Interest in Roman Catholicism appears to be falling worldwide according to a new analysis of Google searches published on 3 June on the Nineteen Sixty-Four research blog of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in the United States (US). This can be accessed at:
The post – entitled ‘Is Interest in Catholicism Falling Online?’ – charts weekly Google search volumes for queries including the term Catholic (or the equivalent in other languages) between January 2004 and April 2011 for the United Kingdom (UK), US, France, Germany, Brazil, Australia and a global (five-language) measure.
All the charts, including the UK’s, reveal a marked downward trend in searching for Catholic content over this period, although the UK data display more random weekly volatility than in the US where there is a clear pattern of peaks around Ash Wednesday and Christmas and lows in the summer.
For the UK, as for all the other countries, the high point of Google searches was around the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2005. There was a much less pronounced UK peak for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland and England in September 2010.
CARA expresses concern about the trend but offers no explanation for this decline in accessing Catholic-related content on the internet. Indeed, it ‘remains a mystery’. Part of the problem, of course, is that we have no idea from Google whether the decrease affects searches by Catholics, non-Catholics or both.
But it is hard to avoid the suspicion that the scandals surrounding the sexual abuse of children by some Roman Catholic priests must be a factor in lessening people’s desire to learn about Catholicism.