$ja,-May I, though a foreigner, venture to criticise the statistical estimates of the number of Catholics in this country, published in the 1946 issue of the Catholic Directory (pp. 730 and 731)?
Since there is no religious census in England, estimates are obviously difficult and to some extent necessarily inaccurate. It may be also argued that a spiritual phenomenon like Catholicism cannot be measured in figures which, in any case. convey -no true' picture of its strength and influence, and the attempt may be abandoned altogether. In Cardinal Bourne's biography I lead that his late Eminence was aseise to statistics and discouraged those who were inclined to think of the " conversion of England " in statistical terms.
One thing is certain, however: If any statistics are published at all, they should be as nearly accurate as possible. and the estimates should be based on some common denominator, not on individual guesswork.
If we analyse the figures for every diocese we shall see at once that no uniform method of estimating their Catholic population has been devised or adopted. In some. as, for instance, Westminster and Southwark, a round figure of 300,000 or 160,000 has been given; but Leeds is so conscientious that it gives the figure of 161,9981-it must have been painstaking to ascertaM that two more Catholics could not he found in Western Yorkshire to make a round figure. In Binningham the figure for 1945 shows an increase of 500 over 1944, that is less than the number of converts in that year : and was there no natural increase at alt? In Liverpool, Westminster, Southwark, etc., the totals do not vary from year to year. Obviously, the estimates vary from See to See. and are highly unsatisfactory. To obtain accurate estimates we must proceeds from facts. Now, the number of children's baptisms is such a fact: we must assume that in this respect the margin of error is negligible, and also that the number of non-Catholic parents (both sides, not only one) who baptise their children as Catholics is practically nil. The birth-rate-i.e., the rate of births per thousand total population-is fairly constant ; last year it was 16.1 per thousand in England and Wales, that is one birth per 621 people. If the Catholic birth-rate were the same as that of the non-Catholic population. we should have to multiply the number of children's baptisms (which roughly corresponds to the number of Catholic birtha) by 62+ to obtain the total Catholic population, There were 71,664 such baptisms in l944-and the corresponding figure for the total population would consequently bc 4,478,990 while the total arrived at by the C.D. is a mere 2,415.428-a figure lower by more than two million.
Now, it is very likely that the Catholic birth-rate is higher than that of the non-Catholic population. But how much higher? This is a debateable point. It must be borne in mind, however, that Catholics in this country live mostly in towns, and it is a well-known phenomenon that citydwellers are less prolific than rurals; the Catholic clergy and nuns have no children; a substantial number of converts must be elderly and thus cladless people, and all these factors tend to lower the Catholic birth-rate. Let us assume that it is 20 per thousand: compared to the flat birth-rate of 16 per thousand for the whole of England and Wales it would leave a very handsome margin of 25 per cent. in favour of the Catholics, a murgin almost certainly too high rather than too low. If we assume this birth-rate of 20 per thousand, we must multiply the number of births (i.e. children's baptisms) by 50 to obtain the total Catholic population; and our figure for 1944 would be 3,583,200, a figure still exceeding by more than a million the figure given by the C.D.
If, on the other hand, we would assume the total Catholic population in England and Wales to be 2,415,428 as claimed by the C.D., then we would also have to assume that the Catholic
birth-rate in this country is about 10
per thousand (71,664 baptisms divided by 2,415,428), which is obviously absurd. It would mean that, on the average, every Catholic family in England has almost twice as many children as their non-Catholic neighbours. It would also imply that the highly urbanised English Catholics have a higher birth rate than •Poland, a pro lific country, had before the war (26 per thousand in 1937-38). No one who has known both countries will believe for an instant that Catholics here can have more children than the Polish peasantry.
The blatant absurdities of the figures quoted in the C.D. become even more obvious if we compare them diocese by diocese. Thus, in Brentwood, the birth-rate is given as 20 per thousand (1.052 baptisms, 51,923 total population), while in Southwark if would exceed 40 per thousand I We are asked to believe that the Catholics of Southwark are twice as prolific as their neighbours from Brentwood and even beat the record of the Japanese whose birth-rate, almost the highest in the world, was 31 per thousand in the nineteen thirties. Also in Birmingham the Catholic birth-rate would exceed 40 per thousand if we accepted its estimate of the total Catholic population as correct.
I fail to understand what is the purpose of publishing year after year such palpably incorrect and misleading figures, which do not bear the most perfunctory examination, and arc obviously chosen at random, without the slightest attempt at reasoned accuracy. They convey an erroneous picture of the numerical strength of Catholics in this eountry at a time when millions of oppressed Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe look to their brethren In England for help and assistance In whose interest is it to create the impression that only 6 per cent, of the people of England are Catholics, when it is fairly certain that 10 per cent would be an estimate far less wide of the mark?
W. A. ZBYSZEWSKI. LL.D., Econ.D., University of Cracow. 2, Vicarage Gate, London, W.8.