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Ecclesiastical Statistics

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In dealing with statistics, both theoretically and practically, it is unimportant whether the men, matters, or actions subject to observation are ecclesiastical or civil. Hence the methods used for the collection and tabulation of ecclesiastical statistics ought not to differ from those employed in the preparation of general statistics, if accurate results are to be attained. The concise classification tested and adopted for general statistics will therefore serve for ecclesiastical statistics:

By the study of theoretical statistics (methods, scope, limitation, etc.) practical statistics were by degrees perfected until they reached the point where it is possible to sift thoroughly the materials gathered and to discover their connecting links. Ecclesiastical statistics need no other methods or technic. The statistics of economics sift, classify, and group all possible questions concerning economic and industrial life. Ethical statistics group and collate all manifestations, whether favourable, indifferent, or unfavourable, of the free will of man in the sphere of morals, while other branches of this science investigate clearly-defined groups of interests. Similarly, ecclesiastical statistics have their own peculiar province, though the boundaries between this and other branches of statistics cannot always be sharply defined in every direction. The method of gathering statistics concerns itself with resultant totals, in order to enable us to investigate properly the most varied conditions, events, circumstances, omissions, etc. The science of statistics handles the data thus obtained in its own peculiar way, so that we may acquire a correct knowledge of the facts of governmental, ecclesiastical, and national life. For our purpose it is irrelevant whether statistics are an exact science or not.


From time immemorial the city, State, and Church have called for tabulation in some form, however rough and empirical, of the statistical knowledge acquired. The fixing of the relationship of family and tribe (see the statements of the Old Testament), the just division of public burdens, the preparation of lists of men able to bear arms, and many other matters gradually led the proper authorities to make the desired records. The execution of such records continually improved, though naturally dependent on the means of intercourse and administrative powers at hand. The medieval Church, through its organs and institutions, notably influenced statistical science, however unreliable in many cases the results obtained. Later the increase of general culture, the greater freedom of intercourse, and the larger claims made by the modern State upon its citizens led through the taking of a census at indefinite periods, or for casual reasons, to a regular periodical enumeration. It has not hitherto been noticed in statistical science that the earliest of these periodical enumerations are those of the inhabitants of Rome which were annually made at Easter by the parish priests. As the parish priests were supported by the civil power, all persons residing at RomeChristians of all kinds, Jews, Mohammedans, pagans — were counted and classified under definite heads. These very exact statistical enumerations can be traced back far into the sixteenth century and ceased only with the fall of the temporal power in 1870. Rich printed material still awaits investigation. Immense manuscript records of the Roman parishes show exactly the methods used in making these enumerations. Not until the seventeenth century do secular statistics show a periodical census; it becomes more frequent in the eighteenth century. In Prussia the first periodical census was taken in 1719. In 1755 Sweden began a comprehensive agricultural census. In 1790 the United States of America took a census of its own on a large scale (census every ten years). In the nineteenth century periodical census-taking reached its acme. In the German Empire the census of 1 December, 1871, was thorough and scientific.

It was not for statistical science, but solely for purposes of discipline and administration that the Catholic Church ordained the exact keeping of registers of all kinds, first by special laws then by the general Tridentine law. There were baptismal registers, cemetery registers, confirmation books, etc. Sixtus V (1585-90) made it the duty of all bishops to send comprehensive reports of their dioceses at stated periods. These are of great value in the administration of the Church (see Constitution "Romanus Pontifex", of 20 December; 1585). Similarly the Apostolic nuncios were commanded to send to Rome full reports of ecclesiastical conditions in their respective territories. This original material, official in character, has never been officially elaborated on its statistical side. Of late years attempts have been made, solely for the sake of its historical interest, to publish it (Schmidlin, Pasture, Friedensburg, and others); so far, however, no comprehensive statistical tabulation of the material has appeared. With episcopal reports as a basis, it would not be difficult to produce a general ecclesiastical manual of statistics; attention is particularly called to this continuous authoritative source of ecclesiastical statistics. In the "Acta Apostolicæ Sedis" (1910), pp. 1 and 17, appeared a new and exhaustive list of queries for these reports. Other Roman authorities, particularly the Congregation of Propaganda, have likewise collected valuable material, intended almost entirely for disciplinary and administrative purposes. Access to these statistical sources is rather difficult, though in course of time they may be thrown open. Mention should also be made here of the very valuable reports sent to Rome for many centuries by the heads of orders from all the respective provinces of their orders, but these reports have been made accessible to students only in a restricted way.

It is evident from these and other facts not here mentioned, that the history of ecclesiastical statistics is of great interest, even though these materials were not collected to serve the ends of scientific statistics. The missionaries were probably the first to present ecclesiastical conditions in a more or less crudely digested statistical form; it was necessary for them to show their patrons in what way the given alms had been used. The first imperfect attempts to present ecclesiastical statistics in a periodical way are found in old works containing collections of missionary reports.

Among those who contributed to develop statistics as a science special mention is due to Hermann Conring (1606-81), professor at the University of Helmstädt; Gottfried Asehenwall (1719-72), professor at Göttingen; Johann Peter Süssmilch (1707-67), superintendent and consistorial councillor in Prussia, who obtained largely from ecclesiastical registers the material for his epoch-making work: "Die göttliche Ordnung in den Veränderungen des menschlichen Geschichtes"; also Quételet (1796-1874), a Belgian, who must be regarded as the father of moral statistics, although the philosophical basis of his theory should be rejected as wrong. In the last fifty years so many distinguished writers in most civilized countries have given their attention to the establishment and maintenance of statistics that we cannot mention even the most noted of them. Readers are referred to the work of Mayr, "Statistik und Gesellschaftslehre" (1895-97).

Among the difficulties that obstruct the advantageous and exhaustive collection of statistics by private individuals are modern intercourse and industrial life, the highly specialized development of governmental, parliamentary, and municipal administration, and the military organization of most civilized countries. Statistics had first to be put under control of the State, and then to be taken up by the municipal and county authorities. Thus began the statistical bureaux aided by government authority in their investigations. On the other hand their tasks, serving purely practical ends, are exactly laid down for them, without any regard to larger scientific demands. Nevertheless the labours of the official statistical bureaux are satisfactory and valuable. Official ecclesiastical bureaux for the collection of ecclesiastical statistics are almost entirely lacking, although numerous suggestions and propositions have been made for such.

A clear distinction must be made between statistics concerning religions and ecclesiastical statistics. The classification of mankind according to religions pertains to general statistics, i.e. so far as the civilized countries of the whole world are concerned (see STATISTICS OF RELIGIONS). Hitherto only a few countries, and these for trivial reasons, have failed to ascertain exactly this important fact. The religious classification being made, then, ecclesiastical statistics are the work of those who hold the Christian faith; the first task of these statistics is to make a further classification of Christian denominations. After this each denomination makes such collections of statistics as enable the investigation (so far as possible) of all the diverse relations of the individual, the parish, and the whole body to the denominations, ecclesiastical authorities, institutions, etc. It can, therefore, be said that the statistics of religions separate mankind into groups, and that ecclesiastical statistics in the strict sense classify the great Christian group into subdivisions; that in these subdivisions religious statistics investigate methodically all religious and ecclesiastical events capable of being considered statistically, make clear their characteristic criteria, and lay bare the connexion between cause and effect. In addition to questions strictly religious and ecclesiastical, Church statistics should include all those other domains in which a Christian population and the ecclesiastical authorities should be interested, as: schools, charities, religious associational life, missions, and many other matters. Ecclesiastical geography, topography, and similar topics are naturally excluded from the survey of ecclesiastical statistics, even though they necessarily make much use of statistics.

In ecclesiastical statistics, as in every statistical collection of aggregates, the reliability of the surveys depends upon the excellence of the preparation and execution of the undertaking. The most essential preliminary conditions for a well-managed statistical survey are: determination of the period of time and extent of space to be covered; selection of the collectors of the statistics and their procedure; the preparation of clear, simple, comprehensive questions for the statistical inquiry-papers. Next come revision, supplementary additions, and expert arrangement of the original material. Third, one of the known methods of performing such work must be selected, as the system of small strokes, that of small blanks to be filled, or an electrical counting-machine, and the respective divisions of the work must be closely scrutinized. The most common way of presenting results is to exhibit the matter in the form of a table, the figures of which can have a qualified or an unconditional value. Particularly clear results are obtained by the calculation of averages and by relative numbers; their scientific valuation, however, is subject to certain precautions. It is easily understood that the full value of many results can be recognized only when they are placed in suitable relation to other results. Of late, the use of the graphical method has somewhat increased in ecclesiastical statistics, while, so far as I know, the plastic method has not yet been tried. Diagrams (geometrical figures of all kinds) have been profitably used; ecclesiastical statistics also use what are called cartograms, or coloured representations of geographical surfaces. Occasionally, use has been made of various combinations of these forms of presentation, the reading of which is easy to the practised eye. Such presentations of statistical results in popular forms were employed in secular statistics on a large scale for the first time by Hickmann of Vienna in his various pocket atlases, of which large editions were printed and sold. While it is evident that Catholics cannot concede to statistical laws the character of unchangeable natural laws ecclesiastical statistics show that the absolutely free will of man is indeed influenced by passions, customs, environment, education, character, etc., but can never be entirely annulled.

Ecclesiastical statistics have not shared so far in the benefits of international coöperation in the treatment of statistical questions. Not even in the larger civilized countries has it been possible to introduce uniform, and universally observed principles. At the general congress of German Catholics held at Osnabrürk in 1901, the present writer urged the establishment of an international bureau of ecclesiastical statistics. The proposition was received enthusiastically, but nothing further has been done. On account of the large demands now made on ecclesiastical life everywhere it is imperatively necessary that the question then discussed and afterwards dropped should receive more practical consideration.

If the total of Protestant statistical work and that of the Catholic Church be compared, it may be said that both bodies have accomplished about the same and with the same success. If the work of the two bodies be compared in individual countries or in large sections of a country, the result is sometimes favourable to Protestant statistics, sometimes to Catholic. Differences of considerable importance are to be found in the methods of carrying on the work, so that the requirements of comparative statistics cannot, very often, be met. This is most perceptible in the views on which are based the methods of collecting aggregates in missionary statistics, e.g. what constitutes a catechumen, an ordained missionary, and similar questions. Since this article does not propose to go more fully into Protestant statistics, those desiring to learn more on that head are referred to the bibliography at the end.

Catholic Church statistics can be classified in the most varied manner. The following classification is in accordance with the most important principles: — I. Arranged according to the source of collection:

Without considering further classifications it may be said that by far the weakest point in the first group is official statistics.

If Catholic church statistics are to be complete, the subject-matter should include all persons, objects, and actions connected directly or indirectly with the Church, its entire organization, its authorities, and all its various regulations. Statistics of this exhaustive character do not now exist nor will it be possible in the near future to obtain such, even if it be conceded that the carrying out of such a task be possible. What exists is the tabulation of some of the most important ecclesiastical objects and persons of the Catholic world; these statements, however, are not official but solely the result of private industry. Consequently, the new statistical tables (Baumgarten and Krose) only claim to have the value of the material on which they are based. For earlier general statistical work see Streit, "Führer durch die deutsche katholische Missionsliteratur" (Freiburg, 1911), 99-102. Both authors were but seldom in a position where they could either obtain an enumeration themselves or always fill out the gaps in the available material.

Theoretically it must be conceded that the central administration of the Church has the necessary means and power to attain in time an exhaustive, absolutely correct description of all the possessions of the Church in the world. Practically no use has been made of this power, for the "Gerarchia cattolica", now the "Annuario pontificio" (1912), is not a statistical work. Leaving out scattered and unimportant statistical researches made by this or that Roman administrative board, the Congregation of Propaganda alone has given official attention to statistics. The result of the inquiries of the congregation in the regions under its care are seen in a work which appears at irregular intervals, "Missiones Catholicæ cura S. Congregationis de Propaganda Fide descriptæ". This bulky work (last edition, Rome, 1907) serves, indeed, the purposes of an historical and statistical work of modest pretensions, but it lacks that scientific exactness which the compilation of modern statistics demands. It is a striking fact that the German periodical, "Die katholische Missionen" of Freiburg is often able to make statements more really exact than this official manual of the Congregation of Propaganda. The reviews of the irregularly issued volumes of this work often point out clearly enough its very considerable defects, but no essential improvement in the collection or treatment of the matter has followed.

The English-speaking branches of the Catholic Church have the best official statistical publications for entire countries and continents. Without exception they all issue year-books which contain the most important records more or less complete. Although the statistics are seldom thoroughly worked over in these publications, yet the statistician does not lay great stress on this, because he can do it himself, and is satisfied if he can get the raw material fairly complete. The best of these annual publications is "The Official Catholic Directory and Clergy List", which was formerly published at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, now at New York. The publication of this year-book is a private undertaking, but in reality, in a certain sense, it is an official ecclesiastical work, because the publisher is almost entirely dependent on the co-operation of the episcopal authorities of the United States. It must, however, be said that the episcopal chanceries measure the very important figures of the increase of Catholics in the individual dioceses more by estimate than as a result of detailed information. Arthur Preuss, in his "Catholic Fortnightly Review", has often pointed out this unfortunate defect, without, however, any great improvement in this regard being attained. It should be said that the difficulties encountered in determining exactly the number of Catholics in a diocese are especially great in the United States. The same applies to the statistics of schools and school-children, which must be characterized as inadequate. Most excellent, on the other hand, are the carefully revised records of the number of priests and their addresses at the time of publication. The statements of this yearbook concerning other American countries are also serviceable, although not quite so copious and reliable.

The second place belongs to "The Irish Catholic Directory and Almanac, with Complete Directory in English" (Dublin). This excellent year-book not only contains the usual general statistical statements, but also includes well-arranged tables hardly to be found elsewhere. Especially well presented are the losses in population so characteristic of Ireland. There is some lack of uniformity in the statements. "The Catholic Directory, Ecclesiastical Register and Almanac" (London) is an official annual publication for the Catholic Church in England. Although it would be desirable to have a greater uniformity in the contributions of the different dioceses, yet the copious material offered is a cause of great satisfaction. In view of the difficulties attending the problem of pastoral care in the large cities of England, it is at times a cause of surprise that the statistics presented can be so exact. The fourth year-book to be noticed is described in its title as official: "The Catholic Directory for the Clergy and Laity in Scotland. By Authority of the Archbishops and Bishops of Scotland" (Aberdeen). It is a great credit to the small body of Catholics in Scotland that they have an official year-book of their own; at the same time it reflects on those countries which, with many millions of Catholics, have not yet made equal progress in this direction. Even in this carefully-prepared annual there are some records that require more careful supervision. The fifth place is to be assigned to an annual year-book, issued at Madras for the whole of south-eastern Asia, and formerly entitled "The Madras Catholic Directory and General Annual Register", but now (1912) "The Catholic Directory of India", a work of great industry. If in a number of particulars the other year-books were taken as models, this meritorious publication could be brought to a high standard of excellence. The typographical work is somewhat poor, but that matters little. The sixth place belongs to the year-book: "Australasian Catholic Directory containing the Ordo Divini Officii, the Fullest Ecclesiastical Information and an Alphabetical List of the Clergy of Australasia" (Sydney). The organization of the church provinces is well given in this work, but the accounts of the individual missionary districts, especially of those on the mainland, are not complete. The list of year-books issued in English-speaking countries may be closed with "The Catholic Directory of British South Africa" (Capetown). This offers only a limited amount of data to the statistician, still a very praiseworthy effort is evident to develop gradually the contents of the directory.

There is an evident difference in the value of the works just mentioned, but that does not detract from the fact that this group of church year-books presents as a whole a very imposing piece of work. The annual publication of such volumes is made possible by the aid of advertisements which enable the publishers not only to cover the heavy expenses, but also to obtain a moderate return for their work. This points out clearly the way in which other countries can reach the same goal.

Each year the "Annuaire pontifical catholique", edited by Battandier (Paris), offers a great variety of useful statistical information which can be found elsewhere with difficulty or not at all; it contains also many historically and otherwise instructive articles and other valuable ecclesiastical information. For a number of years there has been published in Italy the comprehensive work "Annuario ecclesiastico", which presents the conditions of the Church in Italy with great minuteness, if not always with clearness and reliability. The large amount of matter that may be drawn from its records is shown in the present writer's volume, "Kirchliche Statistik" (Wörishofen, 1905). It should be said that the editors make every effort to overcome the inequalities still to be found in the contributions. The material offered by the "Annuario" for countries outside of Italy has no claim to consideration. If it were possible to develop this second part, so that it should be unexceptionable, there would be the beginning of a statistical handbook for the entire Catholic world. In that case the Italian part would have to be somewhat abridged, and the whole work divided into two volumes. The "Annuaire complet du clergé beige et répertoire des établissements religieux" (Brussels) is well arranged and copious in matter. It would have been well to include in it also the statistics concerning the Congo. The same excellent standard is maintained by the yearbook issued in Holland, the "Pius-Almanak". Besides information regarding the Church there are also literary contributions, while the Dutch colonies receive suitable mention. Up to 1904 two year-books were issued in France, of which, unfortunately, the larger and better, the "Clergé français" (Tours) ceased with the publication of 1904. The volumes of this annual still have a great and permanent value, because they have presented in a manner that is absolutely a model the life of the French orders. The second publication, "La France ecclésiastique", has existed for sixty years and meets more modest statistical demands. As to the two Spanish hand-books, "Anuario eclesiástico de España" and "Guia eclesiástica de España", no recent information is forthcoming, and it is doubtful if new editions have appeared during recent years. The Hungarian yearbook and schematism "Evkönyve és Névtára" is a successful work in which much industry has been displayed, as far as the specific Hungarian records are concerned. The statistical data concerning other hierarchies have been obtained at second and third hand.

The small book, "Taschenkalender für den katholischen Klerus" seeks, more or less successfully, to collect the data for Germany, and the "Frommes Kalender für den katholischen Klerus Oesterreich-Ungarns" undertakes to do the same for the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Neither is suited in any way to the importance of the hierarchies of both countries. The excellent "Kirchliches Handbuch", edited by Krose, issued by Herder since 1908, gives full information regarding the affairs of the Church in Germany; every effort is made to improve and develop the work. (For fuller discussion of ecclesiastical statistics in Germany, see ECCLESIASTICAL STATISTICS IN GERMANY.)

As the majority of Catholics in Canada are of French descent and still speak French, especially in the Province of Quebec, the Canadian year-book is published in French; it is entitled "Le Canada ecclésiastique". The book is accurately and carefully prepared and does good service. However, nearly all its statistical records are to be found in the "Official Directory" of the United States, so that it is seldom necessary to consult the Canadian work. There are a few other smaller publications which need hardly be enumerated here. The foregoing description will serve as a sufficiently exhaustive summary of the statistical authorities of official or semi-official character. It should also be said that in writings on the subject reference is made to a kind of general statistical outline for the whole of Portugal, but when the statistical tables for the present writer's large work, "Die katholische Kirche unserer Zeit und ihre Diener in Wort und Bild", were being prepared it was not possible to find a copy of this Portuguese publication. Neither is it known whether any general ecclesiastico-statistical work has been published in the South American countries, except the "Guía eclesiástica de la Republica Argentina". Such compendiums would be all the more desirable, because the zealous activity of Pius X in increasing the number of ecclesiastical provinces and dividing dioceses has greatly increased the difficulties in determining from a distance the statistics of these territories. (See summaries in Theologische Revue", 1904, Nos. 4, 5, 12, 15, 16, and in "Literarische Rundschau", Nos. 7, 8.) After the year-books for entire countries or continents come the diocesan compendiums, so far as the contents of these exceed purely liturgical information in reference to the observances of the church year, commands or prohibitions for the clergy, and similar administrative matter. Excellent samples of general outlines, and large historical and statistical records are to be found in Bavaria, Austria, Hungary, as well as a number in Germany outside of Bavaria and in Switzerland: They are model diocesan compendiums and are of great value to the statistician. Although all are not issued regularly, yet so large a proportion are published annually that they can easily be placed among the ecclesiastical year-books. Publications of the same character containing serviceable matter also appear in some other countries, but copies are hard to find, so that it is impossible to present an exact summary. Official compendiums of this kind should be issued, if not in all dioceses, at least in all ecclesiastical provinces. The aims of the Landesdirektorien, or government directories, are frequently other than those of ecclesiastico-statistical compendiums, from which many more details of their subjects are expected. (See Brüning, "Bemerkungen zu den Handbüchern und Schematismen der deutschen Diözesen" in "Literarische Beilage der Kölnischen Volkszeitung", No. 42, 19 October, 1911; Liese, "Die Diözesanschematismen", ibid., No. 44, 2 Nov., 1911.) Some years ago, when, owing to the pressure of modern conditions, the former customary general parochial supervision was replaced by the supervision of the individual members of the parish, all ways and methods were sought to reach the individual in some practical way, especially in the large cities. This led to the excellent proposal to issue periodical parish papers, so as to give the members of the parish all the essential facts of the parochial life. This method has been successfully tried in a good many places in Austria, Germany, England, and, here and there, in the United States. In these papers, which appear at regular or irregular intervals, statistical records and reports collected by the parochial authorities are published with constantly increasing frequency. These statements have in all instances attracted much attention and have often developed new interest in the parish and its religious services. If this good custom were introduced everywhere, it would soon be easy to draw up a really lifelike presentation of the Church in every diocese.

After this enumeration of the various kinds of statistical works prepared by the church authorities, or at least liberally aided by them, it must be noted that in not a few countries the government authorities collect information concerning ecclesiastical matters or present, in the national statistical works, first-hand material which is exceedingly valuable to the ecclesiastical statistician. He is, indeed, frequently dependent upon them, because these figures are not to be found anywhere else. In addition the "Hofkalender" or "Almanachde Gotha", as it is called in the French edition, gives statistics of all kinds, the exactness of which may generally be relied upon. This almanac is well known throughout the world. The state directories and the "Hofkalender", which are frequently the authoritative and the only sources for the statistics of religion, are sometimes also important sources for ecclesiastical statistics. While formerly the public had but little interest in exact data concerning the great Catholic orders, there has been a change in the present era. The latest statistics collected are published more or less regularly and attract much attention. These figures are based on thorough investigations, which make it possible at regular intervals to offer an exact summary of the growth and development of the respective orders. Only a few, however, of these important statistical records are published, and only in isolated instances are they to be found by the laity in the book trade or elsewhere. Two important works belong to this class, "Schematismus totius ordinis Fratrum Minorum" (Assisi) and "SS. Patriarchæ Benedicti Familæ confœderatæ" (Rome). Along with these are excellent outlines for the congregations. General statistics are drawn from the catalogues of each Jesuit province which are at the disposal of those who desire to know, while the catalogues themselves are very seldom given to the public. It is not possible to say, from the only — and very scanty — statistics of the Dominican Order known to the present writer, whether, besides the enumeration of provinces, congregations, monasteries, and members of the order, other statistical work is also undertaken. The Capuchins publish statistical summaries in their "Analecta ordinis", of which one volume is issued annually. The further statistical summaries of other orders need not be mentioned here; for these the reader is referred to the respective articles in THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. There are only a few statistical outlines of monasteries for entire countries. The year-books mentioned above give copious records of the monasteries for both sexes in the territories covered at the time of publication.

A very important section of ecclesiastical statistics is that comprising the statistics of the missionary labours of the Catholic Church. As already mentioned, this branch of statistical work was the earliest undertaken and the most has been done in it. Consequently it is in this field that we have the most thorough and complete statistics. What the Propaganda has, in this respect, done officially has already been noted. The statistical labours of the missionaries have, from crude beginnings, developed in the present time to imposing performances. It is not however meant that there could not be improvements and additions in many particulars: above all there might be greater uniformity in the questionnaires and clearer, presentation of the headings to be conveyed. The immense amount of material, brought together by individual missionaries, by orders and congregations, and from other sources, has of late been critically examined and collated, largely by German and French scholars. For further particulars of this collation see CATHOLIC MISSIONS, where a copious bibliography is given; see also the work of Streit mentioned above, on the bibliography of German Catholic missions.

Much alarm was expressed by the timid at the time when the statistics of charitable work were first demanded, when the opinion was maintained that a statistical record should be kept of needy persons and applicants for help, and a combined organization of charitable work was demanded. The fear was expressed that the noble, world-embracing conception of Christian love would suffer from the business-like treatment of it that would be necessary. Nothing of this kind has happened; the result of the new method has rather been to add new and enthusiastic members to charitable associations, because each could see clearly that the impelling force of Christian charity had really increased through the unity of organization and the labours of statisticians. The statistics which reveal a good, a merely even, or a poor ratio between relief and need, on the one hand, and between the work done and the expenditures, on the other, make possible a more exact use or a greater output of the power latent in the forces in question. Another, and very important, point is that exact statistical records covering large territories facilitate the prevention of unwise expenditures. From the present writer's experience it may be asserted that lack of knowledge of organizations still capable of doing work has led to the establishment of new ones on much the same lines for which no need existed. The fact that those desiring to inaugurate charitable work of a certain kind did not know the existence near by of organizations with the same object has, unfortunately, been at times the reason for a needless expenditure of money which was far more imperatively needed for other purposes. It may also be noted here that the statistics of the actual results are effectual to inspire to greater endeavours those who co-operate in the work.

The idea of combining all Catholic charitable organizations was first realized on a large scale in the celebrated charity organization society (Charitasverband) established in Germany in 1897. This was followed in Austria by an imperial organization for all the charitable societies in the monarchy. For further particulars concerning the two organizations see "Kirchliches Handlexikon", s.v. "Charitas", where a bibliography is also given. For the United States a beginning of such general organization was made in the First National Conference of Catholic Charities held at the Catholic University, Washington, in 1910. An exceedingly valuable work is done in many countries — as Belgium, Bavaria, Prussia, Austria — and in many cities and provinces by the preparation of statistical summaries of all charitable associations with which Catholics are connected. Such handbooks of Christian benevolence save much time and labour; they show exactly what exists and also make existing gaps equally plain. In addition to this is the work done by the secretaries of the charity organization, who are able from their records to distinguish between the really needy and worthy and the professional beggars. Thus it is evident that a comprehensive statistical grasp of Christian benevolence has already been exceedingly useful and beneficial, and will be still more so in the future. But, while these two facts by no means, exhaust the list of advantages, a further enumeration cannot be entered upon here.

Wherever Catholic schools are permitted in addition to state schools, the number of these schools, of their teachers and scholars, and the expenditure on the same form an important branch of ecclesiastical statistics. Figures are far more merciless than the most severe denunciation of the indolent. In addition to the importance of such statistics for the elementary schools, statistics of the middle schools and universities show whether any, and how many, Catholics receive a liberal education, or are studying for technical callings, or pursue literary courses, and also make clear whether the figures are in proportion to the Catholic population. For if a deficiency in Catholic intelligence appears, because Catholics do not send their sons in sufficient numbers to the higher schools, leaders will surely be lacking to the Catholics in the next generation.

Ecclesiastical statistics also include the statistics of Catholic associations, whether purely religious, social, political, religious-political, or of any other kind. They show whether the individual societies are sufficiently developed and whether they are working with success or not. As regards the reports of the boards of managers of these societies, it may be said that, as all societies have more or less to do with money, it is desirable that the total amount of money given for the purposes of the society from its foundation should be counted up and that this total sum should appear in the annual report together with the amounts for the year, so that the reader of the report may be able to estimate the whole work done by the society. If the society has other works besides the collection and disbursement of money, these should also be presented in condensed form from the time of the establishment of the society. Once the labour of collecting these statistics for the entire period of the existence of the society is done, it is only necessary after that to add to these totals the records of the year just closed.

The brief outline given above by no means exhausts the possible applications of ecclesiastical statistics. Each one must apply the principles here explained to spheres not yet under statistical examination in order to gain a full realization of the great usefulness and absolute necessity of thorough statistical records. When the statistical work of the State takes up ecclesiastical affairs, it is not necessary in every case to reject it at once. There are, however, undoubtedly affairs of the Church which are outside of all statistical investigation on the part of the State. The State can successfully collect statistics of the external activities of the Church in training and education, associational life, and similar branches. In my opinion the church authorities of all ranks have in such case the imperative duty of collecting for their respective departments all those statistics which are adapted to present an image of the labours of the Church in each field. The uses of the often difficult and prolonged computations are evident. The filling out of exact statistical papers is of great value for all leaders of the Catholic people, showing who are really Catholics. This applies just as much to what is purely religious as to what pertains to charitable, social, and associational life. Comparative statistics make it possible to detect failures from the figures, and also to find out what fields it is absolutely necessary to cultivate, what have not been worked at all or worked but little. In the same way the successes are as easily to be seen from the figures and greatly increase the desire to go on working and the joy in the work.

As daily experience shows, the sum total of the statistical records of the Church is of great importance for the reputation of the Church. The opponents of the Church take more interest in its statistics than many Catholics. When, therefore, from the carelessness of those whose duty it is, the statistical presentation is an imperfect one, the importance of the Church is greatly damaged, because its opponents can conclude, with apparent right, that the Church is absolutely unable to produce effects in this or that domain, or else labours with very little success. As an example of what is needed in this direction, it may be well to notice here a brochure recently published by Bishop Canevin of Pittsburgh, "An Examination, Historical and Statistical, into Losses and Gains of the Catholic Church in the United States" (1912). The frequent unedifying controversies with opponents, who fall back on our scanty statistical figures, show that every force should be strained to produce an exact, complete, satisfactory statistical survey of the Church. Father Alberts says in "Literarische Rundschau", No. 8 (1905):" Like all statistical material, the protocols of visitations are a two-edged sword in the hands of the user, according as he wishes to use them for a good or undesirable end. As a rule the latter aim is the one sought, as it is seldom or not at all customary to keep a record of good works. If, therefore, any association in State or Church is not willing to yield the records of its inner administration to unrestrained misuse, it must itself undertake the publication of such statistics themselves in order to set the user on the right road by offering the necessary explanations."

Ecclesiastical statistics in Germany

Beginning with the earliest years of the twentieth century, an active movement took shape towards the creation of a general and uniform body of ecclesiastical statistics. At the Forty-eighth Congress of the Catholics of Germany at Osnabrück the erection of a German bureau for ecclesiastical statistics was warmly recommended as a preliminary step towards an international institute for ecclesiastical statistics. This resolution has, indeed, not been carried out as yet; but the endeavours of the Catholic Congresses have not remained without result. The want of universal ecclesiastical statistics was to some degree supplied by a book on general ecclesiastical statistics for Germany which appeared in 1908 under the title of "Kirchliches Handbuch" a second volume was published in 1909 and a third in 1911. It gives statistical information from governmental and ecclesiastical official publications dealing with the movement of the Catholic population of Germany. It includes also the number of priests and of candidates for the priesthood, statistics of religious orders, ecclesiastical action, and the position of Catholics regarding national education and morality. The manual, moreover, gives information on the organization of the whole Church in general and of the Church of Germany in particular, on ecclesiastical legislation and decisions, on the social and philanthropic activity of Catholics, the position of the Church in other countries, and Catholic missions among the heathen. The church authorities, too, favoured a further development of ecclesiastical statistics, both by recommending the "Kirchliches Handbuch", and especially by drawing up a questionnaire satisfying every scientific requirement. Whether these efforts of the church authorities will produce the desired effect depends on the response they meet with from governmental and municipal statistical bureaus and from registrars' offices; for without such co-operation the proportion of baptisms to births, of marriages before a minister of the Church to those before a registrar, and of ecclesiastical funerals to deaths cannot be ascertained.

The Protestant State Churches of Germany followed the example of the Catholics with regard to the keeping of parish-registers. But the results were published only in the nineteenth century, especially during the last decades. This is chiefly due to the "Kirchliches Jahrbuch", edited by J. Schneuder, which has been published for thirty-eight years; statistical records of individual churches, however, and a general account published in 1862 by the statistician Zeller of Würtemberg (Zur kirchlichen Statistik des evangelischen Deutschland im Jahr 1862) preceded the publication of the "Jahrbuch". The Church Conference of Eisenbach (now "Deutsche evangelische Kirchenkonferenz"), in which all the Protestant Churches of Germany are represented, has formed a special statistical commission which, since 1880, has annually published the "Statistischen Mitteilungen aus den deutschen evangelischen Landeskirchen", a table of the baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations, communicants, losses, and conversions within the states of the German Empire and the provinces of Prussia. These statistics are accompanied by the corresponding figure of the movement of the Protestant population, which are for this purpose placed at disposal of the conference by the governmental statistical bureaus. An official centre for ecclesiastical statistics has, however, not yet been erected by the Protestant Churches of Germany.

1. Chief Churches of the Parish
2. Dependant Churches
3. Public Chapels
  Church Institutions for: —
4.     (a) Teaching
5.     (b) Care of Orphans
6.     (c) Communicants
7.     (d) Sickness, Insanity and Incurables
8.     (e) the Care of the Poor and Old
9.     (f) Other Purposes
10. Parish Priests
11. Other Secular Priests
12. Other Priests belonging to Orders
13. Houses of Male Orders
14. Members of Orders in them
  Chief Occupation of These Regulars Consists in: —
15.     (a) Cure of Souls, at
16.     (b) Contemplative Life, at
17.     (c) Training and Education, at
18.     (d) Christian Charities, at
19. Houses of Female Orders
20. Members of Orders in them
  Chief Occupation of these Orders Consists in
21.     (a) Contemplative Life, at
22.     (b) Training and Education, at
23.     (c) Christian Charities, at
24. Members of Parish on 1 January. 19—
25. Marriages of Catholic Couples
26. Catholic Betrothals of Catholic Couples
  Mixed Marriages
27.     (a) Catholic Groom
28.     (b) Catholic Bride
  Catholic Betrothals for Couples unlike in Faith
29.     (a) Catholic Groom
30.     (b) Catholic Bride
31. Living Births from Marriages of Catholics
32. Baptisms from purely Catholic Marriages
33. Living Births from Mixed Catholic Marriages
34. Catholic Baptisms from Mixed Catholic Marriages
35. Living Births from unmarried Catholic Mothers
36. Catholic Baptisms of Children of unmarried Catholic Mothers
37. Deceased Catholics
38. Burials by the Church
39. Conversions to the Catholic Church, Total
40. Conversions from Protestantism
41. Of these, Children under 14 Years
42. Return of those who had withdrawn from the Church
43. Communion
44. Of these. Easter Communions are...

Valuable material for ecclesiastical statistics is also offered by many of the German diocesan year-books. They are limited, however, to statements concerning the particular diocese and have, therefore, only special interest. The directories issued in English, as Kenedy, "Official Catholic Directory", "The Catholic Directory" (London) "Australian Catholic Directory", "Madras Directory", "Catholic Directory of British South Africa", have the advantage over the German works of this class, that they give information of ecclesiastical affairs for a much larger part of a country. In particular, the "Official Catholic Directory" contains much matter and is an indispensable reference-work for anyone who wishes to gain information concerning the affairs of the Church in the United States and Canada. The statements in these directories are generally limited to the names of the dignitaries of the Church and the priests, to the church institutions, schools, and monastic houses. The statistical records in the British and American directories are scanty and are not generally collected on a uniform plan. There is an almost entire lack of statistical records as to ecclesiastical action, the receiving of the sacraments, and the proportion of Catholic baptisms to births from Catholic and mixed marriages, of religious betrothals to Catholic and mixed marriages, burials with the rites of the Church to the deaths among Catholics;

It would be a good thing if the uniform table of ecclesiastical statistics which has been introduced of late in all the German dioceses were adopted by Catholics of other countries, as it meets all scientific demands. A translation of this table is given above. In German dioceses there are two query-sheets: Sheet. A, which contains the queries given above, is sent by the episcopal curia to all the parish priests of the diocese. Before a definite date Sheet A must be filled out by the parish priest and sent to the dean, who is to examine it as to completeness and correctness and is to enter and summarize by a definite date all the events of his deanery in the blank provided for the district supervised by a dean (Sheet B); it is then sent to the episcopal curia, where the statistics for the entire diocese are put together.


I. It is not necessary in an article on church statistics to give the titles of the numberless works in which the results of these computations are arranged and given. These results have been published in various articles of THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA treating matters in which church statistics were necessarily referred to. Chief among these are the numerous geographical, ecclesiastical, social, and historical articles, which give the bibliographies of the respective subjects. Besides the books and treatises mentioned in the course of this article, it is only necessary to mention a few publications which treat church statistics, their uses, and necessity theoretically: Kirchliches Handlexikon, s.v. Statistik; BAUMGARTEN, Kirchliche Statistik (Wörishofen, 1905); Historische-politische Blätter, CXXXIV, 831; Germania (Berlin, 1905), No. 5, 6 January, in regard to the question of the establishment of a German bureau for church statistics; Augsburger Postzeitung (1905), No. 49, 1 March; Zur kircklichen Statistik in Kölnische Volkszeitung (Cologne, 1905), No. 63, 22 January; Neues vom Gebiete der kirchlichen Statistik in No. 272 (1905), 3 April; Berliner protestantisch-kirchliche Statistik (1905), No. 600, 22 July.

II. NEHER, Kirchliche Geographie und Statistik, I-II (Ratisbon, 1864 and 1865); KARL VOM HL. ALOYS, Statistisches Jahrbuch der Kirche, I-II (Ratisbon, 1860 and 1862); PIEPER, Kirchliche Statistik Deutschlands (Freiburg and Tübingen, 1899); BAUMGARTEN, Das Wirken der katholischen Kirche auf dem Erdenrund (Munich, 1901); IDEM, Kirchliche Statistik: Drei Aufsätze (Wörischofen, 1905); KROSE, Kirchliches Handbuch, I-III (Freiburg, 1908-1911).

About this page

APA citation. Baumgarten, P.M., & Krose, H. (1912). Ecclesiastical Statistics. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Baumgarten, Paul Maria, and Hermann Krose. "Ecclesiastical Statistics." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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