Easter Week procession in Málaga, Spain

“Catholic Spain” goes the way of the dodo

“Catholic Spain” is no more.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the country’s Centre of Sociological Investigations (CIS), which shows that for the first time in Spain’s history atheists, agnostics and non-believers outnumber practising Catholics.

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Driving the news

A July report from the CIS concludes that 67.4% of Spanish people identify as Catholic.

Only 22.7% of people, however, define themselves as “practising”.

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The big picture

58.9% of Spanish Catholics and other Christians (who make up just 2.3% of the population) say they “never” or “hardly ever” attend Church services, outside of social occasions like weddings, first communions or funerals.

That’s in contrast to the 7.5% of Spanish people who declare themselves “agnostic”, the 8.3% who say they are “indifferent” to religion or a “non-believer” and the 13.3% who affirm to be “atheist”.

In total, that’s 29.1% of the Spanish population that wants nothing to do with the Church.

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The intrigue

The CIS numbers are repeated all over Spain’s distinct socio-cultural regions, from the Basque Country to Valencia.

And the secularising trend reflected in them has already provoked outrage in Spain, where the Church receives some 270 million euros a year in state contributions, as well as important tax breaks.

That’s on top of the money the Church receives from donations and payments for Church services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.

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These funds fall outside the reach, and control, of fiscal authorities.

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Go deeper

The Spanish Bishops are yet to respond to the trends reflected in the latest CIS survey, beyond lamenting what they call the “progressive secularisation” in Spain.

But the rot for the Catholic Church shows no sign of letting up.

In the years from 2007 to 2018 the number of Catholic baptisms in Spain has fallen from 325,271 to 214.271, according to the Spanish Bishops’ own figures.

80% of marriage ceremonies are now civil rather than religious, according to a recent report from the Barcelona-based Ferrer i Guardia Foundation.

That on top of the fact that, as this Foundation also pointed out, almost 50% of young people aged between 18 and 24 now identify as non-religious.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.