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Georgetown University: Catholicism at the Poles: Births and Baptisms, North and South

30. dec. 2014

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. 

At CARA we sit on a mountain of data about the Catholic Church (…including a new and ever expanding database of international figures). I can always count on one set of numbers to leave me scratching my head—baptismal data (1, 2). In the previous post we examined how birth rates are falling globally. Fewer babies means fewer baptisms right? But there is an odd “swirl” in the numbers the closer one gets to the North Pole. Forget the Francis Effect. Is there a St. Nicholas Effect?

Northern Europe not only leads the continent in baptisms per 1,000 Catholics, it also matches the Catholic crude baptism rates in many high fertility countries in Africa (“crude” rates measure something relative to the size of a population, often “per 1,000”). In 2012, on average, there were 13.9 baptisms per 1,000 Catholics in Northern European countries. Finland, Iceland, and Denmark rank just ahead of Ireland, which is closely followed by Sweden and Great Britain (Vatican statistics combine Ireland and Northern Ireland). Only Norway doesn’t seem to “fit in.”

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