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Latino Catholics are the Christian majority in the American Southwest



Daniel Esparza - published on 04/10/23

Another survey notes that 22% of newly ordained US priests are Hispanic -- the highest portion ever recorded in the States.

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A recently released survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (their annual American Value Atlas) shows that Hispanic Catholics accounted for the largest percentage of adult people who identify with a religion in the American Southwest in 2022. Latino Catholics, Russell Contreras’ article for Axios explains, “eclipsed white mainline Protestants in California, New Mexico and Texas,” although this does not mean they have gained any political preeminence, the note explains.

The PRRI survey, Contreras explains, “includes 40,000 annual telephone interviews among a random sample of Americans. The total number of respondents who self-identified as Hispanic was 5,864.”

The rising number of Hispanic Catholics counters the overall national drop in religious affiliation among all Americans, even if a significant number of Latino communities also embrace other Christian denominations – mainly, independent evangelical churches, which tend to be more conservative than mainline traditional Protestant denominations. In fact, Hispanic Protestants tend to be more conservative than Latino Catholics on moral issues.

PRRI’s survey shows how Hispanic Catholics accounted for more than 20% of all people with a religious affiliation in California, New Mexico, and Texas in 2022. In Arizona, even though the numbers are lower, Hispanic Catholics made up a slightly bigger percentage (12%) than white evangelicals (10%), although they remain “a slightly smaller share than white mainline Protestants (13%),” Contreras explains.

Latino priests on the rise

Another survey highlights an increase of incoming priests of Latino heritage. As J.P Mauro explains in this article, the research, conducted by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), found that 22% of the newly ordained were Latino, the highest portion ever recorded in the States. 

The report found that about one in four (26%) of U.S. priests ordained in 2022 are foreign born. Of this figure the most common country of origin is Mexico (6%), followed by Vietnam (4%). The average age that foreign-born ordinates entered seminary was 22, after having lived in the U.S. for an average of 13 years. 

According to a report from National Catholic Register, Hispanic Catholics make up only 8.5% of the U.S. clergy, a portion that the Associated Press reported as low as 3% in 2020. The portion of U.S. Catholics who are Hispanic, however, is around 45%. NCR noted that when taking into account Catholics under the age of 18, this figure rises to 60%. 

Latin AmericaPriesthoodUnited States
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