Catholic Church in the United States
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in the United States of America
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The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C., is the largest enclosed church building in the world.
Type National polity
Theology Catholic theology
Governance United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Latin Church)
Pope Pope Francis
USCCB President José Horacio Gómez
Prerogative of Place William E. Lori
Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre
Region United States, Puerto Rico, and other territories of the United States
Language English, Spanish, French, Latin
Founder Bishop John Carroll
Baltimore, Maryland, Thirteen Colonies
Branched from Catholic Church in England and Wales
Absorbed Irish Catholics
Separations Most Holy Family Monastery (20th century)
Members 70,412,021 (2017)
Official website United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg
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The Catholic Church in the United States is composed of ecclesiastical communities in full communion with the Holy See.
With 23% of the United States population as of 2018, the Catholic Church is the country's second largest religious grouping, after Protestantism, and the country's largest Church or religious denomination. The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world, after Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.
In the colonial era, Spain and Mexico (Mexico, after 1821) established missions (1769-1833) that had permanent results in New Mexico and California (Spanish missions in California). The French set up Catholic villages in the Mississippi River region, notably, St. Louis (1764) and New Orleans (1718). Some English Catholics settled in Maryland (1634). In 1789 the Archdiocese of Baltimore was the first diocese in the newly independent nation. John Carroll became the first American bishop. His brother Daniel Carroll was the leading Catholic among the Founding Fathers of the United States. George Washington in the army and as president set a standard for religious toleration. No religious test was allowed for holding national office, and colonial legal restrictions on Catholics holding office were gradually abolished by the States. However, in the mid-19th century there was political anti-Catholicism in the United States, sponsored by pietistic Protestants fearful of the pope. In the 20th century anti-Catholicism seldom appeared except when a Catholic was running for president as in 1928 and 1960. The number of Catholics grew rapidly in the 19th century through high fertility and immigration, especially from Ireland, Germany, and after 1880, Eastern Europe and Italy. Large scale Catholic immigration from Mexico began after 1910 and in 2019 Latinos comprise 37 percent of American Catholics. By 1900 it was the largest denomination. Parishes set up parochial schools, and over a hundred Jesuit and other colleges were established. Nuns were very active in teaching and hospital work. Since 1960 the percentage of Americans who are Catholic has fallen slowly from about 25% to 22%. In absolute numbers, Catholics have increased from 45 million to 72 million. As of April 9, 2018, 39% of American Catholics attend church weekly, compared to 45% of American Protestants.
About 10% of the United States' population as of 2010 are former Catholics or non-practicing, almost 30 million people. People have left for a number of reasons, factors which have also affected other denominations: loss of belief, disenchantment, disaffiliation for another religious group or for none, indifference. Compared with other religious groups, Catholics are fairly evenly dispersed throughout the country, but they currently remain scarce in the deep South. Regional distribution of U.S. Catholics (as a percentage of the total U.S. Catholic population) is as follows: Northeast, 24%; Midwest, 19%; South, 32% (region with the largest number of Catholics); and West, 25%.  Owing to their numbers, more Catholics (13.3 million) reside in households with a yearly income of $100,000 or more than any other religious group. more » « less