CARA header

Year-to-year there are more annulment cases introduced in the United States than in any other country in the world. In the most recent data available from the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (ASE), 49% of the annulment cases initiated in 2012 were in the United States. Poland, Italy, and Brazil have the next largest numbers of cases.

The number of annulment cases introduced each year is declining. In 1990 there were 72,308 cases introduced in the United States. Since this time the number of cases has fallen by 67% to 24,010. In part this is related to fewer divorcing and fewer ever marrying. The U.S. share of cases has also declined. More than three in four annulment cases introduced globally in 1990 were from the United States.

What hasn’t changed much is the percentage of U.S. annulment cases decided in a given year resulting in a decision in favor of nullity. In most years since 1980 this has typically fluctuated between 85% and 92%. In 2012, nine in ten cases resulted in a ruling of nullity. The most common reasons for findings in favor of nullity are for invalid consent. On average, about three in four U.S. annulments are granted on this basis. A recent CARA survey of adult Catholics found that only 15% of Catholics who had experienced divorce have ever sought an annulment. Catholics are slightly less likely to divorce than married people of other faiths or no affiliation. About 5.8 million currently married Catholics in the U.S. have experienced divorce at some point in their life (note: an unknown number have received an annulment). This population currently represents about one in five of all married Catholics (19%) and one in ten of all adult Catholics (10%).

CARA is celebrating its 50th Anniversary! Although usually considered a product of the Church's increasing openness to science and research resulting from the Second Vatican Council, CARA's origins go back even farther. As early as 1951 the superiors of U.S. missionary institutes called for a national research center to help reshape the missioner's role in the emerging churches of the developing world. But the immediate impetus for such an organization was an article in 1961 by Richard Cardinal Cushing, on "The Modern Challenge of the Missions," in the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. Subsequently the major superiors of mission-sending orders voted about $5,000 to evaluate the need for "A Catholic Center for Coordinated Research and Cooperation." A study group delivered a favorable report in late 1963. CARA was officially incorporated in the District of Columbia on August 5, 1964. Its founding board of directors included Archbishop (later Cardinal) John P. Cody and Bishop (later Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen of the Propagation of the Faith. CARA's founding documents established principles that have guided the organization for 50 years. In summary form, these are to gather new information, to store and retrieve such, and to disseminate useful data for practical use by Church decision makers. Two additional principles soon became CARA hallmarks: absolute independence and objectivity. As one commentator put it, CARA's objective is "to search dispassionately for truth."

Sponsorship Opportunities and Donations

New Report: Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes, a collaborative research effort between Boston College and CARA.

Read the Report

New Release: CARA's Hispanic Catholic Fact Sheet

Read the Release

CARA Special Report, Fall 2014

CARA has completed a longitudinal study of women religious in the United States drawing on data reported by the religious institutes of women listed in the Official Catholic Directory (OCD). The contributions of women religious in the United States continue to be evident today in Catholic institutions of education and healthcare across the country, but there are, and have been, countless other contributions as well. Over the years, these valiant women have adapted to changing circumstances and forged ahead despite challenges to their way of life and ministry. The U.S. Catholic Church is indebted to the ministerial efforts and sacrifices made by women religious in the past and present. This CARA Special Report is an effort to disentangle the story of women religious in the United States that is hidden in the numbers.

Read More

Keep current with CARA's blog:1964 BlogOr follow CARA:fbook logotwitterfeedgooglenewsalert

New Book Released by CARA researchers. Bridging the Gap: The Opportunities and Challenges of International Priests Ministering in the United States (OSV, 2014).

More information....

Church Statistics

Frequently Requested Church Statistics

An overview of the Catholic Church in the United States using data from multiple sources, including recent CARA studies.

Formation Directory

Follow this link for the online Catholic Ministry Formation Directory:

Support CARA

You can support CARA's mission to provide sound, objective research in the service of the Catholic Church.

CARA UPdates

Sign up for CARA updates

Search CARA Site

CARA on twitter