Fewer than one in eight Catholics attends Mass on any weekend, the lowest average in recorded Australian history, according to a recent survey. But the Church is still better off than most denominations, reports The Age.
Anglicans - the next biggest group - have only 10 per cent of worshippers in church an average of at least once a month, and possibly as little as half of that going every week, according to the survey by Catholic researcher Peter Wilkinson.
The Catholic Church's chief researcher, Bob Dixon, said the sex abuse crisis within the church had affected attendance less than expected. He said an average of 665,000 people attended Catholic churches each weekend in May 2011, when the most recent national attendance count was done.
This figure, 12.2 per cent of the Australian Catholic population of 5.4 million, was down 6 per cent from the last survey in 2006. About 580,000 attend every week, with the other 85,000 varying from those who come two or three times a month to rarely.
Dr Dixon, director of the Church's Pastoral Research Office, said Mass attenders tended to be older, better educated, more likely to be female (61 per cent) and to have been born overseas than the Catholic population as a whole.
He predicted Mass attendances would continue the trend of slight decline for another 15 years, then stabilise after the Baby Boomer generation passed. Immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds were the main source of growth.
Independent Catholic researcher Peter Wilkinson - who sparked debate recently in the national priests' magazine Swag, in which he argued the decline would continue until the Church allowed more lay influence - said attendance had always fluctuated.
Photo: Mass at St Mary's Star of the Sea in West Melbourne