Charlotte, N.C., Feb 8, 2005 / 22:00 pm
The Catholic Church in the southern U.S. is flourishing and growing at an impressive rate. But its rebirth in the historical Protestant Bible Belt is not only about numbers in the pews, but the creation of a Catholic culture and a strict adherence to Catholic teachings, says a report by journalist Tim Padgett.
Catholics make up about 12 percent of the South’s population. While still quite low, Catholics saw growth of almost 30 percent in the 1990s, compared with less than 10 percent for Baptists, who make up the area’s largest denomination. Reported Padgett.
Padgett notes that Catholic Church was present in the south before the Civil War, but it virtually disappeared after the war. It aided the civil rights movement, but its numbers didn’t rebound until the 1980s, when northerners moved south chasing jobs in the technological industries and Hispanics immigrated to the area. From 1980 to 2000, the region’s Catholic population doubled, to more than 12 million.
Hispanic immigrants are the fastest-growing group in the south. In the Diocese of Charlotte, for example, Hispanics make up half the diocese’s 300,000 Catholics. Thousands of Vietnamese and Filipino Catholics are moving in as well.