larger) also have auxiliary bishops who help the ordinary. Some also have a retired bishop still in residence. It is possible for a diocese to be temporarily without a bishop (called a "vacant see") if the ordinary is transferred to a new diocese or dies without a named successor. Dioceses are grouped together geographically into provinces, usually within a state, part of a state, or multiple states together (see map below). A province comprises several dioceses which look to one ordinary bishop (usually of the most populous or historically influential diocese/city) for guidance and leadership. This lead bishop is their archbishop and his diocese is the archdiocese. The archbishop is called the 'metropolitan' bishop who oversees his brother 'suffragan' bishops. The subordinate dioceses are likewise called suffragan dioceses. There are currently 33 metropolitan archbishops in the United States. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops's website, there are 270 active Catholic bishops in the United States (5 Cardinal Archbishops, 1 Coadjutor Archbishop, 154 Diocesan Bishops, 73 Auxiliary Bishops, and 9 Apostolic or Diocesan Administrators) and there are 180 retired Catholic bishops in the United States (10 retired Cardinal Archbishops, 24 retired Archbishops, 94 retired Diocesan Bishops, 52 retired Auxiliary Bishops). Also according to the USCCB's website, there are 19 U.S. cardinals (five cardinals currently lead U.S. archdioceses, three cardinals are not currently diocesan bishops, and eleven cardinals are retired).
Some bishops are created Cardinals by the pope. These are usually conferred upon bishop of influential or significant dioceses - or upon bishops who have distinguished themselves in a particular area of service. As of August 2011[update], there are 19 American cardinals. Not all reside in the United States or are diocesan ordinaries. Five are sitting archbishops: of Boston, Chicago, Galveston-Houston, New York and Washington D.C.. Eleven are retired Archbishops emeritus: of Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit (two), Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. (two). Three work in Rome with the Roman Curia, and one is retired from service in Rome without serving as a diocesan ordinary in the US.
According to the 2010 Official Catholic Directory, as of 2009 there were 189 seminaries with 5,131 students in the United States; 3,319 diocesan seminarians and 1,812 religious seminarians. By the official 2011 statistics, there are 5,247 seminarians (3,394 diocesan and 1,853 religious) in the United States. In addition, the American Catholic bishops oversee the Pontifical North American College for American seminarians and priests studying at one of the Pontifical Universities in Rome.
According to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, there are approximately 230 Roman Catholic universities and colleges in the United States with nearly 1 million students and some 65,000 professors. The national university of the Church, founded by the nation's bishops in 1887, is The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
By the middle of the 19th century, the Catholics in larger cities started building their own parochial school system. The main impetus was fear that exposure to Protestant teachers in the public schools, and Protestant fellow students, would lead to a loss of faith. Protestants reacted by strong opposition to any public funding of parochial schools. The Catholics nevertheless built their elementary schools, parish by parish, using very low paid sisters as teachers.
In the classrooms, the highest priorities were piety, orthodoxy, and strict discipline. Knowledge of the subject matter was a minor concern, and in the late 19th century few of the teachers in parochial schools had gone beyond the 8th grade themselves. The sisters came from numerous denominations, and there was no effort to provide joint teachers training programs. The bishops were indifferent. Finally around 1911, led by the Catholic University in Washington, Catholic colleges began summer institutes to train the sisters in pedagogical techniques. Long past World War II, the Catholic schools were noted for inferior conditions compared to the public schools, and less well-trained teachers.
In 2002, Catholic health care systems, overseeing 625 hospitals with a combined revenue of 30 billion dollars, comprised the nation's largest group of nonprofit systems. In 2008, the cost of running these hospitals had risen to $84.6 billion, including the $5.7 billion they donate. According to the Catholic Health Association of the United States, 60 health care systems, on average, admit one in six patients nationwide each year.
Catholic Charities is active as one of the largest voluntary social service networks in the United States. In 2009, it welcomed in New Jersey the 50,000th refugee to come to the United States from Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar. Likewise, the US Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services has resettled 14,846 refugees from Burma since 2006. In 2010 Catholic Charities USA was one of only four charities among the top 400 charitable organizations to witness an increase in donations in 2009, according to a survey conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The church had a role in shaping the U.S. labor movement, due to the involvement of priests like Charles Owen Rice and John P. Boland. The activism of Msgr. Geno Baroni was instrumental in creating The Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
There are 69,436,660 registered Catholics in the United States (22% of the US population) according to the American Bishops' count in their Official Catholic Directory 2013. This count primarily rests on the parish assessment tax which pastors evaluate yearly according to the number of registered members and contributors. Estimates of the overall American Catholic population from recent years generally range around 20% to 28%. According to Albert J. Menedez, research director of "Americans for Religious Liberty," many Americans continue to call themselves Catholic but "do not register at local parishes for a variety of reasons." According to a survey of 35,556 American residents (released in 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life), 23.9% of Americans identify themselves as Catholic (approximately 72 million of a national population of 306 million residents). The study notes that 10% of those people who identify themselves as Protestant in the interview are former Catholics and 8% of those who identity themselves as Catholic are former Protestants, which, considering the Protestant population is considerably larger, shows a net loss of Catholics to Protestantism. Nationally, more parishes have opened than closed.
The northeastern quadrant of the US (i.e., New England, Mid-Atlantic, East North Central, and West North Central) has seen a decline in the number of parishes since 1970, but parish numbers are up in the other five regions (i.e., South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, Pacific, and Mountain regions). Catholics in the US are about 6% of the church's total worldwide 1.2 billion membership.
A poll by The Barna Group in 2004 found Catholic ethnicity to be 60% non-Hispanic white (generally of mixed ethnicity, but almost always includes at least one Catholic ethnicity such as Irish, Italian, German, Polish, or French), 31% Hispanic of any race (mostly Mexicans), 4% Black, and 5% other ethnicity (mostly Filipinos and other Asian Americans, and American Indians).[dead link]
Between 1990 and 2008, there were 11 million additional Catholics. The growth in the Latino population accounted for 9 million of these. They comprised 32% of all American Catholics in 2008 as opposed to 20% in 1990.
There has never been a Catholic religious party in the United States, either local, state or national, similar to Christian Democratic parties in Europe and Latin America. Since the election of the Catholic John F. Kennedy as President in 1960, Catholics have split about 50-50 between the two major parties. On social issues the Catholic Church takes strong positions against abortion, which was partly legalized in 1973 by the Supreme Court, and same-sex marriage, which has been approved in 16 states and the District of Columbia as of November, 2013. The Church also condemns embryo-destroying research and in vitro fertilization as immoral. The Church is allied with conservative Protestant evangelicals on these issues. However, the Catholic Church throughout its history has taken special concern for all vulnerable groups. This has led to progressive alliances, as well, with the church championing causes such as a strong welfare state, unionization, immigration for those fleeing economic or political hardship, environmental stewardship, and critical evaluation of modern warfare. The Catholic Church's teachings, coming from the perspective of a global church, do not conform easily to the American political binary of "liberals" and "conservatives."
There were small Catholic settlements in Spanish and French colonies, especially in California, New Mexico and Louisiana. Apart from the Louisiana, they had only a small role in the history of the Church in the United States.
Anti-Catholicism was official government policy for the English who settled the colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. Maryland was founded by a Catholic, Lord Baltimore as the first 'non-denominational' colony and was the first to accommodate Catholics. In 1650, the Puritans in the colony rebelled and repealed the Act of Toleration. Catholicism was outlawed and Catholic priests were hunted and exiled. By 1658, the Act of Toleration was reinstated and Maryland became the center of Catholicism into the mid-19th century. By the time of the American Revolution in the 1770s. Catholics formed 1.6% of the 2.5 million population of the thirteen colonies.
After the Revolution Rome made entirely new arrangements for the creation of an American diocese under American bishops. Numerous Catholics served in the American army and the new nation had very close ties with Catholic France. General George Washington insisted on toleration; for example, issued strict orders in 1775 that "Pope's Day," the colonial equivalent of Guy Fawkes Night, was not to be celebrated. Foreign Catholics played major roles, especially the Marquis de Lafayette, Casimir Pulaski, De Grasse, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, and Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing.
In 1787 two Catholics, Daniel Carroll and Thomas Fitzsimons, helped draft the new United States Constitution. In 1791, the First Amendment stated, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." This amendment officially granted freedom of religion to all American citizens, and facilitated the eventual repeal of all anti-Catholic laws from the statute books of all of the new American states. John Carroll was appointed by the Vatican as Prefect Apostolic, making him superior of the missionary church in the thirteen states, and to the first plans for Georgetown University. He became the first American bishop in 1789.
The numbers of Catholics surged starting in the 1840s as German Irish and other Catholics came in large numbers. After 1890 Italians and Poles comprised the largest numbers of new Catholics, but many countries in Europe contributed, as did Quebec. By 1850, Catholics had become the country’s largest single denomination. Between 1860 and 1890, their population tripled to seven million.
Some short-lived anti-Catholic political movements appeared: the Know Nothings in the 1840s, American Protective Association in the 1890s, and the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. , were active in the United States. Animosity by Protestants waned as Catholics demonstrated their patriotism in war, their commitment to charity, and their dedication to democratic values.
The bishops began at standardizing discipline in the American Church with the convocation of the Plenary Councils of Baltimore in 1852, 1866 and 1884. These councils resulted in the promulgation of the Baltimore Catechism and the establishment of The Catholic University of America.
Jesuit priests who had been expelled from Europe found a new base in the U.S. They were noted for their schools and colleges, such as Boston College, Georgetown University, and several Loyola Colleges.
In the 1890s the Americanism controversy roiled senior officials. The Vatican suspected there was too much liberalism in the American Church, and the result was a turn to conservative theology as the Irish bishops increasingly demonstrated their total loyalty to the Pope, and traces of liberal thought in the Catholic colleges were suppressed.
Nuns and sisters played a major role in American religion, education, nursing and social work since the early 19th century. In Catholic Europe, convents were heavily endowed over the centuries, and were sponsored by the aristocracy. There were very few rich American Catholics, and no aristocrats. Religious orders were founded by entrepreneurial women who saw a need and an opportunity, and were staffed by devout women from poor families. The numbers grew rapidly, from 900 sisters in 15 communities in 1840, 50,000 in 170 orders in 1900, and 135,000 in 300 different orders by 1930. Starting in 1820, the sisters always outnumbered the priests and brothers. Their numbers peaked in 1965 at 180,000 then plunged to 56,000 in 2010. Many women left their orders, and few new members were added.
By the beginning of the 20th century, approximately one-sixth of the population of the United States was Catholic. Modern Catholic immigrants come to the United States from the Philippines, Poland and Latin America, especially from Mexico. This multiculturalism and diversity has greatly impacted the flavor of Catholicism in the United States. For example, many dioceses serve in both English and Spanish. When many parishes were set up in the United States, separate churches were built for parishioners from Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc. In Iowa, the development of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the work of Bishop Loras and the building of St. Raphael's Cathedral illustrate this point.
In the later 20th century "[...] the Catholic Church in the United States became the subject of controversy due to allegations of clerical child abuse of children and adolescents, of episcopal negligence in arresting these crimes, and of numerous civil suits that cost Catholic dioceses hundreds of millions of dollars in damages." Because of this, higher scrutiny and governance, as well as protective policies and diocesan investigation into seminaries have been enacted to correct these former abuses of power, and safeguard parishioners and the Church from further abuses and scandals. Many see in these reforms (along with Vatican II) signs of a new era of lay initiative and collaboration.
One initiative is the "National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management" (NLRCM), a lay-led group born in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal and dedicated to bringing better administrative practices to 194 dioceses that include 19,000 parishes nationwide with some 35,000 lay ecclesial ministers who log 20 hours or more a week in these parishes.
Recently John Micklethwait, editor of The Economist and co-author of God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World, said that American Catholicism, which he describes in his book as "arguably the most striking Evangelical success story of the second half of the nineteenth century," has competed quite happily "without losing any of its basic characteristics." It has thrived in America's "pluralism."
In 2011, an estimated 26 million American Catholics were "fallen-away", that is, not practicing their faith. Church leaders commonly refer to them as "the second largest religious denomination in the United States."
For a full list of Servants of God and other open causes, see List of American saints and beatified people.
The following are some notable American Servants of God, Venerables, Beatified, and Saints of the US:
|Servants of God||Venerables||Beatified||Saints|
|Vincent Robert Capodanno, Dorothy Day, Demetrius Gallitzin, Isaac Hecker, Eusebio Francisco Kino, Emil Kapaun, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, Frank Parater, Patrick Peyton, Terence Cardinal Cooke, Annella Zervas, John Hardon, Walter Ciszek, Simon Bruté, Félix Varela, Stanley Rother, James Miller||Nelson Baker, Solanus Casey, Cornelia Connelly, Henriette DeLille, Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli, Michael J. McGivney, Fulton J. Sheen, Pierre Toussaint||Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Francis Xavier Seelos, Junípero Serra||Frances Xavier Cabrini, Marianne Cope, Jean de Lalande, Damien De Veuster, Katharine Drexel, Rose Philippine Duchesne, René Goupil, Mother Théodore Guérin, Isaac Jogues, John Neumann, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Kateri Tekakwitha|
According to The Official Catholic Directory, the following are the top eight Catholic pilgrimage sites in the United States: