Is interest in Catholicism dropping?

By one measure, the answer appears to be: yes.

Online queries about Catholicism have taken a measurable plunge over the last several years, as the graph below indicates (click to enlarge).

CARA has details:

Searchers from the United States for anything with the term “Catholic” in them have dropped significantly in the 2004 to 2011 period (e.g., Catholic school, Catholic Church, Catholic Charities). The graph above shows weekly search volumes in Google (which dominates the search industry)…

…There is a clear and repetitive pattern in the graph. Searches for anything Catholic reach a low point each summer and peak in two weeks each year—weeks for Ash Wednesday and Christmas. The only outlier here is the significant increase in searches surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II and the conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. In 2007, the search volumes dip below average for the period and have continued on a downward pace to date. The decline is linear. Americans are significantly less likely to search for anything Catholic than they were seven years ago.

There’s much more at the CARA blogsite. Check it out.

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7 responses to “Is interest in Catholicism dropping?”

  1. IMO, all things religious, have their “ups and down”, and this is probably just one of those times for the Catholics. In a few years, maybe the trend will move upward.

  2. Just because this graph shows web searches are down, doesn’t mean Catholicism is further in a “stinker” period. More people are going back to traditional practices, and even Latin masses (especially those under 30!).

  3. So far as I can see from the data presented this means absolutely nothing. This is especially true since the data is being compared to other search terms such as “NFL” or “American Idol”. As there is not one site called “Catholic” this is a comparison between apples and kumquats. It also means that things “Catholic” are probably not so prominent in the news as they were in the period 2004 – 2006.

    The rise just before Christmas and Ash Wednesday is surely the Christmas/Ash Wednesday Catholics trying to find the most convenient church to make their annual appearance.

    Indeed it might be a good thing, if some of the terms being googled had anything to do with the sex abuse scandals. It may mean that hostile searches are trending down.

  4. I agree these statistics are meaningless, numbers like these can be manipulated to fit any conclusion.

  5. I dont think they are meaningless. I think this is a very clever way of determining the amount of interest. Whether it is because of less religious coverage and/or less curiosity about God and His Church, I dont think the conclusions drawn are unexpected.


    There does not need to be a site called ‘catholic’ even though there actually is (i.e Searches results are roughly based on content and reference count, not the address. The popular keywords such as NFL are just there for reference.

  6. As much as I hate to bring up the subject, you are also looking at the height of the abuse scandal at the beginning of the period so the weaning out of searches from that moment on would make some sense.

  7. I see young that are drawn to the more traditional mass or not at all..the rest isn’t finite enough. I see many more mature 50-ish up going back also. I heard a priest once say, maturity and not having to worry about birth control rules and other thing, free them up to embrace all the rest of the jewels the church has (whether you agree or not)
    They also see an emptiness in what they thought was important.

    The fact the numbers are down in church is obvious is many areas with closings and mergings,but hopefully in coming years, they will be stronger and one day we will wish we had the other church’s back!

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