The Geographic Roots of Cultural and Liturgical Differences Amongst American Catholics


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This paper addresses the geographic components of American Catholicism from 1972-2020. The study found significant, previously undiscussed geographic variations in the character and expression of the Catholic faith within the United States. This project fills a geography-sized gap in existing literature, which hitherto has only discussed regional differences at the broadest geographic scale. This paper found significant spatial variations amongst Catholic settlement and growth patterns, regional ancestral composition, age, rural/urban divisions, as well as inter-regional migration. Relationships and intersections between the variables were also examined, as well as the temporal evolution of these spatially distributed attributes. The study found that the modern Catholic Church in America was far from spatially uniform, varying across regions in a myriad of ways. Additionally, an examination on sociopolitical attitudinal differences between Catholics of different regions towards controversies within the Church is conducted using statistics from studies undertaken throughout the late 20th and 21st centuries. Opensource data on the locations of parishes categorized by liturgical styles were examined to discern spatial differences in traditionalist and modernist approaches to the Mass, as well as the distribution of parishes offering the Traditional Latin Mass. Data from the General Social Survey, Pew Research Center, county-level religious censuses of the United States, as well as a variety of survey data on Catholics from the previous thirty years were examined at the smallest geographic scale possible. The results of county, state, diocese, and census-division level analysis found that previous assessments of the geographic trends and characteristics of Catholics were missing key nuances which were only discernable by examining the data at these scales.