SIR,—In my letter (Catholic Herald, April 9) 1 submitted that the total number of Catholics in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) should amount to about 5,000,000 rather than Mr. Blyton's figures of 2,500,000 or even 3,000,000. The Catholic Directory for 1936, estimates it in 1935 at 2,335.900 for England and Wales and 612,200 for Scotland (round figures)— total 2,948.100.
Of course, all our figures are mere estimates, for we have had no census; and since diocesan returns are not accepted as accurate, many people are much in doubt as to our actual strength. The difficulties that prevent accuracy may include the following: (1) How do we define " a Catholic "? presume we ought to take baptism by the Church as the correct definition.
(2) But converts do not all need baptism, many, perhaps most are already validly baptised by non-Catholic clergy. (3i All Catholic immigrants. from Ireland, Oversea Dominions, U.S., and the Continent add to our population in considerable numbers every year, but they do not announce their arrivals at our parishes, and escape being counted. Many " religion shy " Catholics hide till ferreted out by the S.V. Paul, the Legion of Mary and other societies.
(4) There is a constant influx into and efflux from parishes—either passing from or to other parishes or to country places where there is no Church, or going abroad (India, Dominions, U.S., etc.).
(5) Take the losses first. Add the very many lapses from Church attendances: we cannot assert even approximately how many. Again, and the deaths—wars, epidemics, " accidents" (motors, etc.), dangerous occupations, etc., all influence. The parish records cannot know all our losses, e.g., there are no departure reports by the transferred, the war casualties, emigrants, and lapsed, yet they must be heavy.
(6) Our Gains include new arrivals (very few announced), parish baptisms, and converts. Owing to the general population flocking to the towns, and the extensive building of new suburbs and their expansion, Catholic gains and losses are considerable. Some suburbs within the last ten years have more than doubled their total population. If there are no churches convenient, we lose attendances. On the other hand, no sooner do we establish churches, even temporary stable or tin makeshifts, numerous unknown old Catholics are ferreted out and new converts spring up eager to join. Our converts for the last 20 years at 12,000 per annum, amount to 240,000 —let us say 200.000. But that the an nual figure of 12,000, just like that for our total Catholic population, is curiously (suspiciously) stable. This does not of course mean " cooking "—but obviously unreliable for actualities.
(7) Baptisms alone (i.e., indicating births) cannot be accurate for estimating our total, since the parish population varies from the causes already assigned, and from the baptisms of lapsed Catholics and of children of mixed marriages, presumably considerable.
(8) Estimate of increase of our population based on those for the general population, as have been suggested by statisticians, besides neglecting the causes assigned above, are also unreliable owing to the modern birth control propaganda.
Although Catholics in the mass are selfrespecting enough and are obedient children of the Church, it is regretted several have fallen victims, and may even lapse further. On the other hand, it is well known that while non-Catholics are
rapidly committing lace suicide, the Catholic community are multiplying markedly, and in well-calculated time will completely supplant the non-Catholics everywhere. We must therefore observe here another cause for the increase of our total Catholic population, as our Celts are more prolific.
In the face of these aiding and opposing circumstances it is evident that statistics based on mere estimates can never be accurate. Hence I urge once more that in mid-winter when population is most stable, we should work up our own census. The cost and trouble will pay us well in the end.
The Catholic Encyclopedia (vol. xiv) in 1912, but taken from 1907-8, recorded the Catholic population of Great Britain and Ireland (including Malta, Gibraltar and Channel Islands) as 5,786,000 out of a total population of 45,756,000. Today, 30 years after, have we made no further progress?
The Encyclopedia Britannica, fourteenth edition, in 1929 (vol. xix, p. 418 d), states: " For whereas in 1814 the bishops (in England and Wales) returned their people as about 160,000 in all, and in 1837 as about 400,000, in 1851 the census pointed to not less than 800,000." Presumably this was a private census or simply an estimate. The Eleventh Edition, 1910-11, states that we numbered in England and Wales 1,000,000, of whom 750,000 were Irish and 50,000 foreigners. In 1910 we numbered about If millions. On page 4I9b it is stated that " though thoroughly reliable figures cannot be had, because of the lack of government census of religions, there is every reason to believe from conversion, difference of birth-rate and emigration, that the number of Catholics has greatly increased. From what can be gathered of baptisms, schools, and private enumeration it should seem that the total is now at least 2,500,000. As one factor in the situation, Catholic infant baptisms average one-tenth of the births in England."
The rate of progress SCUM to be shown in greatly varying proportion. but that figure, 2.500,000, seems to have stood duty rather long.
The immigration into England from Ireland, really a new exodus, began to be more marked after the first famine there in 1822. Stephen Gwynn in his history of Ireland says that in the ten years up to 1845 the number averaged (annually) 60,000. The potato blight sent the number up to 100,000 in 1846. In 1847-50 it averaged 200,000 a year; in 1851 it was just under 250,000. But most of these, and thenceforward, went to the United States. Yet Great. Britain had a great influx, and this still continues.
After writing the above 1 see in the April 16 Catholic Herald that the Dublin Correspondent supports my view indirectly: " When the State itself is doing well, it is saddening to have to record a growing flight from the countryside. During the last few weeks this has grown to an exodus of alarming proportions. Parishes are being stripped of young men and women, as in the bad days of the flight to America.
" The goal is now England . . . A few more seasons of what is going on now would desolate whole baronies. The trouble began when tens of thousands of girls went into the factories and were withdrawn from home life. Their sisters then sickened of domestic work, unless it was in the imaginary glitter across the Channel, and last year saw shiploads of girls leaving Ireland." He also reports a speech of Mr. Hugh O'Neill at Rockwell College, wherein he says: "A quarter of a million people had been forced to leave Ireland since the Free State was established. A new wave of emigration was now in being. People were going out at the rate of 40,000 to 50,000 a year."
The Jews thirty years ago (in 1907) are stated to have numbered in the world 12,000,000; today they are estimated at 16,000,000 at least, although it is believed they are rather prone to conceal their births.
The total births in England and Wales for 1937 is 598,756 (Statistical Abstract for 1937. table 24). One-tenth would be 59,875. But the Catholic Directory table for 1936 gives us 65,486 children's baptisms (= births). We thus have an excess of 5,611 over the one-tenth; or adding liberally the adult baptisms (converts) to complete the baptismal figure to 66,00(1, we have 6,125 in excess of the one-tenth. There is something wrong somewhere, showing the difficulty in estimating even approximately.
Considerable excess over the general birth rate is also asserted by Fr. G. Stebbing, C.SS.R., the noted authority, in his book The Position and Prospects of the Catholic Church, 1930, p. 49; and he estimates the Catholic population of England and Wales to be 2,600,000, with Scotland at 660,000 —total 3,260,000 (p. 65). But I cannot enter further into this case for want of leisure. I still incline to believe we are nearer 5 millions than 31millions.
P. W. O'GORMAN.