Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


The 1,429 American Bishops from 1790 to 2017

This post is authored by CARA Research Associate Michal Kramarek, Ph.D. and provides top-level observations about bishops ordained in the United States between 1790 and 2017. The data come from Catholic Hierarchy, a freely available website created and maintained by David M. Cheney.

As of July 2017, 1,429 bishops have been ordained in what currently constitutes the United States. Each of those bishops is represented in the chart below (click on the graph below to view the full size image) by four dots (or less, if data are missing). The black dot at the bottom of the chart indicates the year of birth. Moving up and to the right (as a bishop ages) is a dark green dot that shows the year and age of ordination to priesthood. Continuing diagonally the same direction is a light green dot representing the year and age of bishop ordination. Finally, the top most dot shows the year and age at the time of death.

The low density of dots on the left-hand side of the chart indicates that there were relatively few bishops until mid-nineteenth century. Specifically, there were 51 bishop ordinations prior to 1850. Moving from left to the right, the dot density increases, as the number of bishop ordinations in the United States grew to 485 between 1850 and 1949, and to 858 bishops between 1950 and 2017 (note that the ordination data are missing for 35 bishops). The rate of increase was so fast in recent years that a third of all American bishops (32 percent) are alive today.

Nine American bishops were born early enough to remember the Declaration of Independence (in 1776). The youngest of them was Archbishop James Whitfield, who was six years old at that time. Five were already ordained priests: Archbishop John Carroll (ordained priest in 1761), Bishop Richard Luke Concanen (1770), Archbishop Leonard Neale (1773), Bishop John Connolly (1774), and Bishop Henry Conwell (1776). The first bishop in the United States was John Carroll, who was ordained as the Bishop of Baltimore in 1790, at the age of 59 (and appointed the Archbishop of Baltimore in 1808).

The youngest person to be ordained a bishop was Leo Raymond de Neckère, who became the first Bishop of New Orleans in 1830 at the age of 30. He died just three years later during the yellow fever epidemic, which also made him the youngest bishop to die, to date. The period preceding, during, and after the American Civil War (between 1825 and 1874) was characterized by the lowest average life expectancy among American bishops (at 62 years). Ever since, the life expectancy has been increasing exponentially with the exception of the period preceding, during and after the World War II (in years between 1925 and 1949) when it decreased by 0.5 years to 70 years. The bishops who died in 2000 or later lived on average 84 years. The longest living bishop was Edward Daniel Howard who died the Archbishop Emeritus of Portland in 1983, at the age of 105.

Not all bishops enjoyed long years of service. The shortest serving bishop was John Raphael Hagan, who was ordained the Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland in 1946, at the age of 56. He died 123 days later, after unsuccessful surgery.

As hinted by the vertical concentrations of dots, bishops were ordained priests at an average age of 26, and ordained bishops at an average age of 50. However, there were some significant deviations from those numbers. The bishop ordained to priesthood at the oldest age was Elliot Griffin Thomas, who was ordained to priesthood in 1986, at the age of 59 (he was ordained a bishop in 1993, at the age of 67 and he is currently the Bishop Emeritus of Saint Thomas, American Virgin Islands). The oldest person to be ordained a bishop was Joseph Patrick Donahue, who was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of New York in 1945, at the age of 74.

Saint John Paul II named the most American bishops. A full accounting for each pope is below:
  • Francis (69 bishop ordinations in the first 5 years of papacy)
  • Benedict XVI (105 bishop ordinations in 8 years)
  • John Paul II (342 bishop ordinations in 26 years)
  • John Paul I (0 bishop ordinations in 33 days)
  • Paul VI (208 bishop ordinations in 15 years)
  • John XXIII (48 bishop ordinations in 5 years)
  • Pius XII (178 bishop ordinations in 20 years)
  • Pius XI (103 bishop ordinations in 17 years)
  • Benedict XV (36 bishop ordinations in 7 years)
  • Pius X (59 bishop ordinations in 11 years)
  • Leo XIII (108 bishop ordinations in 25 years)
  • Pius IX (97 bishop ordinations in 32 years)
  • Gregory XVI (24 bishop ordinations in 15 years)
  • Pius VIII (2 bishop ordinations in 2 years)
  • Leo XII (5 bishop ordinations in 5 years)
  • Pius VII (10 bishop ordinations in 23 years)
  • Pius VI (1 bishop ordination in 25 years)

If you are curious to find out more about the bishops mentioned in this post or about your local bishop, consider visiting Catholic Hierarchy. It offers a treasure trove of information accessible to anyone for free.


A New Age Old Scratch?

For thousands of years, evil in the Abrahamic world has been personified by Satan (aka “Old Scratch”). The Catechism warns of “a seductive voice, opposed to God” and that “Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the “devil.’” The Catechism further describes, “He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature.”

Rather than belief in Satan or the devil waning under a tide of secularism in the United States, it appears to have grown a bit in recent years. In March 1957 Gallup asked U.S. adults, “Do you believe that there is or is not a devil?” At the time, 62%  said they believed there was, 26% thought not, and 12% were uncertain. A decade later, in 1968, about the same share believed in the devil (60%) but fewer were uncertain (5%) and more noted disbelief (35%). By the 1980s, belief in the devil began to grow. In a 1981 survey in the U.S. conducted by Gallup at the request of CARA for the World Values Survey, 70% of adults said they believed in the devil. When Gallup asked in the May 2007, 70% of U.S. adults again stated belief. But just what do they believe in?

A more recent survey indicates that people are not likely to believe in a “creature.” For many, the devil or Satan is a symbol of evil rather than a being (…CARA would have worded the question differently). Among the 85% of U.S. adults who believe in God that were asked the question, 69% see Satan more as a symbol of evil and 31% say their believe Satan is a “living being.” Evangelical Christians are among the most likely to believe Satan is a being (55%). Catholics are among the least likely to agree (17%). Eighty-three percent of Catholics say they see Satan more as a symbol of evil.

What does that mean? Well symbols aren’t really going to stir the same concerns in someone that a being might. As we’ve explored before, Catholics who believe in the devil and Hell are more likely than those who do not to be religiously active. But there are other impacts we can see in the survey. For example, Catholics who believe Satan is a being are more likely than those who believe Satan is a symbol to say they believe the world is “clearly divided into good and evil” (42% compared to 22%). Those who see Satan as a symbol are more likely to believe that the world is “more complex” than being clearly divided into good and evil forces.

Eighty-eight percent of Catholics who believe in Satan as a being say they “feel there are spiritual obligations to act in certain ways” rather than that they “do not think in these terms.” By comparison, 72% of Catholics who believe in Satan as a symbol say they “feel there are spiritual obligations to act in certain ways.” The difference is much larger among Americans who do not have a religious affiliation but who believe in God. Among this group, 94% of those who believe in Satan as a being feel there are these “spiritual obligations” compared to only 29% who believe Satan is a symbol.

In CARA surveys, we often find that Catholics will say that helping the poor is one of the most important obligations Catholics have and, indeed, believing in Satan as a being increases the likelihood that Catholics will agree that there is a spiritual obligation to “seek to reduce poverty and hunger around the world” (79% compared to 62% of those who see Satan as a symbol). Also, Catholics who believe in Satan as a being are also more likely to believe that there is a spiritual obligation to “seek to prevent abortions” (71% compared to 46% of those who believe Satan is a symbol).

Catholics who believe that Satan is a being are likely to be conservatives (53%) and Republicans (54%). They are also likely to be among the more highly educated Catholics. Two-thirds of those who believe Satan is a being have either attended college (32%) or have a college degree (34%). Catholics who believe Satan is a symbol are likely to describe themselves as moderates (49%) and Democrats (46%). They are more likely than those who believe Satan is a being to have a high school or less education (44% compared to 34%).

Modern popes have never been shy about speaking about Satan. So much so that CNN has even asked “Why is Pope Francis so obsessed with the devil?” In Pope Francis’ own words, “the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here… even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right?” It appears Catholics in the United States need a bit more direction about just what is “present.”

It may not be a coincidence that overall belief in the devil began to increase in the 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps, even Georgetown and a film called The Exorcist (1973) might have played a part in this (adjusting for inflation, it is the 9th highest grossing film in U.S. history). It spawned a genre of exorcism and devil related films and novels. At the same time, these popular culture depictions may have transformed how people think about what Satan is. There is an interesting line from one of the more recent films, The Rite (2011), by an exorcist played by Anthony Hopkins that goes, “choosing not to believe in the devil doesn't protect you from him.”

Image courtesy of rafa_luque


Vocations: The Importance of Family

This blog post was written by CARA summer research intern Hannah Hagan. She is a rising junior from Vanderbilt University, majoring in mathematics. She presents her analysis of the The Entrance Class of 2016 survey data, which was also used in a March post, “Who is Entering Religious Life?.”  The full report, which was written by Dr. Mary Gautier and Sr. Bibiana Ngundo, is available for download, free of charge, here: The Entrance Class of 2016.

Families, as Pope Francis said during his 2015 Apostolic Journey to the United States, are “true domestic churches… the right place for faith to become life, and life to grow in faith.”  With the Pope’s frequent statements about the importance of family in mind, I decided to look into family background while examining the survey data from the Entrance Class of 2016; that is those who formally entered a religious congregation, province, or monastery in the United States during 2016.  In addition to being a summer research intern at CARA, I am a twenty year old college student, and I am deeply aware of and grateful for the spiritual nurturing and guidance which my family has provided throughout my life.  Given that half of the respondents of the Entrance Class of 2016 are age 26 or younger and that the average age at which respondents report first considering a vocation to religious life is 18, I was curious to see if the majority of respondents would likely say that their families have played similar roles of support in their faith and in their decision to enter religious life.

At first glance, it appears that an overwhelming majority of the entrants grew up in Catholic families and the kind of the faith-centered environments which one would most commonly expect to encourage and produce religious vocations.  Nine in ten respondents say that they were raised Catholic, and eight in ten report that both of their parents were Catholic.  However, an examination of how important respondents indicate religion was to their parents while they were growing up suggests a hidden diversity to respondents’ family backgrounds.  Compared to four-fifths of respondents reporting that both of their parents were Catholic, only about two-fifths of respondents report that religion was “very important” to both of their parents.  Furthermore, three in ten respondents indicate that religion was less than “very important” to both their parents, while only one in twenty say that both of their parents were not Catholic.  Together, these comparisons help to highlight the fact that entrants who were raised Catholic do not always come from families in which religion was modeled as “very important.”

On the other hand, it cannot be said that the majority of entrants do not come from religious families.  Slightly more than seven in ten say that religion was “somewhat” or “very important” to both of their parents while they were growing up, and only two percent say that religion was “not at all” important to both of their parents while they were growing up.

When looking at the responses of entrants regarding how important religion was to their parents, an interesting pattern emerges: respondents are significantly more likely to say that religion was “very important” to their mother than to say the same about their father.  Just over six in ten entrants say that religion was “very important” to their mother while half that religion was “very important” to their father.  This pattern can also be found among the subgroup of respondents who report that they were raised Catholic, with two in three saying that religion was “very important” to their mother and slightly more than half saying the same about their father.  While interesting, it does not seem likely that this pattern is specific to families which produce entrants or to Catholic families in general, as Pew Research Center observed in a 2014 survey that American women are more likely to be religious than American men.

If it is more likely that religion was “very important” to entrants’ mothers than to their fathers, are entrants’ mothers also more likely to encourage openness to a religious vocation?  Not necessarily.  Slightly more than one-tenth of entrants who were raised Catholic say that their mother, but not their father, spoke to them about a vocation to religious life, and about three percent say that their father, but not their mother, spoke to them – a difference which is not statistically significant.  Perhaps even more interesting to note is that, despite the high numbers of respondents who reported that they were raised Catholic and that both of their parents were Catholic, two in three respondents say that neither of their parents spoke to them about a vocation.   

Still, speaking about religious vocation is not the only way in which parents may facilitate and support their child’s openness to entering religious life.  As a measure of how respondents expected their families to react to their discernment of a religious vocation, entrants were asked if starting a discussion about their vocation with their family was easy for them overall.  Around half of entrants answer “yes,” and a similar portion (slightly more than half) of those who were raised Catholic report the same.  One interesting and thought-provoking phenomenon is that slightly less than half of entrants who were born in the United States say that starting a discussion with their family about their vocation was easy, compared to just over six in ten of others.  Are families in the United States less likely to support their child answering the call of a religious vocation, or are entrants born in the United States simply more likely than others to anticipate difficulty?

Lastly, parents can impact the possibility of their child entering a religious institute by providing, or failing to provide, encouragement while their child is considering entrance.  Slightly less than half of respondents say that they received “very much” encouragement from their parents when they were first considering entering a religious institute, and only one in three says that they received “only a little” encouragement or none.  The responses of those who were raised Catholic are similar to the responses of the entrance class as a whole, with just under half reporting “very much” encouragement from their parents and three-tenths reporting “only a little” encouragement or none.  Entrants’ evaluations of their families’ response to their vocation (represented through their indication of whether starting a discussion about their vocation was easy) are fairly accurate, with two-thirds of respondents who said the discussion was easy reporting that they received “very much” encouragement from their parents, compared to one-fifth of other respondents saying that they received “very much” encouragement.  Intriguingly, respondents who were born in the United States and elsewhere do not differ significantly in their reports that they received “very much” encouragement from their parents, despite the significance difference in their responses on whether discussing their vocation with their family was easy. 

Analysis of the family backgrounds of the Entrance Class of 2016 provides observations which may be interpreted as examples of the important and lasting impact which Catholic families can have on the faith lives of their children.  However, analysis also reveals a surprising amount of variation in the ways in which parents, particularly within Catholic families, do or do not encourage their child to consider entrance to religious life.  There is no overarching, secret formula which characterizes all of the families that produce a child who is moved to enter religious life, but examining the characteristics of such families remains an interesting and illuminating endeavor.

About the Survey
To obtain the names and contact information for entrants, CARA contacted the major superiors of all religious institutes that belong to either the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) or the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the two leadership conferences of apostolic women religious in the United States.  CARA also contacted the major superiors of all religious institutes who belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM).  Finally, CARA contacted the major superiors of 138 contemplative communities of women in the United States that were identified by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.  Each major superior was asked to provide contact information for every person who entered the institute (for the first time, as a postulant or novice) in the United States since January 1, 2016.  CARA then mailed a survey to each new entrant and asked them to return their completed survey to CARA.

After repeated follow-ups, CARA received a response from 610 of 759 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 80 percent among religious institutes.  In all, 93 percent of LCWR superiors, 84 percent of CMSWR superiors, 76 percent of CMSM superiors, and 59 percent of superiors of contemplative communities provided contact information for 502 novices or postulants that entered religious life for the first time in the United States in 2016.  The Entrance Class of 2016 consists of 272 men (reported by CMSM superiors), 144 women reported by CMSWR, 66 women reported by LCWR, and 20 new entrants into contemplative communities of women.  Of these 502 identified women and men, a total of 278 responded to the survey by February 2, 2017.  This represents a response rate of 55 percent among the new entrants to religious life that were reported to CARA by major superiors.

Photo courtesy of Flickr creative commons user Saint Joseph.

Search This Blog

Blog Archive

© 2009-2017 CARA, Mark M. Gray. Background image courtesy of muohace_dc.