Roman Catholic and Other Statistics

A belated Happy New Year to all readers of BRIN! It has been a slowish start to 2014 in terms of new religious statistical sources, but here is a selection of seven stories to replenish your stock of data.

Roman Catholic statistics

In our post of 1 February 2013 we reported that the editor of the Catholic Directory of England and Wales had decided to discontinue publication therein of the annual statistical supplement, which had appeared for a century, as a result of her lack of confidence in the quality of the data, especially regarding their consistency. The Tablet for 21/28 December 2013 reported that, ‘thanks to the efforts of a former banker’, the statistics would be reinstated in the 2014 edition of the Catholic Directory. This has yet to appear (it will be published later this month), but, in the meantime, Tony Spencer of the Pastoral Research Centre Trust (PRCT) has just released a preliminary table of pastoral and population statistics of the Catholic community in England and Wales for 2011 and 2012, based on a careful (but still not quite complete) editing and reconciliation of data for each of the 22 dioceses. Figures for all years between 2001 and 2012 will be available in due course. The 2011-12 picture is one of continuing decline on several performance measures, of 2.2% in the estimated Catholic population, 1.8% in Mass attendance in October (with only one-fifth of Catholics now at Mass), 3.7% in baptisms, and 18.5% in receptions of converts. There was a modest (0.5%) rise in marriages, but the figure includes mixed marriages and those celebrated in Anglican churches which were authorized by the Catholic parish priest. Deaths were 0.9% less in 2012 than 2011, with the Catholic death rate being 9.7 per 1,000. The PRCT table will be found at:

The data were covered by two broadsheet newspapers in their editions of 4 January 2014, The Times suggesting that the pattern of long-term decline (associated with child abuse scandals) might be reversed by the ‘Francis effect’, The Daily Telegraph concentrating on the increase in late baptisms of children (after their first birthday), which it attributed to ‘a scramble for places at the most popular Roman Catholic schools’. The Roman Catholic weekly, The Tablet, also noted the possible ‘Francis effect’ from 2013 when it ran the story a week later (11 January 2014), headlining ‘Mass Attendance Down but London Bucks the Trend’.

BRIN was contacted by the Catholic Herald for an assessment of the statistics, and we are quoted in that newspaper’s report in its edition of 10 January 2014 (p. 3 – there is also an editorial on p. 13). In more detail, the points we made were:

  • There are long-standing concerns about the quality of many Roman Catholic statistics (especially estimated Catholic population), arising from the absence of a national infrastructure for data collection and quality control, such as exists, for example, in the Church of England.
  • In many senses the decline in the Roman Catholic Church mirrors what is happening in mainstream Christian denominations in this country. However, the underlying fall would almost certainly have been much greater but for the boost given to the Church by immigration from Eastern Europe in recent years.
  • In both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England alienation is linked to the growing gulf between official Church teaching and the views of active and nominal members. This has been demonstrated by Professor Linda Woodhead’s recent research. For her study of Catholics, see:
  • Optimists in the Roman Catholic Church suggest that decline may be reversed by the ‘Francis effect’. We are more sceptical about this since a similar argument was put forward for the ‘Benedict bounce’ following the 2010 papal visit. It did not materialize, as the Opinion Research Business polls commissioned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in 2010 and 2011 demonstrated, and as confirmed by the Church’s statistics for 2009 and 2010 summarized at:

Religion and politics

Lord Ashcroft’s latest political poll, published on 4 January 2014 and conducted online by Populus on 4-10 November 2013, included the standard background question about membership of religious groups, asked of a very large sample (n = 8,053). The proportion identifying as of no religion was, at 38%, identical to that reported in the two YouGov polls for the Westminster Faith Debates, which we covered in our last post of 30 December 2013. These ‘nones’ constituted a majority (51%) of the 18-24s in Ashcroft’s survey and a plurality (44%) of the 25-34s, with Christianity being the leading faith for other demographic sub-groups, averaging 53% and peaking at 71% of over-65s. In political terms, ‘nones’ were most likely to be found among people who had voted Liberal Democrat at the 2010 general election (44%) or the smaller number intending to vote Liberal Democrat now (41%). They were least likely to be encountered among Conservative supporters (27% in both 2010 and 2013), who were disproportionately Christian (66% in 2013). Of those who had voted Conservative in 2010 and intended to do so again, 68% were Christian, falling to 65% for voters who had defected from the Conservatives since 2010, 57% for adults who had switched to the Conservatives since 2010, and 52% for those who had not been Conservative in the past but indicated they might be in the future. UKIP supporters were 10% more likely to identify as Christian than the norm and Labour supporters 4% less. Non-Christians favoured Labour, and this was especially true of Muslims. Superficially (other factors are at work, of course), the historic connection between religion and voting is by no means extinguished. For more data, see table 69 at:

Also, watch out for the forthcoming Theos report by Ben Clements and Nick Spencer on Voting and Values in Britain: Does Religion Count? BRIN will cover this as soon after publication as possible.

Religion and age

The lead story on the front page of The Times for 10 January 2014 (subscription access online) was a curiously headlined article by Dominic Kennedy, the newspaper’s investigations editor, on ‘Rise in Muslim Birthrate as Families “Feel British”: Census Figures Reveal “Startling” Shift in Demographic Trend’. Its key underlying fact, taken from the 2011 census, was that ‘almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim … almost twice as high as in the general population’; in stark contrast, ‘fewer than one in 200 over-85s are Muslim’. Expert comments on the findings were sought and quoted from two of the country’s leading demographers, Professors David Coleman of the University of Oxford and David Voas of the University of Essex (and BRIN). Voas apparently said that he saw no prospect of Muslims becoming a majority in Britain, although he did foresee that Muslims who worshipped might outnumber practising Christians one day (which several other pundits have also been predicting for a decade or more). The story in The Times, which has been widely reported in other print and online media in Britain and worldwide, was not actually based on any new analysis of census data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) but on a hitherto little noticed ad hoc ONS table (CT0116, created on 18 October 2013), giving a detailed breakdown of religion in England and Wales by sex by age in 2011. This was pointed out by Ami Sedghi in her post on The Guardian’s Datablog on 10 January 2014, which helpfully includes a link to the table, rather implying that The Times was raking over ‘old news’, and additionally observing that the census actually recorded more children aged 0-4 as having no religion as those who were Muslim. The blog can be read at:

Gift aid and the Church of England

Gift aid (introduced in 1990) has been an important factor in helping the Church of England to grow its real income consistently over the past two decades, according to a post on the Civil Society blog on 17 December 2013. The Church collects over £80 million of gift aid and tax refunds each year, and it accounts for 8% of all gift aid by value and 15% by volume. Although the number of adults in usual Sunday congregations of the Church of England declined by 27% between 1980 and 2010, tax-effective subscribers (using covenants and gift aid) rose by 38% over the same period, with tax-effective subscribers equivalent to 72% of usual Sunday congregations by 2010 (almost double the 38% of 1980). More information at:

Violence against the clergy

The Sunday Telegraph of 5 January and The Times of 6 January 2014 both included reports about ‘hundreds of violent attacks on the clergy’, the story subsequently being run by the Church Times on 10 January. The articles drew upon data obtained by right-of-centre think-tank Parliament Street through Freedom of Information requests submitted to police forces in England, of which 25 responded. The replies suggested that there had been more than 200 violent attacks on clergy over the past five years, a number thought to be just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ because of the inadequate and inconsistent recording of such offences. Parliament Street, which has not posted its data online, is calling upon Government to recognize attacks on clergy as constituting a religiously motivated hate crime, which would thereby attract severer penalties. The organization National Churchwatch has also been active since 2000 in documenting anti-Christian hate crime. However, so far as BRIN is aware, the best source of empirical evidence on the subject of the clergy remains the ESRC-funded research into violence against three groups of professionals (including clergy) undertaken by Royal Holloway, University of London in 1998-2001, details of which appear in the final project report at:

State-sanctioned surveillance

In an online Resonate poll conducted by Christian Research since the leaks emanating from former American security contractor Edward Snowden, the majority (77%) of 1,134 UK practising Christians sensed that mass intelligence-gathering by the state in the UK is increasing, but 82% agreed that it is justified in order to prevent acts of terrorism and 69% considered that the level of CCTV in operation in their area was about right. The results were disclosed by the Church Times in its issue of 3 January 2014 (p. 6). Characteristically, no further information is available on Christian Research’s website. However, the website does record that membership of the Resonate Christian omnibus panel has now reached 14,000 and that surveys will be run monthly from January 2014.

Jewish emigration to Israel

Jewish immigration to Israel in 2013 was modestly (1%) up on 2012, according to data collected by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Ministry of Immigration and Absorption. However, the number of Jews leaving the UK for Israel (making aliyah) in 2013 was, at 510, 27% down on the previous year, albeit close to the average since the beginning of the Millennium (the range being from 300 in 2002 to 800 in 2009). This decline compared with a rise of 35% in Western Europe (and 63% in France); in the United States there was a reduction of 13%. Emigrants to Israel from the UK constituted 12% of the Western European total and 3% of the world figure. The fall in UK emigrants is attributed by some to the improving economic situation and lessened anti-Semitism in the UK, and by others to a weaker focus on aliyah following a radical restructuring of the Jewish Agency two years ago. This note derives from a press release issued by the Israeli embassy in London on 30 December 2013 and from coverage in the Jewish Chronicle for 3 January 2014. The full data do not yet appear on the Jewish Agency’s website.


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