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Shocking Study: Protestants Trump Catholics at Church Attendance

Updated: May 17

Christians significantly exaggerate their attendance at Sunday services, study finds


A trailblazing study using geodata from smartphones has revealed U.S. Protestants eclipsing Catholics at weekly church attendance, even though the Catholic Church obliges the faithful to attend Sunday Mass on the pain of mortal sin.


Americans also significantly exaggerate their rate of church attendance, leading to skewed statistics in surveys the study, published in April by a University of Chicago business school professor, has found.


While 73% of Americans step into a place of worship at least once a year, only 5% attend worship weekly, which is far fewer than the 22% who report doing so in surveys, Dr. Devin G. Pope, author of the study and researcher at the Booth School of Business, writes.


Adherents to a religion often overstate their attendance at places of worship “due to misremembering or social desirability bias,” Pope explains, thus demonstrating the unreliability of surveys in a manner that resembles inaccurate reports of voting behavior.


A key finding of Pope’s research is that the frequency of religious attendance varies significantly by religion, with the vast majority (85%) of weekly-attending worshippers being Protestants.


Pope compares data compiled by surveys with his own findings using cell phone data. According to surveys, 14.95% of Protestants attend Sunday services every week, while only 4.56% Catholics attend Sunday Mass on a weekly basis.


However, according to Pope’s cell phone data research, only 3.90% of Protestants attend Sunday services week by week, while a tiny percentage of Catholics numbering 0.26% attend Sunday Mass each week.


Numerically, around 38 million Protestants, compared to only 6 million Catholics, attend church for Sunday worship, the study finds.


Pope lists data for adherents of other religions, which finds weekly attendance for Mormons at 2 million, Jehovah’s Witnesses at 400,000, Eastern Orthodox Christians at 220,000, Jews at 400,000, and Muslims at 220,000.


The research also finds significant differences between the amount of time Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians spend in church at weekly services.


While, in general, Orthodox Christians spend the most time at a place of worship every Sunday (116 minutes), and Protestants rank second (102 minutes), Catholics come last (66 minutes). Even Jews (92 minutes) spend more time at a weekly service than Catholics.


Interestingly, Pope’s study also uses cell phone data to analyze how often adherents from different religions visit strip clubs, liquor stores, casinos, tobacco stores, and fitness centers.


While only 2% of Catholics and around 1.8% Protestants frequent strip clubs, Catholics (43%) outpace Protestants (38%) in visiting casinos. Catholics (43%) also surpass Protestants (38%) in attending fitness centers.


Pope’s study follows a September 2023 survey conducted by Georgetown University which found that COVID-19 resulted in a significant drop of Catholics attending weekly Mass.


In 2019, before the pandemic, 24% of Catholics attended Mass weekly. However, the number has dropped to 17% percent of adult Catholics attending Mass at least once a week, with an additional 5% currently watching Mass on television or online, the survey found.


The survey also found that 49% percent of adult Catholics always receive Communion when attending Mass, 18% do so frequently or usually, 18% seldom receive the Eucharist at Mass, and 15% percent never receive Communion at Mass.


Respondents said that the most important aspects of Mass were “feeling the presence of God” (61%), “prayer and reflection” (56%), “feeling welcomed at Mass” (51%), and “receiving Holy Communion” (50%). “Hearing the homily” ranked at 36% while “hearing the readings and the Gospel” ranked at 43%.


Most of those surveyed (62%) said they are “not involved at all” with their parish outside of attending Sunday Mass, while only 3% said they were “very involved” with the life of the parish church.  


According to the survey, 49% correctly believe that the Church teaches, “Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine,” while 51% incorrectly believe the Church teaches, “Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper, meaning that Jesus is only symbolically present in the consecrated bread and wine.”


“Results of this question indicate that there is substantial confusion about what the church teaches about the Eucharist with slightly more adult Catholics not knowing this correctly than those correctly identifying the teachings,” the report stated.


The survey noted the data indicated “most who do not believe in the Real Presence are not rejecting the teaching, as they do not know this is what the church teaches.”


Dr. Jules Gomes, (BA, BD, MTh, PhD), has a doctorate in biblical studies from the University of Cambridge. Currently a Vatican-accredited journalist based in Rome, he is the author of five books and several academic articles. Gomes lectured at Catholic and Protestant seminaries and universities and was canon theologian and artistic director at Liverpool Cathedral. 

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I would like to know the age of those captured in this study. Older people may not take their phones to Mass with them. I know many Catholics who completely turn their phones OFF because we all know they "listen", and if going to Confession or even just to Mass in general, there are a lot of folks who don't want that captured by their phones. That said, I don't think the statistics are that far off, even if such things were factored in. I said during Covid that we would lose millions of souls who just would not go back to Mass. Looks like I was, sadly, correct.


In the Seattle area even after local county and municipal governments stopped requiring churches to restrict attendance (but still recommended against it) at services during Covid, most Catholic churches remained closed for mass and unavailable for worship because priests preferred not to hold services 'out of concern for spreading the virus.' It says a lot about where the priorities of the priesthood were and are. During that stressful time, many a Catholic or even ex-Catholic would happily have taken solace in the ability to partake in mass or simply pray in community with other Souls. We were then, and are still, engaged in spiritual warfare.


Besides the dubious "cell phone data research", the article also said 'only 4.56% Catholics attend Sunday Mass on a weekly basis.'

Still a very sad reality, especially considering that it's a mortal sin to purposefully miss Mass on Sunday without extenuating circumstances.

And again the clergy are partially to blame for not preaching this and many other serious issues.


Surely there's compelling evidence in these statistics to support a lot more teaching from the pulpit and in our homes on what our Church actually does teach about Catholicism. It's very concerning to read that such a huge number of Catholics do not know that our Church does actually teach that Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. This shows a massive failure in our spiritual teachers, both in the clergy and in our homes. The impetus for correcting this failure must come from all of us who profess to believe in Catholicism.



I'm not sure what is more disturbing--that so few practice their faith, or that they are being tracked by their cell phones. Yet one more reason why I do not have a cell phone.....

----while a tiny percentage of Catholics numbering 0.26% attend Sunday Mass each week.----

Am I reading this correctly? Is this saying that a scant one quarter of one percent of all Catholics attend Sunday Mass?(!)

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