Is the Church losing touch with working-class Catholics?

America magazine probes disturbing data

In a recent, wide-ranging article examining data on Church attendance, America magazine editor Kevin Clarke asked: Is the Church losing its working-class flock?

There’s great reason to be concerned. Despite a popular media narrative about secular elites looking down on blue-collar believers, survey data suggests that while mass attendance has declined for many social groups, the sharpest fall seems to be concentrated in the lowest income brackets.

When Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, ran the numbers for America, he located the greatest drop-offs in Mass attendance among self-described Catholics in the lowest income bracket. Those who said they “never attend” Mass jumped from 6 percent in 1972 to just under 25 percent in 2018. In the bracket just above these Catholics, Mr. Burge found another significant leap in never-attenders, from just over 1 percent to 21 percent.

Meanwhile, at the top income quartile, never-attenders went to 13 percent from 4 percent, and in the quartile just below the top, the percentage jumped to 17 percent from almost 2 percent.

Clarke spoke with many members and friends of the Catholic Labor Network for insight on this, from steelworker Charles Perko to Bishop John Stowe (who celebrated our recent Labor Day Mass) – not to mention Nashville representative Aimee Shelide Mayer and board member Joseph McCartin. CLICK HERE to check it out.


2 replies
  1. J. Lo McPherson
    J. Lo McPherson says:

    There are many Catholics who are wealthy & their money talks in parishes! Those families are coveted! Lower income people feel unnoticed, do not feel a part of the “parish family” in some parishes. Not all. It depends a lot on the Pastor! Also, divorced people are made to feel alone in that the “couples” seem to gather at functions leaving some women alone. This needs to be looked at also. Young adults can feel isolated if there is not a specific group for them. Outsiders wanting to fit in but where? Single parents! Same situation. Many issues with people leaving the church going unnoticed! Very sad.

  2. Michael Halpin
    Michael Halpin says:

    A big part of this is that the church has become political. One church in our town put in their bulletin that we should vote for the pro life Presidential candidate with no mention of death penalty or an NLRB that is against workers . The NLRB today leaves workers in a position to be denied their rights. An improperly funded OSHA leaves workers exposed to hazards. Are these lives unimportant? Less important.

    I also recall another parish in my neighborhood laud praises from the pulpit of how great Walmart is while they were trying to get approvals from our city council. No mention of their treatment of workers driving down standards. They spoke of the scholarships that Walmart had given to get less fortunate kids into the parish school. Has Walmart continued those scholarships now that they have been denied the permits? Was it a one off?

    I have not been to that Parish since. They drove me and others that I know out.

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