Commonweal has a discussion of the decline in the number of Catholic marriages; they have declined 60% since 1972, even as the Catholic population has grown by 17 million. Our Sunday Visitor has the data and some speculation about the causes.

There are parallel declines in mass attendance and reception of the sacraments.

Everyone has his favorite target. Liberals blame the failure to follow through what they see as the logic of Vatican II, which seems to mean the acceptance of contraception, abortion, divorce, women priests, and gay marriages.

Conservatives blame Vatican II for breaking good habits of sacramental and prayer life that had taken centuries to develop and replacing them with incoherence. But these habits were so easily broken one has to wonder how deeply rooted they were.

The Episcopal Church and other mainline churches, which have followed the liberals’ prescriptions, have suffered similar declines, so something apart from failure to update the Church has caused the decline.

Conservative churches seem to be doing better, because they attract new converts to replace the members who leave. That is what the Catholic Church in the US  has failed to do. Catholic numbers grow because of Hispanic immigrants, who have replaced the 1/3 of baptized Catholics who leave the Church. But Hispanic populations have never accepted all the church discipines of the post-Tridentine Church, such as getting married in a church ceremony. The Hispanic male aversion to the clergy is probably also starting to affect Catholic practice in the U.S. – in general, Hispanic men do not go to church or to confession – the book on which I am working, Meek or Macho? Masculinity and Religion, examines the hostility that Hispanic men have long felt to the clerical version of Christianity. Hispanic and Spanish men, if they are Catholic, have their own way of being Catholic, a way which often does not include going to Church or receiving the sacraments.

My hypotheses is in short: whatever is causing the decline in the mainline churches is also affecting the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is replacing its lost adherents with a population that has a lower level of sacramental practice. Hence the decline in the number of marriages

A good sociological survey could confirm or disprove this; if the problem is the lack of Hispanic practice, a approach must be adopted to their background and culture, which is different from that of Euro-American Catholics who have undergone secularization.

This table from Our Sunday Visitor suggests this is the explanation:

Marriages in the Church per 1,000 Catholics by diocese in 2010

Highest Rates

Salina, Kan. 7.3

Owensboro, Ky. 7.3

Wichita, Kan. 6.2

Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. 5.9

Oklahoma City, Okla. 5.8

Belleville, Ill. 5.7

Bismarck, N.D. 5.7

Yakima, Wash. 5.7

Tulsa, Okla. 5.6

Rapid City, S.D. 5.6

Lowest Rates

Las Vegas, Nev. 0.9

Brownsville, Texas 1.0

El Paso, Texas 1.2

Dallas, Texas 1.2

Sacramento, Calif. 1.2

Juneau, Alaska 1.2

Laredo, Texas 1.3

Gallup, N.M./Ariz. 1.4

Brooklyn, N.Y. 1.5

Orange, Calif. 1.6

Most of the cities with the lowest rates have large Hispanic populations.

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