Friday, February 9, 2007

The State of the Catholic Church, Diocese by Diocese, in 2007

This month's issue of Crisis Magazine has a long and wonky and interesting article on the state of the Catholic Church in the United States largely using information provided by the various dioceses voluntarily over the years to the Official Catholic Directory, published each year.

The compilers of the study used data such as members (adherents) of each dioceses, adult baptisms, ordinations, the number of priests per Catholic (adherent), etc. and then rigged up some formulas to rate the 176 dioceses in the U.S. (not counting the military Archdiocese and those of the territories.

Interesting tables result, which will be argued over in 176 chanceries, seminaries and a goodly number of rectories for the forseeable future. The old saying goes, figures lie and liars figure.

One of the purposes of the study was to see how effective the individual Bishops are. Now that is indeed something that is needed and wanted.

Whether it is a true picture of the American Church is upto to someone other than me to say, but I love stuff like this. In fact, I'm even going to add to it. I don't know that it is particularly fair to publicly rank Bishops (they are not rated by name, although some are mentioned, generally ones whose dioceses rank well. And some who are very good Bishops are in dioceses with awful rankings, compared to the others.

Is if fair to rank a Bishop who may be in a diocese whose problems predate him because of his predecessors or because of the inexorable march of history as people, once air conditioning had been invented, moved from the north to the south.

And if you are going to rank Bishops, do holiness and orthodoxy count? Not in this report.

So I did a quick survey of the Crisis magazine report, found their 20 highest ranked and lowest ranked and compared them with some figures of my own.

Over the years, newspapers, websites, apologists and bloggers have bestowed the "Spine" honor upon those Bishops who have a reputation for standing up for the Church, even when their flock might not have liked it. I've been keeping track of these "awards", somewhat as an antidote to all the bad news that has been published about the Church and its priests and bishops in the past half dozen years or so.

So below, what you see is Crisis' Top 20 and Bottom 20 Dioceses in the U.S. I have made bold those dioceses that now have or quite recently had a Bishop who could wear the "Spine Award." As you will see, holiness and orthodoxy don't seem to have much of an impact on Crisis magazines results. So I don't know exactly what I have proved, other than that I can be as wonky as the next person, I guess. And also that good and holy Bishops might not always be good administrators or might have situations that nobody could resolve in a short period of time.

20 Highest-Ranked Dioceses Overall

1 Knoxville (TN)
2 Savannah (GA)
3 Kalamazoo (MI)
4 Alexandria (LA)
5 Pensacola–Tallahassee (FL)
6 Santa Fe (NM) 7
Birmingham (AL)
8 Wheeling–Charleston (WV)
8 Anchorage (AK)
10 Biloxi (MS)
10 Lansing (MI)
12 Lubbock (TX)
13 Little Rock (AR)
14 Cheyenne (WY)
15 Colorado Springs (CO)
16 Denver (CO)
16 Venice (FL)
18 Beaumont (TX)
19 Lexington (KY)
19 Charlotte (NC)

20 Lowest-Ranked Dioceses Overall

157 Burlington (VT)
158 Winona (MN)
159 Dubuque (IA)
160 Boston (MA)
161 La Crosse (WI)
162 Milwaukee (WI)
162 Providence (RI)
164 Philadelphia (PA)
164 Green Bay (WI)
166 Marquette (MI)
167 Camden (NJ)
168 El Paso (TX)
169 Allentown (PA)
170 Madison (WI)
171 Pittsburgh (PA)
172 Albany (NY)
173 Metuchen (NJ)
174 Rochester (NY)
175 Rockville Centre (NY)
176 Hartford (CT)

The Crisis Magazine article can be found as a pdf file HERE. It is hard to find Crisis on a news stand around here.

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