US Latinos drift away from Catholicism

Hispanic shift

A new report on the religious identity of Latinos in the US reveals a surprising decline in their Catholic faith. The life of Fernando Alcantar is a perfect example, reports NCR Online.

Like six in 10 Hispanic Catholics in the United States, Alcantar was born in Mexico, where 'you are Catholic as much as you are Mexican. You like jalapenos and worship the Virgin of Guadalupe,' he said.

But once he moved to California after high school, his faith journey diverged - and derailed. Today, Alcantar, 36, calls himself a humanist.

The Pew survey report released on Wednesday, is titled The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States but subtitled: 'Nearly One in Four Latinos are former Catholics.' And Alcantar is one of them. Hispanics are still a pillar of American Catholicism - fully a third of the U.S. Church today. And their share is climbing with the overall growth of the Hispanic population.

More than half (55 percent) of the nation's estimated 19.6 million Hispanics identify as Catholic, according to Pew's report, which uses 'Hispanic' and 'Latino' interchangeably.

But that's 12 percentage points below 2010, when 67 percent of Latinos surveyed said they were Catholic, the survey found. 'Everyone was surprised in some way by the findings, the first time the size of the decline in Hispanic Catholics has been measured in depth,' said Pew research associate Jessica Hamar Martínez.

'If both (immigration and shifting) trends continue, a day could come when a majority of Catholics in the United States will be Hispanic, even though the majority of Hispanics might no longer be Catholic,' the survey said.

According to the new survey:

Nearly one in three Hispanics (32 percent) said they no longer belong to the major religious tradition in which they were raised (not including changes among Protestant denominations). Among foreign-born Hispanics, half switched faiths before arriving in the United States.

FULL STORY More U.S. Latinos shift and drift outside the Catholic church (NCR Online)

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