Monday, February 25, 2008

The Diocese of Salt Lake City. Oh, how we have grown!

The results for the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey are now available. While anybody interested can read the results of the survey, which is "[b]ased on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older" (35,556 to be exact), for themselves, I want to look at only one thing, the number of Catholics in the State of Utah. While the Church in this country, as Rocco points out, may be losing ground overall, in terms of the number of Catholics in our diocese, as then-Bishop Niederauer has pointed out, we have grown more in the past ten years than we did in the previous one hundred. So, the question is, just how much have we grown? To make some sort of an estimate, which is an educated guess, as opposed to a WAG, I am using two sources: the Pew Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The latest Census Bureau data, which is from 2006, puts Utah's overall population at 2,550,063. The Pew survey puts the Catholic population of Utah at 10%. This means that there are approximately 255,000 Catholics in the state. Due to a number of factors, Utah's percentages have a rather high margin of error at +/- 6.0%. This in contrast to a margin of error for the national numbers of only +/- 0.6%. However, the margin of error for the 8,054 Catholic respondents across the country is +/- 1.5%, which still puts the Catholic population of our state comfortably over 250,000. I typically put the number at 200,000. This is based on old data. This weekend the Rector of The Cathedral of the Madeleine, where I serve, publicly put the number at 250,000, which caused me to wonder, but wonder no more- 250,000+ is the better number. Until the mid-1990s we estimated the number of Catholics in the state to be around 85,000. This is a funny number because The Diocese of Salt Lake City encompasses the whole State of Utah, the area of which is 84,990 square miles. The old number represented about one Catholic per square mile. Even now, Utah only has an overall population density of thirty people per square mile.


  1. I wonder what role immigration plays in those numbers.

  2. I think it goes without saying that immigration plays a large role in our growth. It is not only migration from Mexico, but people coming here from other parts of the U.S. Utah has one of the nation's best economies. Besides, it would not be possible to achieve, even with Utah's high birth rate, that kind of growth over such a short period of time.