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The Largest Catholic Communities

Related Pages:
- Some Catholic Demographics
- Top 10 Most Beautiful Catholic Cathedrals
- Top 50 Greatest Catholic Movies
- Movies Suggested by Catholics
- Famous Catholics
- Catholic Science Fiction Authors

The Catholic Church is the world's largest religious body. The lists below indicate places that are "most Catholic" or places with large numbers of Catholics.

The complete data sets that these "Top 10" lists are derived from are available in the main Adherents.com database under "C" for "Catholic." But because there are so many records for the Catholic Church it may be faster to look in the Adherents.com Location index if you're looking for a statistic for a particular country, state, or province.

Catholics as a percentage of state populations. Click here or on map to see a larger version.

Top 10 Nations with
Most Catholics

NationPercentNumber of
Brazil 86.50% 134,818,000
Mexico 95.30 86,305,000
USA 26.00 ~61,000,000
Philippines 83.60 58,735,000
Italy 97.20% 55,599,000
France 82.10 47,773,000
Spain 94.20 36,956,000
Poland 95.40 36,835,000
Colombia 91.90 32,260,000
Argentina 90.70 31,546,000
Germany 34.80 28,403,000

Source: 1998 Catholic Almanac: Our Sunday Visitor: USA (1997), pg. 333-367. Except U.S. figures, which are from general sources.

Top 20 Nations with
Highest Percentage of Catholics

NationNumber of
Percent of
that are
Vatican City 850 100.00%
San Marino 24,714 99.83
Saint Pierre and Miquelon 6,000 99.36
Wallis and Futuna Islands 15,000 99.02
Italy 55,599,000 97.20
Cape Verde 390,000 96.00
Poland 36,835,000 95.40
Mexico 86,305,000 95.30
Ireland 3,372,500 95.00
Guadeloupe 391,000 95.00
Spain 36,956,000 94.20
Luxembourg 386,000 94.00
Paraguay 4,531,000 93.80
Ecuador 10,729,000 93.60
El Salvador 5,399,000 93.50
Costa Rica 3,009,000 93.00
Honduras 5,517,000 92.70
Venezuela 19,922,000 92.00
Portugal 9,948,000 92.00

Source: 1998 Catholic Almanac: Our Sunday Visitor: USA (1997), pg. 333-367; Adherents.com.

The Catholic Church is the largest religious body in the United States, with over 60 million adherents (4 times as large as the second largest church).

Top 10 U.S. States with Highest Proportion of
Catholics in the Population, 1990

Rhode Island 633,42763.12%
Massachusetts 2,961,35949.22
Connecticut 1,374,74741.82
New Jersey 3,189,31541.26
New York 7,280,48840.47
Louisiana 1,369,15432.44
Wisconsin 1,554,27831.77
Illinois 3,611,03331.59
Pennsylvania 3,675,25030.93
New Mexico 467,35630.85

Top 10 U.S. States with Most Catholics, 1990

New York7,280,48840.47%
New Jersey3,189,31541.26

States on both lists (Highest Number and Highest Percent): Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Top 25 U.S. Counties with
Highest Proportion of Catholics, 1990

CountyNumber of
Number of
Percent of
Kenedy, TX 440 295.65%
Mora, NM 4,370 2094.86
Reeves, TX 20,207 694.63
Guadalupe, NM 4,149 1991.43
La Salle, TX 5,815 286.41
St. James, LA 22,725 784.18
Harding, NM 1,011 681.16
Starr, TX 34,669 1581.00
Cameron, TX 248,470 3381.00
Hidalgo, TX 360,833 5181.00
Willacy, TX 18,537 881.00
Wade Hampton, AK 4,692 1279.55
Plymouth, MA 427,177 4579.10
Jim Hogg, TX 4,637 678.10
Jeff Davis, TX 2,121 277.60
Maverick, TX 30,743 676.69
Taos, NM 20,379 2975.81
Webb, TX 107,333 2075.14
St. Landry, LA 78,578 3574.57
Vermilion, LA 42,974 1773.22
St. Martin, LA 36,728 1372.54
Kewaunee, WI 18,022 1672.38
Pointe Coupee, LA 22,098 871.49
Franklin, MA 60,205 1971.47
Greeley, NE 3,236 571.26
Providence, RI 505,030 10271.04

States on this list: Texas (12), Louisiana (5), New Mexico (4), Massachusetts, Alaska, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Rhode Island

NOTE: It's possible that some of the counties on this list with small populations have Catholic parishes which draw members from adjoining counties. Because these numbers are based on parish reports and not census counts, this would mean the actual proportion of Catholics in such a county might seem higher in this list than it actually is.

Okay, there are actually 26 counties on this list. I added one more so that Rhode Island could make an appearance on this list. It is interesting to note that Rhode Island, the state with the highest proportion of Catholics, does not actually have any counties among the nation's counties with the hight proportion of Catholics. This is because Catholics must be very evenly spread throughout Rhode Island, but they are not evenly spread through other states which have high numbers of Catholics. In Texas, for instance, the predominantly Catholic counties are along the Mexican-American border, while the north of Texas is predominantly Protestant, especially Baptist.

Source: Churches and Church Membership in the United States, 1990, published by the Glenmary Research Center, P.O. Box 507, Mars Hill, NC 28754. Principle investigator: Church Growth Research Center, Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, MO. This data source was obtained from the American Religion Data Archive.

Some Catholic Demographics

The purpose of this page is not to be a clearinghouse for Catholic demographic data. But as we come across some interesting statistics, we may add them here.

Catholic countries have lower suicide rates than Protestant ones and "even within Protestant countries those areas with Catholic populations [have] lower rates." It is worth noting that "the reduced suicide rate of Catholics relative to Protestants is independent of their minority status."
[Sources: Study by Emile Durkheim, cited in Robert Alun Jones. Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1986. Pg. 82-114.; John Hood-Williams (Department of Social Science, University of Greenwich, London, UK). "Studying Suicide" in Health & Place (Vol. 2. No. 3; 1996), pg. 167-177.]

A national survey conducted by the Barna Research Group (Ventura, California), determined that in the U.S., Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest divorce rate among major Christian denominations. (Baptists had the highest divorce rate).
[Sources: Barna report online; Greg Garrison. "Survey: Baptists lead in divorces" in The Birmingham News, 30 Dec. 1999.]

"Catholic countries consume significantly more alcohol than Protestant (or neither religion dominant) countries."
[Source: Stanton Peele (Fellow, The Lindesmith Center, New York). "Utilizing Culture and Behaviour in Epidemiological Models of Alcohol Consumption and Consequences for Western Nations" in Alcohol & Alcoholism (vol. 32; 1997), pg. 51-64.]

More science fiction and fantasy writers belong to the Catholic Church than to any other religious body. Notable among these are G.K. Chesterton, Andrew Greeley, J.R.R. Tolkien, R.A. Lafferty, Anthony Boucher, Clifford Simak, Walter M. Miller, Jr. and Gene Wolfe. On a per capita basis, there are more practicing Catholics than practicing Protestants among mainstream sf/f writers. However, there are some specific religious bodies other than the Catholic Church which are better represented on a per capita basis. In the introduction to Sacred Visions, Andrew Greeley (the famed priest-sociologist-novelist) suggests Catholicism fits better with science fiction than Protestantism. The Jesuit priest/scientist is one of the most common types of religious characters in science fiction literature.
[Source: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Various Faiths.]

See Also:
- Largest Religious Groups in the U.S.A. - See how the Catholic Church compares in size to other major religious groups in the United States. (Includes some maps.)
- Religious Affiliation of History's 100 Most Influential People - Catholicism is represented more than any other religion on this list.

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Created April 29, 1999. Last updated 30 September 2005.