Rorate Caeli

The Church of Vatican II
I - Brazil. Catholicism becoming a minority religion

The graph below is based upon Graphs 36 and 37 in the report, published just a few days ago, for the 2010 Censo Demográfico of Brazil that was carried out by the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. (Read the PDF of the report here. There is a section dedicated to religious affiliation - Religião.

According to the same report, Catholics comprised 99.7% of the population in 1872. This went down to 91.8% by 1970. This gradual decline over a century, however, has been dwarfed by the continuing decline in the Catholic Church's share of the Brazilian population since then: 89% in 1980, 83% in 1991, 73.6% in 2000 and 64.6% in 2010. The largest gains have been registered by the Evangelicals, who grew from 6.6% in 1980, to 9% in 1991, to 15.4% in 2000, and to 22.2% in 2010 -- a growth rate that increased with every passing decade. 

The state with the smallest percentage of Catholics was Rio de Janeiro, where only 48.5% of the population was Catholic as of 2010.

The census of 2010 officially confirmed what polls had foreshadowed as early as 2007: that Catholics would fall to about 64% of the population of Brazil. Furthermore, according to Table 1.4.1 of the 2010 census report, the actual number of Roman Catholics in Brazil stood at 123,280,172. This is less than the 125,518,774 Roman Catholics reported in the 2000 census. The fall is not just in terms of percentage but also in absolute numbers. 

If current trends continue, Brazil will cease to be a majority-Catholic country sometime between 2020 and 2025. 

These latest statistics explode a myth that has become common in Catholic journalism in the last few years: the myth that Brazilian Catholicism has been saved, following the Liberation Theology debacle, from further Evangelical and Pentecostal inroads by the related phenomena of celebrity priests and "Charismatic Catholicism". Far from stopping these inroads, it looks far more likely that Brazilian Catholicism's embrace of Pentecostal-inspired forms of prayer and worship has only facilitated the loss of even more Catholics to Protestantism.

For more details: 2010 Census: number of Catholics falls and number of Protestants, Spiritists and persons without religion records increase