Although those who call themselves Catholics are in the majority in Spain, only 22% of them attend Mass or go to confession regularly, while agnostics or atheists make up almost one-third of the population, according to the latest survey of the Center for Sociological Research (CIS in Spanish).
Two out of three Spaniards declare themselves Catholic, but fewer than one-third of them (22.7%) say they go to Mass or to confession, according to the latest CIS poll, which for the first time finds that atheists, agnostics, and non-believers have reached 29% and outnumber practicing Catholics. 2.3% claim to belong to a religion other than Catholic.
Spain is No Longer Truly Catholic
The CIS data are formal: 7.5% of Spaniards are agnostic, while indifferent or non-believers represent 8.3%, and atheists 13.3%. Hence the total of 29.1%.
The figures are particularly significant in Catalonia where, although those who declare themselves Catholic reach 52%, barely 10.9% go to Mass. On the other hand, atheists are 26.4%, indifferent 11.3%, and agnostics 6%,—altogether 45.9% of Catalans (adding 2.2% of those who profess another religion). Of those who call themselves Catholic, only 5.3% go to Mass every Sunday. On the other hand, 73% never or almost never go to Mass.
The situation is similar in other regions, such as the Valencian Community, the Basque Country or Euskadi, or the Madrid Community. In Valencia, only 10.3% of Catholics attend Sunday Mass, while 71.4% never or almost never attend. Something similar to what happens in Euskadi (9.4% go to church every Sunday, versus 67% who do not go to church).
On the other hand, in La Rioja, those who define themselves as Catholic reach 90% (40% practitioners and 50% non-practitioners), while there exists no data on atheists, non-believers, or members of other religions. The agnostics of La Rioja already represent 10%.
What are the Reasons?
The fall of the practice is global: not only is the number of those who declare themselves Catholic or go to Mass decreasing, but the number of baptisms, communions, and marriages has also dropped drastically. According to the data of the Episcopal Conference, while in 2007 there were 325,271 baptisms conferred in Spain, last year there were only 214,271. As for marital unions, 80% of marriages are now civil marriages. The situation is particularly delicate in Catalonia: 90.9% of marriages are civil marriages, as in Euskadi where they reach 87.4%.
This is a reality that is likely to worsen, since nearly 50% of young people aged 18 to 24 declare themselves non-believers, exceeding the percentage of those who consider themselves religious.
The bishops accuse the “progressive secularization” of Spanish society, which affects the most industrialized regions with the highest cultural and multi-religious index, like Catalonia, Madrid, Valencia or Euskadi, while in Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León , Extremadura or Andalusia the presence of the Catholic Church continues to predominate.
The Church’s situation in Spain is complex and it can be difficult to assign peremptory reasons. But, it is clear for all that, that the Second Vatican Council and the reforms that followed have had a very negative impact, even though the Church has maintained a great influence in the country. Far from attracting crowds and opening up a renewal of faith and religious practice, the new face of Catholicism no longer attracts, whether it is a matter of the desacralized liturgy or of the modernized priestly and consecrated life... If the Church secularizes itself, it should not be surprised that society follows in its steps.
Let us add that the bishops naively recognize that secularization progresses faster in a multi-religious environment, while they promote ecumenism and interreligious relations! Here again, such inconsistency weighs heavily and explains the disorientation as much as the defection of the faithful.