France: “To be a Catholic no longer means going to Mass”

Source: FSSPX News


 In mid-August, the French daily La Croix published the findings of a survey carried out by Ifop. It consisted of 29 particular polls with national representative samples of 1,000 persons, according to the quota method (sex, age, profession of the head of the household), after stratification according to area and category of city. Thus the cumulative sample numbered 29,016 persons. Among all these persons, Ifop sampled out 18,860 of them, 4,821 who declared themselves to be Catholics, of whom 4,821 declared themselves “practicing Catholics” and 14,039 “non-practicing Catholics”. In the poll, it was left to the people questioned to define themselves as “practicing” or “non-practicing”, according to their personal criteria.

Two thirds of French people call themselves Catholic (compared to 87% in 1972). The people “with no religion” rose from 21% 20 years ago, to 27% of the French population today. However, from 1987 to 2006, Protestantism has progressed from 1% to 2%, that is approximately 1,2 million faithful. The other religions are also registering an increase, representing 6% of the population (or 3,6 million faithful). Different studies estimate the Jewish community to be between 500,000 and 600,000 persons, the Buddhist community has 450,000 faithful, and the Muslim community about 2,5 million – but other estimates put the figure at 4 million.

Among French Catholics, less than 5% say they attend Mass every Sunday, but a quarter of them still consider themselves practicing Catholics. “So today, you can be a practicing Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday; this is an attainment of autonomy of religious practice which is no longer bound to the customary rites”, commented La Croix. “Catholics feel there are other ways of being a practicing Catholic”, added Jérôme Fourquet, co-director of the public opinion department at Ifop, who supervised the poll. “Today, other behaviors, attitudes and commitments can situate Catholics in society”, explained geographers Colette Muller and Jean-René Bertrand in their book: “Where have the Catholics gone?”, and they specified: it can be paying Peter’s pence, reading the Catholic press, belonging to prayer groups, being involved in a Catholic charitable organization, or a Church meeting…

Of the totality of those who call themselves practicing Catholics – 43% are over 65 and 18% belong to the 35 to 49 age group. The 18-24 year olds, the smallest age category of the French population - 11% -, make up 7% of the practicing Catholics. Among those between 25-34 years old – the WYD generation – 9% are practicing. Lastly, the poll showed that 60% of practicing Catholics are women.