Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church

Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church

Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church

Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church


Most histories of Catholicism in the United States focus on the experience of Euro-American Catholics, whose views on such concerns as church reform, social issues, and sexual ethics have dominated public debates. Latino Catholicism provides a comprehensive overview of the Latino Catholic experience in America from the sixteenth century to today, and offers the most in-depth examination to date of the important ways the U. S. Catholic Church, its evolving Latino majority, and American culture are mutually transforming one another.

Timothy Matovina assesses how Latinos' attempts to celebrate their faith and bring it to bear on the everyday realities of their lives have shaped parishes, apostolic movements, leadership, ministries, worship, voting patterns, social activism, and much more. At the same time, the lives and faith of Latino Catholics are being dramatically refashioned through the multiple pressures of assimilation, the upsurge of Pentecostal and evangelical religion, other types of religious pluralism, growing secularization, and ongoing controversies over immigration and clergy sexual abuse. Going beyond the widely noted divide between progressive and conservative Catholics, Matovina shows how U. S. Catholicism is being shaped by the rise of a largely working-class Latino population in a church whose leadership at all levels is still predominantly Euro-American and middle class.

Latino Catholicism highlights the vital contributions of Latinos to American religious and social life, demonstrating in particular how their engagement with the U. S. cultural milieu is the most significant factor behind their ecclesial and societal impact.


Catholics comprise the largest religious group in the United States, encompassing nearly a fourth of all U.S. residents. Hispanics constitute more than a third of U.S. Catholics. They are the reason why Catholicism is holding its own relative to other religions in the United States. According to researchers of the American Religious Identification Survey, without the ever-growing number of Latinos in this country, the U.S. Catholic population would be declining at a rate similar to mainline Protestant groups. And given the relative youthfulness of the Latino community, Hispanic Catholics will continue to represent an increasing percentage of U.S. Catholics over time. They already comprise more than half of U.S. Catholics under the age of twenty-five and more than three-fourths of Catholics under eighteen in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Robert Putnam and David Campbell succinctly sum up these demographics in their much-discussed 2010 study about the state of American religion, avowing that the Catholic Church in the United States β€œis on its way to becoming a majority-Latino institution.”

The expanding number of Latinos alters the overall demographics of U.S. Catholicism in several ways. Although the traditional Catholic institutional base is in the Northeast, the Latino presence has helped shift the demographic weight of U.S. Catholics to the Southwest. Revealingly, from 1990 to 2008 the proportion of Catholics in the populations of Texas and California increased by 9 and 8 percent respectively, while that of Massachusetts and New York respectively decreased by 15 and 7 percent. The demographic changes are especially dramatic in states with a historically weak Catholic presence, like Georgia, where Hispanic Catholics now outnumber Catholics of European descent. Catholic dioceses with the largest Hispanic population growth since 1990 include locales that previously had few Latinos, such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and Boise, Idaho.

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