Census shows Ireland is still overwhelmingly Catholic

Despite being rocked by the sex abuse scandal, a huge percentage in the country still self-identify as Catholic.  Details, from the Irish Times:

Ireland remains the overwhelmingly Catholic country of the English-speaking world, according to results of the April 2011 census, published yesterday. Over 84 per cent of people in the Republic, or 3.86 million, described themselves as Roman Catholic in that census.

It may represent a drop from the 86.8 per cent of the population who did so in the 2006 census but, in actual terms, the 2011 figure is an increase of 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, on the 2006 figure.

This anomaly, of an increase in numbers and percentage but a drop overall, is because the general population of the Republic increased by 348,404, to 4.58 million, since 2006.

The nearest in numbers to Catholics are those who declared themselves as having “no religion” last April. They now number 269,800, an increase of 44.8 per cent on the 2006 figure. A further 72,914 did not state their religion, compared to the 70,322 “not stated” figure for 2006.

Among those who did declare themselves last year the next largest grouping to those with “no religion” are members of the Church of Ireland who now number 129,039, an increase of 6.4 per cent on their 121,229 figure in 2006. Presbyterian numbers are up by 4.5 per cent to 24,600 as are Jehovah’s Witnesses, by 19.4 per cent to 6,149.

Far and away the most significant non-Christian religion in Ireland today is Islam. Members of Ireland’s Muslim community now number 49,204, an increase of 51.2 per cent on the 32,539 figure in 2006.

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  1. Self-identification as Catholic means nothing, if America’s recent history is any indication. Most of the cultural and political efforts over the last fifty years to subvert traditional morality, magnify the State, and relegate the Church to irrelevance have been chiefly the handiwork of Northeastern Irish Catholics.

  2. When we went to Italy a few years ago, the local guide said most Italians identity as Catholic, but only go to Church for special events such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

  3. pagansister says:

    I expect many Irish claim to be Catholic but attend on special occasions—Easter, baptisms, Christmas etc. On a visit to Cork Ireland with my 2 sisters, we visited a relative—one sister’s niece, who had married an Irishman and moved there. She attended Mass on a regular basis , as he perferred to stay home. I expect he identifies as Catholic, but his attendance is irregular. On our visit in 2006 she had a 3 year old and a 6 month old—now there are 2 more. So she and her husband are contibuting to the Catholic population as well as the Irish one. :o)

  4. midwestlady says:

    Self-identification in a poll means nothing. People who show up at church only on Christmas will claim they’re catholic in a poll, especially when they know they can say anything because nothing will be checked out for membership records. Let’s not be naive here.

  5. Ireland and the people of Ireland need many prayers for the strengthening of the Church there. People may well indeed identify as Catholic. Catholic education is also freely available throughout the island north and south – so that is something – but the pews are all but empty in so many churches. People of my generation (30s and 40s) have stayed away and they are not raising their kids strong in their faith.

  6. One of the big disconnects between pro-forma and real Catholic identity in Ireland has to do with the schools. Lots of families who don’t practice Catholicism or ever go to church still baptize their kids because 90% of the schools in the country are Catholic run. If you’re not at least officially Catholic, you can get refused admission, especially if slots are limited.

  7. LoneThinker says:

    One needs to separate Dublin from the rest of the nation, perhaps also Cork, Galway and Limeick, the largest cities outside the one million plus of the Capital. Then separate Mass attendance and practice of the Faith in rural Ireland which is very high. Statistics without context are useless. There are schools being built and opened for all groups, including some neutral ones, always were for Anglicans and other main groups. Media insistence on the abuse scandal is exaggerated, the impression is worse than the experienced reality. Most people dentify with their local parish, where the local football, hurling and other teams are identified as “parish” because they are Catholic for the most part. Dublin’s Mass attendance has been down for decades. There is a significant push Left and pro-the-choice-of-abortion and wanting the peoples’ strong vote to protect Life in the womb, overturned by the Labour, and some Independents, and some vocal professionals who call themselves Humanists. They are a distinctive minority but noisy devils!

  8. Fiergenholt says:

    Kinda off the topic (“Irish”) but maybe not since Will made the comment about Italy. . . .

    I have not visited Ireland at all but have visited Poland. While Sunday masses are typically crowded, the attendees are 90+% women and children. If you find any males attending Sunday Mass, they are typically under 16 or over 60. If you find any males who are in the middle (16-60), then I can guarantee you they are: (1) On ceremony as the priest/celebrants; (2) Foreign tourists (not untypically American); or (3) there because of a special event/invitation. For instance, one mass I attended, a Polish man in his mid 40′s stood out. I asked about him and found out that he was a local prominent benefactor of the chapel we were at and that day just happened to be the anniversary of its founding.

    In other words, this style of “cultural Catholicism” is not just North American. Countries of Europe that have high percentages of Catholic folks (Ireland, Italy and Poland just being three examples) often have the oddest mass attendance profiles.

  9. Fiergenholt says:

    Self-identification means everything.

    –It is long-standing Roman Catholic teaching that if you have been baptized Catholic you remain Catholic all your life UNLESS you formally and publicly change your religious affiliation. Some examples might be: (1) Accepting “re-Baptism” or “Confirmation” in another Christian Church in a public ceremony; (2) Having your new church send a “transfer letter” or the equivalent to your old Catholic parish; or even (3) Publicly proclaiming — say through news media — that you are no longer Roman Catholic.

    –Lapsed Catholics, “lazy” Catholics, “inactive” Catholics, “roaming” Catholics and other folks baptized as Roman Catholics are still Roman Catholics whether they are affiliated with a Catholic parish or not. They can still be married in the church or buried in the church with little or no grief.

    –There is also the oddity of someone who claims to be Catholic but who was never formally baptized as such. If they do die before being formally baptized, the old Tridentine insight of “Baptism of Desire” kicks in — I am sure.

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