Last Thursday, Pew released the results of a survey that might measure this effect. The results showed that there has been no change in the number of Americans who call themselves Catholic, nor any change in the numbers of people attending Mass. Finally, there has been no change in the number of Catholics volunteering or going to confession.
The study did report that Americans love Pope Francis, but when it comes to getting to church, their love may not be so strong.
Only 22 percent of Americans say they are Catholic and of that number, only 40 percent say they attend Mass weekly. These numbers are unchanged since March 2012, well before Pope Francis arrived at the helm of the Church.
However, the news isn’t all disappointing. Pew says that there were marked increases in the number of Catholics who were “excited about their faith” with an increase of 25 percent in that metric. Respondents also claimed a 40 percent increase in prayer during the past year.
Pope Francis is having an effect on the Church, just not the effect that has been anecdotally reported, which is increased attendance. Still, he is very popular with Catholics who see him as a different voice that is shifting the emphasis of the Church towards its pastoral mission. This, of course, is wildly popular and will be reflected in his clerical appointments.
Although Mass numbers remain low in the United States, the world will observe the long-term effect of Francis’ pontificate in the decades and possibly centuries to come.