Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Roman Catholicism in the United States
Roman Catholicism in the United States has flourished since its colonial era, previous to the establishment of the nation. The Roman Catholic Church in the United States, also informally called the American Catholic Church, is the largest Christian denomination in the nation with 65.2 million people professing the faith in 2003. Approximately 23% of the American population, it is four times the size of the next largest denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.
The church's governing body is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, made up of the hierarchy of bishops and archbishops of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands, although each bishop is independent in his own diocese; answerable only to the Pope.
No primate for Catholics exists in the United States. The Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first diocese established in the country, received Prerogative of Place in the 1850s, which confers to its archbishop a subset of the leadership responsibilities granted to primates in other countries.
Over 19,000 parishes exist in 195 dioceses or archdioceses:
- 32 Latin Catholic Archdioceses
- 146 Latin Catholic Dioceses
- 2 Eastern Catholic Archdioceses or Archeparchies
- 15 Eastern Catholic Dioceses or Eparchies
The Church has over 30,000 diocesan priests, and over 15,000 priests vowed to a specific order; also over 30,000 lay ministers, 13,000 deacons, 75,000 sisters, and 5,600 brothers.
150,000 Catholic school teachers operate in the U.S., teaching 2.7 million elementary and high school students.
Roman Catholicism first came to the territories now forming the United States with the Spanish explorers and settlers in present-day Florida (1513 - ) and the south-west. The influence of the California missions (1769 and onwards) forms a lasting memorial to part of this heritage.
Anglophone Catholicism received a boost with the settling of Maryland (1634): this colony offered a rare example of Catholic-oriented religious toleration in a fairly intolerant age and amongst other English "plantations" which frequently exhibited a quite militant Protestantism. (See the Maryland Toleration Act, and note the pre-eminence of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Catholic circles.)
Subsequent mass-immigration -- especially of Catholics from Ireland, from southern Europe (Italy, Portugal), from Poland, from the Philippines and from Latin America -- has impacted the flavor of Catholicism in the United States. Some anti-immigrant movements, like the Know Nothings and the Klu Klux Klan, have also been anti-Catholic.
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