PRINCETON, NJ -- According to Gallup Poll trends on church attendance among American Christians, weekly attendance among Protestants has been fairly steady over the past six decades, averaging 42% in 1955 versus 45% in the middle of the current decade. However, attendance among Roman Catholics dropped from 75% to 45% over the same period.
Most of the decline in church attendance among American Catholics occurred in the earlier decades, between 1955 and 1975; however, it continued at a rate of four percentage points a decade through the mid-1990s, and church attendance has since leveled off at 45%.
Whatever the causes, it is clear that U.S. Catholics' once-nearly uniform obedience to their church's requirement of weekly mass attendance has faded, and Catholics are now no different from Protestants in their likelihood to attend church. This has occurred among Catholics of all age categories, but is most pronounced among those under 60. The good news for the Catholic Church is that the drop in attendance seems to have slowed or abated altogether in the last decade, spanning a most difficult period for the church around 2002, when attendance did suffer temporarily.
Unless something else happens, have we reached our 'smaller, more pious' Church, at least in the US, as suggested by Benedict? Of course, nowadays, Mass attendance doesn't exactly correlate with following Catholic doctrine...