Catholics leaving church? Only 9.2% think it
MANILA – Are Filipino Catholics really abandoning the faith and leaving the Catholic Church?
According to the latest Social Weather Stations survey, only 9.2% of Filipino Catholics, or about one in every 11, said they strongly or else somewhat agreed with the statement: “Sometimes I think I might leave the Catholic Church.”
However, SWS also noted that weekly church attendance among Catholic adults in the Philippines has been declining, from 64% in July 1991 to only 37% in February 2013.
The survey also said that, compared to those of other religions, Catholics are less religious, and attend church less frequently.
The survey was conducted last February 15-17, 2013. It was the first time that a question about leaving the Catholic Church was ever fielded in an SWS survey.
SWS said it conducted the survey after Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J, president of Ateneo de Davao University, wrote a blog post about the alleged exodus of Filipino Catholics from the church.
“There is survey evidence to support Fr. Tabora's assertions, consisting of: (a) the SWS surveys of 1991-2013 showing a (slight) decline in Catholics' church attendance, and (b) the finding of the new survey of February 2013 of a strong inverse relation between Catholics' church attendance and giving consideration to leaving the Catholic church,” SWS said.
A total of 1, 200 registered voters participated in the survey.
In his blog post, Tabora said the Catholic Church in the Philippines “is in trouble even in Catholic Philippines.”
"There ought to be great concern. People have been leaving the Catholic Church. People are about to leave the Church...What I am picking up is exasperation. People are tired of lousy homilies that ramble in inanities that begin and never end, and never end because they should never have begun. People are tired of being preached at, of being treated as if they were younger than adolescents, of being lectured, of being scolded, of being dictated upon. People are tired of obstinate claims to absolute truth, when the thinking world continues to seek truth," he said.
Tabora said many Catholics are tired of priests who continue to preach against the Reproductive Health Law even during the Simbang Gabi.
He said that while priests should teach about RH, "if this is all they’re putting out, if this is the single tune they sing and demand every person dance to, then the party has lost its joy, and people will walk out."
81% of Pinoys are Catholic
The survey said about 81 percent of Filipino adults identified themselves as belonging to the Catholic faith, compared to only 6 percent who are Protestants, 6 percent who are Muslims, 3 percent who are Iglesia ni Cristo, 3 percent who belong to other Christian religions and 0.1 percent who belong to other religions.
SWS said religious affiliation is a background item in many of its surveys and has been included in 54 SWS national surveys since 1991.
During 1991-2013, the average annual percentage of adults identifying themselves as Catholics in the SWS surveys varied between a high of 88% in 1997 and a low of 80% in 2007. SWS said the data series indicates a “very slight, but statistically significant, downward trend in the 22-year period.”
“The typical national sample size is 1,200 per round, but since the number of rounds having religious affiliation ranged from 1 to as many as 4 in a year, the aggregate yearly sample size ranged from 1,200 (3 percent error margin) to 4,800 (1.5 percent error margin),” it said.
SWS figures showed 85% of adults represented themselves as Catholics in 1991. This went up to 87% in 1996 and peaked at 88% in 1997 before declining to 83% in 1998. From 2003 to present, the figure has fluctuated narrowly between 83% and 80%.
Downward trend in church attendance
SWS said its surveys also show “a slightly downward trend of church attendance among Filipinos, for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”
Overall, a plurality of adults in the Philippines are weekly worshippers: 43% attend church/mass at least once a week.
Among the Filipino Catholics surveyed, only 37% said they attend Church weekly.
In comparison, there are nearly twice as many of other Christians who are weekly churchgoers: 64% among Protestants, 70% among Iglesia ni Cristos and 62% among other Christians. Seventy-five percent of Muslims attend masjid at least weekly.
“In the entirety of 70 SWS surveys of church attendance during 1991-2013, weekly attendance was always lower among Catholics than among Filipinos in general,” it said.
SWS also noted that the latest 37% weekly church attendance of Catholics in February 2013 matches the all-time low 37% weekly church attendance of Catholics in March 2008.
“The decline in Catholics' weekly church attendance from 1991 to 2013 is highly significant, statistically speaking,” it said.
Church attendance, staying in church
SWS said thoughts of leaving the Church are more common among Filipino Catholics who see themselves as relatively less religious, are among those with relatively less frequent church attendance and among those whose present church attendance has decreased from five years ago.
Having thoughts of leaving the Catholic Church is more common among Catholics who do not consider themselves as very religious, who attend Church monthly at most, and whose church attendance is less now than five years ago.
The percentages of Catholics who sometimes think of leaving the Church are 4.9% among the very religious, 9.1% among the somewhat religious, 16.1% among the not very religious and 57.3% among those who say they have no religious belief.