Here’s the English headline in today’s The Vatican Insider: 34 Thousand Catholics More Each Day.
The numbers are designed to get your attention. The only problem is that 1) the numbers are wrong and 2) in any case, the numbers don’t mean what VI apparently thinks they mean. Because there are tens of thousands more Catholics every day but it still isn't good news.
Ah globalization. VI identified a mysterious source, Analisis Digirtal (!), as the source of the report. Analisis Digital turns out to be an online news source from Uruguay. But the Status of Global Mission is in fact, published in English by the evangelical Protestant Center for Global Christianity headquartered at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in the US. This report has been issued annually for at least 20 years. At least that is how long I’ve been consulting it.
So apparently, the 2011 SGM was translated from English into Spanish, picked up by Analisis Digital and then VI, translated into Italian and then back into somewhat quixotic English and a few things got lost in translation. Since there’s nothing like going directly to the source, here’s the link to the original.
Now for the Errata:
As you can see, the number of Catholics added to our rank every day is estimated to be 31,000, not 34 thousand as reported by VI. Just to be clear, the overwhelming majority of this group of new Catholics has joined us through natural biological growth, not conversion.
Here’s the information you need to grasp the significance of these numbers.
- The SGM estimates that 234,000 additional human beings are added to our planet every 24 hours. The Catholic contribution of 31,000 is just 13.25% of the total which is significantly lower than our 16.5% “cut” of the human population. In other words, our slice of the global human pie is shrinking, not growing.
- 83,000 additional Christians are added every 24 hours. Catholics make up almost exactly half of the Christians on this planet in 2011 but our portion of the growth is only 37.3% - far below what it would need to be to sustain us at 50%. 56.6% of all Christian growth comes from the heirs of the Reformation. Our share of the global Christian pie is shrinking, not growing.
- The Atlas of Global Christianity (produced by the same group that maintains the Status of Global Mission) estimates that the global Catholic population will only make up 45.5% of all Christians by 2050.
- Catholic per annum growth is only 0.98% while that of historic Protestant groups is 1.68% and that of Independent Christians is 2.33%. Independent Christians have the fastest growth of any religious group on earth and are the only religious group growing faster than Islam. The majority of Independent growth is through conversion rather than birth.
As you can see from my comment below, Independent Christians are wildly diverse. We have got to get over our easy assumptions that they are all stupid and venial (while patting ourselves on the back about how smart and noble we are to have the good taste to be born Catholic or to have converted.) Some of these people are very impressive by any standards. Take a look at this post which I did last Easter about one of the impressive ones.