Rorate Caeli

The Francis Effect, Continued

Three months ago we reported on a Pew Research Center study on the so-called Francis Effect.  The data compiled from April to October 2013 showed no measurable effect in Catholic identity and Mass attendance (in fact, Mass attendance dropped slightly).

The well-respected firm conducted a follow-up with a survey through January 2014. The new polling indicates there has been no increase in either Catholic identity or Mass attendance in the United States during the papacy of Francis.

Evidence of a “Francis Effect”?

Many commentators have speculated about Francis’ effect on Catholics in the U.S. and around the world. The survey finds he is widely admired, but has his leadership sparked increased devotion among the faithful or inspired former Catholics to return to the church?

The evidence on this question is mixed. Pew Research surveys conducted since Francis was elected find no change in the share of U.S. adults who identify as Catholics: 22% of Americans describe themselves as Catholic today, identical to the 22% who did so in the year preceding Francis’ election.  Aggregated data from Pew Research surveys also find no change in self-reported rates of Mass attendance among Catholics. In the year since Francis became pope, 40% of U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass at least once a week, unchanged from the months immediately preceding the papal transition.

The new survey also finds no evidence that large numbers of Catholics are volunteering more or going to confession more often than in the past. Roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics (13%) say they have been volunteering more in their church or community over the past year, but 23% say they have been doing this less often, and 59% say their level of volunteering has not changed. Just one-in-twenty Catholics (5%) say they have been going to confession (also known as the sacrament of penance and reconciliation) more often over the last 12 months, while 22% say they have been going to confession less often, and 65% say their frequency of confession has not changed very much.

[Other analyses elsewhere, including at the Washington Post and Huffington Post.]