The Catholic “Man-Crisis” Factsheet

Unchecked, the exodus of Catholic men from the faith is likely to continue as men become increasingly casual about Catholicism. 

  • About 11 million adult men in the U.S. were raised Catholic but left the faith[1] and men are under-represented in the Church versus their share of the total population (46% of parishioners are male versus 49% of the population).[2]


Casual Catholic men lack passion for the faith.

  • Men don’t believe that Catholicism is unique and essential for a happy life.
    • 8 out of 10 men agree that “how one lives is more important than being a Catholic.”[3]
    • 4 in 10 men believing that Catholicism does not have a “greater share of truths than other religions.”[4]
    • Only 38% of Catholic men strongly agree that they are “proud to be Catholic.”[5]
    • Only 26% of Catholic men consider themselves to be “practicing Catholics.” [6]
    • Only 34% of Catholic men strongly agree that Catholicism is “among the most important part of life.” [7]
  • Men don’t believe that the Sacraments and Devotions of Catholicism are important.
    • A large majority of Catholic men (57%) are not certain it is possible to have a personal relationship with God.[8]
    • Only 51% of Catholic men strongly agree that the “Sacraments are essential to their relationship with God.”[9]
    • Only 32% of Catholic men strongly agree that the “Sacraments are essential to their faith.”[10]
    • Many men are not moved by the Mass and are less moved than women across the various aspects of the Mass: the readings and the Gospel, homily, music, the Eucharist, prayer, worshiping with other people, the presence of God. [11]
    • 48% of men agree that “Mass is boring”[12] and 55% agree that they “don’t get anything out of the Mass.”[13]
    • Only 29% of men believe that weekly mass attendance is “very important.”[14]
    • Only 28% of Catholic men believe that Confession is “very important”.[15]
    • Only 31% of men strongly agree that it is “very important” to attend Mass on Holy Days. [16]
    • Only 39% of men strongly agree that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is “very important.” [17]
    • Only 43% of Catholic men believe that it is “very important to help those in need.” [18]
    • Only 30% of Catholic men believe it is “very important to have a Devotion to Mary” and only 23% believe it is “very important to have a devotion to the Saints.” [19]
    • Only 37% of Catholic men strongly agree that “daily prayer is important”[20] and only 33% of Catholic men pray on a daily basis.[21]
    • 49% of Catholic men feel that they “cannot explain their faith to others.”[22]
  • During the last 20 years, men have become less certain about being Catholic: in 1987, 50.1% men said they would “never leave the Church”[23]; in 2005 the number had fallen to 42.3%.[24] This means that almost 60% of Catholic men would consider leaving the Church; these men have become “Casual Catholics”, Catholics who are casual about the faith.

Catholic men’s ambivalence about Catholicism results in low involvement.

  • Only about 1/3 of Catholic men (33%) say they attend Mass on a weekly basis.[25]
  • One third of Catholic men (34%) are not formally members of a parish.[26]
  • A large portion (42%) of Catholic men attend Mass “a few times per year” or “seldom or never.”[27]
  • 75% of Catholics go to Confession “less than once a year” (30%) or “never” (45%).[28] While data is not available for men’s participation, is likely worse given that men are significantly less likely to believe that Confession is very important.[29]
  • Almost half of Catholic men do not engage in a routine of prayer; praying only “occasionally or sometimes” or “seldom or never.”[30]
  • 83% of Catholic men rarely or never participate in a parish activity outside of the Mass.[31]

For comparison, Catholic men are less passionate about faith than other Christian men.

  • Less than half of Catholic men (48%) feel that “religion is very important in their lives; this compares to 74% for Evangelical men.”[32] 
  • Only about 4 in 10 Catholic men (43%) have an absolutely certain belief in a personal God; this compares to 69% of evangelical men.[33]
  • Less than half of Catholic men (48%) pray outside of worship services, which compares to 71% of Evangelical men.[34] Clearly, there is a “passion problem” among Catholic men.

The prevalence of so many Casual Catholic Men matters,  for it will further weaken the Church in future years. 

  • Catholic parents are doing a poor job at passing along the faith to their children,[35] especially fathers.[36]
  • Indeed, less than 50% of men (47.5%) strongly agree that it is important for their children to be Catholic.[37]
  • This is troubling since younger people are becoming increasingly vulnerable to leaving the Catholic Church, particularly young men. In 1987, 41.6% of 18-29 year olds agreed with the statement “I would never leave the Church”;[38] by 2005, only 17.8% of those 18-30 years said they’d “never leave the Church.”[39] This means that an astounding 82.2% of young people would consider leaving the Church.
  • 42% of emerging adults have “very or somewhat different” religious beliefs as their Catholic fathers.[40]
  • Males are particularly vulnerable to leaving the Church; 15% of the U.S. population have left religion and are now “unaffiliated”; the largest portion of this growing group are males who were formerly Catholic.[41]


The loss of Catholic men and the growing numbers of Casual Catholic men have other negative effects on parishes and the Church.

  • Fewer men reduce the pool for priestly and religious male vocations.
  • Lower levels of active adult men also influences young men to become disengaged from the Church. The “face” of the Church is feminine; men are underrepresented in the pews (only 37% of regular mass attendees are men).[42]
  • Further, a Notre Dame study shows that 70-90% of catechesis, service, bible study activities are led by women, causing the authors to suggest that “young males…assume that serious religious studies are a women’s business,” resulting in greater numbers of younger men being disengaged.[43]
  • Men are needed for healthy and growing parishes; research shows that congregations with greater portions of men are more likely to be growing.[44]
  • Men are much more influential in the conversion of their families than women. Research shows that when a woman converts to Christianity, 17% of the time the whole family converts.  When a man converts, 93% of the time the whole family converts.[45]


[1]    Luis Lugo et al., “Faith in Flux,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life  (April 2009): 1.  Estimate based on: a) Pew notes that 9% of U.S. Adults have left Catholicism, b) U.S. Census data that shows there are 250 million U.S. adults and that men represent 49% of adults.

[2]    Luis Lugo et al., “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life  (June 2008): 63.

[3]  “Gallup Poll of Catholics, 2005”, Question 18,

[4]  Ibid., Question 19.

[5]  Mark M. Gray and Paul M. Perl, “Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice among U.S. Catholics”, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate– “CARA” (April 2008): 100.

[6]  Ibid., 100.

[7]  Ibid., 103.

[8]  Lugo, “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey”, 29.

[9]  Gallup, 2005, Question 21.

[10]   CARA, 2008: 100.

[11]  CARA, 2008: 41.

[12] “Gallup Survey of Chicago Catholics, 2007”, Question 126,

[13]  Gallup, 2007, Question 130.

[14]  Gallup 2007, Question 61.

[15]  Gallup 2007, Question 62.

[16]  CARA 2008, 47.

[17]  CARA 2008, 66.

[18]  CARA 2008, 108.

[19]  CARA 2008, 108.

[20]  Gallup 2007, Question 63.

[21]  Gallup 2007, Question 137.

[22]  Gallup 2005, Question 23.

[23]   “Gallup Poll of Catholics (1987),” Question 48,

[24]   Gallup 2005, Question 75.

[25]   Gallup 2005, Question 59.

[26]   Gallup 2005, Question 5.

[27]   Gallup 2005, Question 94.

[28]   CARA 2008, 57.

[29]   CARA 2008, 38.

[30]  Gallup 2005, Question 60.

[31]  Gallup 2007, Question 157.

[32]  “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2008),” 24.

[33]  “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2008),” 29.

[34]  “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2008),” 46.

[35]  Christopher Smith and Patricia Snell, Souls in Transition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 114.

[36]  “Souls in Transition,” 129.

[37]  Gallup 2005, Question 22.

[38]  Gallup 1987, Question 48.

[39]  Gallup 2005, Question 75.

[40] Smith and Snell, 128-129.

[41]   Barry A. Kosmin, et al., “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population,” American Religious Identification Survey (2008): 5,7.

[42]  Gallup 2005, Question 75.

[43]  David C. Leege and Thomas A. Trozzolo, “Participation in Catholic Parish Life: Religious Rites and Parish Activities in the 1980s,” Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, Issue 3 (1985): 14.

[44]   C. Kirk Hadaway, “Facts on Growth,” Hartford Institute for Religion Research (2006): 4.

[45]  Attributed to evangelist, Sid Woodruff: