Exodus: millions of Mexicans no longer Catholic

Exodus: millions of Mexicans no longer Catholic April 3, 2011

The statistics are troubling — and point to a growing number of Protestants in Mexico, according to this report:

More than 1,000 Mexicans left the Catholic Church every day over the last decade, adding up to some 4 million fallen-away Catholics between 2000 and 2010, sociologist and historian Roberto Blancarte told Efe.

Blancarte, one of the nation’s outstanding specialists on religious subjects, said that one of the main conclusions to be drawn from the 2010 census is that Mexico is no longer a predominantly Catholic country and has become a nation of religious pluralism.

According to figures from the census taken last year, out of a total 112 million Mexicans, 92.9 million are Catholics, 14.1 million belong to Protestant Christian denominations, and a lower number are devotees of Islam, Judaism and various oriental doctrines.

One of the principal novelties is that 5.2 million say they profess no religion – to the question about their religious beliefs, they answered “no religion.”

“It would be a mistake to think that these 5 million are atheists – all it means is that they profess no particular belief but they might well believe in some form of divinity,” Blancarte told Efe.

The specialist from Colegio de Mexico and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, said that the decline has been uninterrupted over the past 60 years.

In 1950, 98.21 percent of Mexicans said they were Catholic, in 1960 the percentage dropped to 96.47 percent, in 1970 to 96.17 percent, in 1980 to 92.62 percent, in 1990 the percentage dropped to 89.69 percent, in 2000 the country was only 88 percent Catholic, and now that percentage is lower still at 83.9 percent.

This signifies that the last decade has seen a drop of more than 4 percentage points, equivalent to almost 4 million people or an average of 1,300 people a day leaving the Catholic Church.

In contrast, the number of Protestants and Evangelicals went from 1.28 percent in 1950 to almost 8 percent of the total population in 2010, without counting Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons.

Blancarte said that this change is not exclusive to Mexico but extends across the region. In Brazil, for example, surveys have found that Catholics make up less than 70 percent of the population.

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41 responses to “Exodus: millions of Mexicans no longer Catholic”

  1. This would never have happened had our most sacred rites not been banalized and our sacred architecture vandalized. And still church liberals don’t get it! Bring it on, Mike Voris!

  2. When mexicans say no religion what they actually are saying is they don’t want to argue about faith. My parents and others like them are devout catholics but refrain from discussing about religion and politics. If you study Mexicos history you can see why. In public school they were taught that lies about the church.

  3. The good thing about this is that hopefully it will give rise to outstadning Catholic apologists who will win back some of these people by their work, as is the case here in the States. It usually takes an attack against the Chruch to bring out a fervency of faith. Our Lady of Gudalupe, pray for us.

  4. I can tell you why the Evangelicals are so successful in getting converts into their Churches. They get people to admit they are sinners. If we can’t admit we are sinners, we aren’t going to recognize Christ.

  5. The decades of the fewest Mexicans falling away were 1960 to 1970 (.3%) and 1980 to 1990 (1.69%). I wonder what the Church was doing (if anything) to keep the attrition rate low as opposed to 1970 to 1990, & 2000 to 2010.

    Perhaps the choice had less to do with the Church and more to do with the separation of families due to economic hardship, which led to fathers & sons immigrating to provide for their families. That would be my first guess. Protestant missionaries from the richest, most powerful Nation proselytising to families in hardship is another factor as well.

  6. In addition Roman Crusader, people tend to live secularized, urban lives and keep to themselves. They lead selfish lives that often are hypocritical to their faith and close off others to the faith.

    Yes getting people to admit they are sinners is important to understanding the Good News of the Lord and all He has done for us, but more Catholics need to realize that they need to start living the faith that they preach, getting themselves out there, and need to show fellow small “c” catholics as well as non-Catholics what being one of the Catholic faith is all about.

    True friendships are based on the love of Christ with his disciples (philia) (Deus Caritas Est, 3). When we Catholics engage in philia, we provide that medium to evangelize and show others what the Catholic community and Body of Christ is all about and maybe get them back on track or move them to desire to become Catholics.

  7. This would have never happened had the numbers of clergy not dwindled to next-to-nothing. Our priests are stretched to the point that they simply cannot sustain public ministry beyond administration of the sacraments, and only in the largest conglomerated parishes. So, the church is quickly losing its connection to the faithful by simple virtue of demographics. Add to that the unspeakable scandals of the past 15+ years and the faithful have been made vulnerable to harvest by very anti-Catholic sects. Now it’s metastasizing. This is especially the case in Mexico with the abominable example of Mexican priest Marcel Maciel and his Legionnaires of Christ. This was a grevious blow to the Church down there, and still no one has rushed to those peoples’ aid. So, we are hemorrhaging. But we’re terrified to admit that our problems are internal, so the bleeding continues. Do you disagree? Look … the church can barely defend itself locally for lack priests, let alone from Rome. The Vatican has stumbled badly in its too-little-too-late attempts to reassure us against our lurking distrust of the few remaining priests we have. Sadly, I see no solutions on the horizon.

  8. The problem faced in predominantly Catholic countries is that there are so many niche protestant faiths that it is hard to defend against them all at once. I hope Mexican churches are fighting back and defending our ancient faith broadly. We need to reclaim our numbers.

  9. Interesting post – by why is there an advertisement on the right hand side of the page to apply – online – to become an ordained pastor (Church of Nazarene, if you follow the link)??? Could Deacon Greg’s blog be contributing to the problem?

  10. Hear hear Dymphna.
    I wonder what Archbishop Wenski and the newest aider and abetter of illegal migration and illegal sojourn in the USA, Archbishop Gomez, think of that?

  11. I have lived on the border almost all my life and have been immersed in the Mexican culture, as have so many here.

    The reasons for the “exodus” are the lack of catechesis in Mexico, the emotional pull of the Evangelicals and the contraceptive mentality which is growing down there and which tends to push people toward Protestantism or secularism and away from the Catholic Church.

    Of course the same can be said about American Catholics.

    Ah Bishops.

  12. It wouldn’t hurt to re-evangelize the remaining faithful also. If admission of sin is what the evangelicals have over us, then we need to re-evangelize our own people. Get a group of priest to go around to each parish and at the scheduled time to begin mass, have them give a pre-mass sermon on the admission of sin explaining the common sins in our lives and ask EVERYONE to consider their oversight of sin and make a confession, and delay mass with the option of receiving Eucharist at the end of confession if the confessing party will not be able to remain for mass.

    If the problem arises from non church going Catholics being taken away from the faith, then it would be prudent to set up private confession, absolution and Eucharist tents in public places with a lot of foot traffic and station apologists to discuss and defend Catholic doctrine. Add a little shop for Catholic gifts, like the olive wood statuary stuff by HLCSC and other such things, so people can kind of sneak into confession if they want. Play some old school Latin choir for added privacy in the confession tent and for that heart captivating ambiance that is so rightfully Catholic.

  13. Mexican here, the most common reason for Catholics in Mexico to leave Church for any sect is ignorance. I have seen some of this issue in the US, but I cannot talk about it since I have been here for about 10 years.
    Very common attacks against lukewarm Catholics start the process, then the idea (and in many cases fact) that those communities start caring and helping the soon-to-be-protestants makes them vulnerable and morally obliged to correspond to those charity acts by joining them.
    Popular Religiosity is Mexico is broad and wide, in many cases even stronger than Church Tradition.
    One strange phenomenon (and also a common real-joke) amongst many Mexicans is the following saying: “Not all Mexican are Catholic but all are Guadalupanos” – this implies than even though you may not be a Catholic or even Christian and still believe or have devotion for Guadalupe advocation of Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
    A good source (if you know Spanish if not Google translate can do the trick) to check this sad ongoing event (Exodus) is http://www.apostolesdelapalabra.org/ Fr Amatulli is a great Catholic Warrior in Mexico.


  14. It may all have nothing to do with anything the Church may or may not be doing.
    Until the late 20th Century countries stayed Protestant, Catholic, etc. partially because of insularity and a corresponding lack of viable alternatives.
    But this has all changed–even people in the backwoods get a buffet of different religions regularly offered to them. And given human nature there are going to be people sampling and then taking what they fancy at the moment.
    Thus, minus physical force (like Islam’s constant threats against those who convert to another religion) there are going to be fewer and fewer countries we could label “Catholic” or “Protestant.”
    In a sense this could be good for the Catholic Church for it then cannot slip into what has been almost total complacency in some areas of the world-like parts of Latin America.

  15. A few items that are essential in the Mexican Church that were not mentioned: Most Mexican Catholics do not attend Mass on a regular basis. The Church is only for occasions, baptisms, weddings, funerals. (I use the word occasion on purpose. There is little understanding of sacrament.) There is very little catechesis and the Church in many areas is involved in or held captive to the corruption throughout the society. I’m also struck that these issues seem to go throughoout society and are not dependent on class.
    Mexicans, generally, place high value on family and relationships. The Church should be part of that, but, unfortunately, does not. I’m not sure if that is just now or was always so. Catholics need to learn to evangelize whole societies.

  16. Here in Georgia we added about .5 million Catholics over the last decade.

    Coincidence or not, the number of Spanish ( and Portugese and …) Masses have skyrocketed.

  17. The Church has been systematically attacked for almost 200 years in Mexico. In the last 100 years it has been illegal to conduct catechesis. The Mexican government also limited the number of priests in any area so that they would never be able to do anything but say mass. Vivo Cristo Rey!

  18. For whatever reason the church doesn’t have the hold it used to have on the Mexican people. I’m sure there are many reasons. My guess many have had the faith taught to them, and as they grew up found it unimportant or if still important don’t feel a need to publicly proclaim them by attending a formal service. Many religious, spiritual people do not find formality necessary to continue a faith/beliefs.

  19. James is the one to listen to. When North Americans think of the Church in Mexico they tend to have this image of tons of priests/vibrant catechesis & liturgy in every corner of the country.

    As James mentioned – the Church has been under attack in Mexico for 200 years. The ability of clergy and religious to serve has been seriously restricted in one way or another for most of that time. Huge swathes of Mexico see priests very rarely.

    Evangelicals/Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses need no ordained clergy to “serve” and often come in (and this is the truth) with lots of US-provided money to materially transform a community.

    It’s not Vatican II’s fault. That’s just stupid.

  20. Bob,
    I think your own post (#9) provides the solution.
    The answer is in reversing what you talk about in your penultimate sentence.
    If you were thinking you had a vocation to the priesthood would you not be very wary of following through on it in these days?
    I most certainly would be.
    Once you restore parents’ trust in the hierarchy, vocations will abound and that will only occur when our bishops and clerics realize that they are the servants of the servants of God, not their lords and masters, and openly (e.g., in public debates and on TV talk shows) challenge those who come down on Catholicism simply because they do not know what the Church teaches.

  21. I fail to see how 80% Catholic renders a country “no longer a predominantly Catholic country.” Purely shock value.

    Catholicism teaches people to be practical. Mexican Catholics are practical. Evangelicals come into Mexico and start cutting away at the tradition: “You don’t need this novena, you don’t need that rosary.”

    It’s a very easy sell. “Simplified” is practical.

  22. I think the Roman hierarchy is out of touch with the issues facing the laity. The hierarchy seem to stuck in political positions that do not reflect the what the laity believe. Many of these things are not essential to our faith and shake peoples faith in the leadership. Unmarried and male clergy is real problem because the priesthood lacks credibility. A preoccupation with sexual issues creates a major gap.
    I pray that the spirit will help the leaders see the sign of the times that John the 23rd saw.
    I think conservative Catholics have far too much influence. Very few Bishops are courageous enough to take a stand on key issues.

  23. Doubtless there are many factors involved, but it seems to me that inadequate catechesis must be at the forefront. A proper catechesis would immunize people to the anti-Catholic propaganda of the sects.

  24. In my experience Evangelicals are even more “preoccupied” with sexual matters than Catholics. I’d wager that the growing popularity of Evangelicals and Pentecostals has to do with the intensity of their worship and preaching, and their emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus. Since Vatican II, we Catholics have come so see the Mass and social justice as primary. Loosing devotions and emotional intensity can be a problem.

  25. One person said conservatives have too much influence. The conclusion is that consvtvs hate and liberals care. What modern liberalism does say “you can’t help yourself so we will do it for you.” We saw that “liberation” took people from Christ to politics. What is required is a renewed evangalization part of that is a better explaination of the faith more priests deacons and bishops going out and explaining what evangalicals are unscriptical and be ready to defend the faith. Many evanglcs say you don’t need baptism and point to Matt 6:3 where Jesus says one must be “born again” and instead of reading on, they go to Romans and read where St Paul tells the Roman Jews that as long as you declare your belief in Christ you will be saved. To summarize “be born again by declaring that you believe” which counter to the Gospel message.

  26. Jim Hayward,
    if the clergy are married won’t they spend too much time thinking about pleasing their wife instead of God?

    You know the miracle with the 3 children seeing Mary, Our Lady of Fatima? A little before Jacinta died, one of the 3 kids, she revealed some little known statements made by Our Lady. One of which is:
    “Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord.”

    How are they supposed to think only of the salvation of souls when their wife/children needs them to drive them to Disney Land for a school trip instead of spending that time saying mass and quiet prayer and attention like that. Nope too busy with their wife and kids.

    If we take a political side on something there is a religious reason. For example fornication is a sin so if they are going to take any stand on it it will be promoting abstinence until marriage and to pray to God for the graces needed to not fornicate. Too bad if you and some of the laity don’t like church teaching on sexual issues. God is pretty conservative so you are just going to have to square with that. Maybe you should read a bit of catechism: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P85.HTM#$2DR summary of what the church teaches on about sexual issues there.

    There is no Catholic belief that we should throw out because some feel it is nonessential. We believe in 100% of the truth not 99 to serve our feelings.

    Here are some bible quotes if you still don’t believe God is conservative on this issue:

    (1 Cor 6:9) “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor aldulterers nor boy prostitutes not sodomites not thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God”
    (Galatians 5:21) 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

    (Hebrews 13:4) 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: but God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.

    In case you are wondering why contraception is wrong too
    I’ll tell you a few reasons now. Because it is a violation of the natural law and disobedience to God’s divine command to “be fruitful and multiply.” THAT is why contraception is morally wrong. And since there is “a separation of life from love.”

    If this does not reflect the political positions of the what some of the laity believe then they either need to be more catechized or need to start believing in the church more than they believe celebs and their flesh’s ideas about Catholic morals.

  27. A good way to find out why people are leaving the Catholic Church is to ask them! In many cases it may be that they haven’t been taught the truth about God’s name, His purposes for the earth, the condition of the dead, why there is so much suffering on the earth, and a real hope for a better future. And faith needs to be much more than a social thing, as well as being politically neutral.

  28. In comment #23 Ed says that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other evangelicals come to Mexico with US-provided money to materially transform communities.

    I can’t speak for Mormons or other evangelicals, but I do know that Jehovah’s Witnesses evangelize with volunteer ordained ministers who pay their own expenses and give of themselves materially. They aren’t bankrolled by anyone at all. When they build their places of worship it is done with donated funds and strictly unpaid volunteer labor. Literature is available on a donation basis. Those who would like to donate money for it are welcome to do so, but they are not asked to do that.

    With these facts in mind it would be incorrect to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses “buy” converts.

  29. I really love it when commentators make definitive and simplistic pronouncements from very narrow viewpoints on very complex problems:

    –In the 1950’s, Roman Catholic grade school students were convinced by their teacher/nuns that all of Central and South America was 99% Roman Catholic. It was never NEVER that high but since (as one commentator already pointed out) Roman Catholicism was the national religion of all of those countries, that statistic had to be true.

    –What Central and South American bishops dismissed was that Santeria — a hybrid religion of Catholicism and local pagan beliefs — was fairly pervasive AND that indigenous tribes never really in contact with the rest of the “civilized” Spanish-American cultural base of those places had their own brands of polytheism.

    –Jump ahead to the indigenous revolts of the 1960’s/1970’s/1980’s. The Central and South American hierarchy could have easily seen — if they would have honestly looked — that their church was a very polarized one but that the division was not religious but economic. Missionary priests and nuns (many from the US) working with the indigenous campesinos despaired at ever being able to convince their congregations that the church really cared for them when their own bishops cared more for their “perks” of power and prestige. That was the genuine start of the the birth of the “Liberation Theology” movement.

    –Pope John Paul II’s disapproval of “Liberation Theology” (far too “communist” for his Polish soul) didn’t really address the critical issue here at all.

    –The assassination of Bishop Romero and the four religious women missionaries in El Salvador suddenly began to put things into some perspective. U. S. Catholics were justly outraged but it barely moved the rest of Romero’s Central and South American colleagues into changing their pastoral assumptions.

    Back to the statistic. I’m really not sure 80% of the folks living in Central and South America (much less Mexico) were ever committed Roman Catholics in the first place. Complacent hierarchy? Bad Catechesis? US support of dictatorial regimes? Aggressive evangelization by fundamentalists cults? All of these — and lots more — play a role.

  30. APrinciple:

    I have seen small Mexian ranchos tranformed by JW money – new buildings that are *air conditioned* and other quite substantial structural changes. Don’t tell me that’s all provided by cheery volunteers. Of course it’s bankrolled.

  31. Ed #37

    “Don’t tell me that’s all provided by cheery volunteers. Of course it’s bankrolled.”

    Unless I’m mistaken, JW’s are required to tithe 10% of their gross income to their church and they have to “voluntarily” show their tax-records to make sure there’s no cheating. With a required tithe, that king of money that you saw spent in that village can be raised VERY quickly. For instance, it only takes ten families making $50 thousand a year (modest middle class typical family income here in America) to raise $50 thousand for Mexican ministry needs. Such a house in Mexico that you describe can be easily built for that amount.

  32. #37 Ed

    It is not bankrolled as you claim.

    #38 Fiergenholt,

    Yes, you are mistaken, JW’s do not tithe, take collections or solicite money. Everything they do is on a voluntary basis. I know that may be hard for many to fathom, but just visit any Kingdom Hall to learn the real truth.

  33. Latin America is well on its way to be Protestant unless the Catholics in the pews start caring about each other and transforming those around them. We expect the clergy to do everything for us, this is a big error we need to surmount. Also, the Church is not aggressive enough in evangelizing. Most parishes have a better organized roster of members than do evangelical churches. Why, after a week or two, don’t we call those people we don’t see in Mass anymore? Evangelicals have a way of making you feel welcomed and special. The conversion of Catholics to Evangelicals has little to do with doctrine,that comes later, its all about emotions and human contact. Catholics are simply not as welcoming.

  34. Jair and Alex make great points, but primarily, as one who lives (and evangelizes) in Brazil (a proud French-Canadian Catholic here) has seen how about only 30% of the Brazilian population is really practicing Catholic, and how Protestant sects win over “converts” not just by emotion but false promises of health and wealth, with “cool” music to boot. It’s exactly what Jesus predicted — ironically, these false churches (all at war with one another) are the anti-church that worships the anti-Christ, not the Catholic Church. They serve the emotional demonic spirits of this world. Look at the pastor. He is rich because he is blessed. When you don’t get rich giving your money to the church, it’s your own fault for lacking faith. Prove your faith by paying more to the pastor and maybe he will intercede on your behalf (but don’t ask Mary to intercede, that’s idolatry). Desperate people turn incredibly gullible and stupid.

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