The Catholic Church is likely to become the largest churchgoing denomination in Scotland.
Figures from the 2016 Scottish Church Census reveal that the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland both make up 35 per cent of the churchgoing population, but that the Catholic proportion is expanding.
The report found 135,600 weekly Catholic Mass attenders compared to 136,910 attending Church of Scotland services. The figures also showed a total of 389,510 weekly attenders of churches of any denomination.
Peter Brierley, who conducted the study, told the Scottish Catholic Observer the Catholic Church would have the most Sunday churchgoers if trends continued.
The Scottish Catholic Observer provides more detail:
Fr Thomas Boyle, the Catholic Church’s representative on the panel that commissioned the report, said it reflected the fact that ‘Scotland is a very different place from 50 or even 30 years ago.’
“On a simplistic level there are many more different things which people can do on a Sunday than they could decades ago and that has had an effect,” he said. “The traditional Scottish Calvinistic Sabbath observance just doesn’t exist anymore. Social changes mean that there isn’t the same proportion of the Scottish population which professes the Christian faith or belongs to a Church.”
He said that the ‘continuing hostility of the liberal consensus to religious belief and organised religion has its effects, particularly on younger generations,’ but that ‘from a Catholic perspective the residual loyalty of many means that they continue to have their children Baptised and send them to Catholic schools.’
“This is best exemplified in the 2011 census where the figure for people self-identifying as Catholic was recorded as 100,000 higher than what the Church had registered,” he said. “This could be seen as tribal, but equally it can be seen as people who are religious or spiritual but simply don’t attend Church. Non-attendance at Church doesn’t mean that people don’t pray or live a Christian life with the values that inspire them.”
One reason both papers note for the Sunday Mass attendance is the influx of Polish Catholics, who are faithful to that obligation and opportunity.