The best (and worst) Catholic cities in the United States


The folks over at Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) have compiled a list of what they think are the top 10 Catholic cities in the country.

Like all lists, it is subjective and open to debate. In fact, there was “no fast and hard formula” OSV relied upon while making their choices. They simply asked lay Catholics on social media what the cities should be.

As un-academic as that sounds, they did seek out the expertise of Dr. Kathleen Cummings , the director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, to help with their efforts. They also followed these four criteria:

1) The city must have a rich Catholic history

2) The city must have a strong Catholic culture, including notable Catholics who are affiliated with the place

3) The city must have a noteworthy Catholic landscape, including Catholic churches, institutions or other landmarks

4) The city must offer opportunities for spiritual renewal.

“Some locations selected meet all of those criteria,” said OSV Newsweekly editor Gretchen R. Crowe, while “others only meet one or two.” We “wanted a somewhat diverse list, both regarding location size and geographic diversity.”

OSV hopes that the list “will prove useful and inspiring when it comes to incorporating the Faith into your travel plans this summer.”

In no particulate order, here are the cities Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly thinks are the top 10 Catholic cities in America:

Los Angeles                Pittsburgh                               

Denver                          St. Louis

Chicago                         New Orleans

St. Augustine, FL    Emmitsburg, MD

Bethlehem, CN          San Antonio

Holy Name

You should visit the OSV website to see what they had to say about each of these cities and why they chose them. In the meantime, what is your reaction to their choices? Did they leave any cities off? Should some of the cities on the list not be on the list? Might it not have been better to determine how Catholic a city is based on the number of priests the city produces or how many parishioners attend mass every week? After all, the last place I think of when I think of the Catholic faith is Los Angeles – one of the most materialistic cities in the world.

Now, I don’t think it’s necessary to be overly critical of OSV. In fact, I think they did a decent job with what seems to be an innocent, thought-provoking exercise. After all, I used to live in Chicago and I’ve visited St. Augustine and St. Louis. So I’m glad they made the cut. On the other hand, I’m sure some Catholics would have liked to see Steubenville, OH; Green Bay, WI; Kansas City, MO; Ave Maria, FL; Corpus Christi, TX; and Lincoln, NE on the list too.

Of course, it’s often remarked that it is better to light one candle than to the curse the darkness, and I applaud OSV for their efforts, but if these are the top Catholic cities in the country, shouldn’t Catholics also be made aware of the cities least affiliated with and potentially most harmful to their Catholic faith?

I think so.

With that in mind, here’s what I think are some of the least Catholic cities in the U.S.

Portland, OR and Seattle, WA This may upset some people but to me these left coast cities are indistinguishable from one another. Both get a ton of rain, both are reliably blue states when it comes to the Electoral College and both are home to socially progressive populations  indifferent to organized religion. Even though Catholics make up a large portion of both states’ populations, Oregon and Washington allow assisted suicide. Moreover, Washington redefined marriage along gender neutral lines in 2012 and is currently toying with the idea of becoming the first state in the country to force insurance companies to cover abortions.

Burlington, VT You’ve probably never heard of Burlington. Then, again, who has? Burlington is the largest city in the state of Vermont. Vermont, as you are probably aware, laid the groundwork for redefining marriage by becoming the first state in America to approve civil unions back in 2000. Current United States Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist, served as mayor of Burlington from 1981-1989 as well. Like its left coast allies Oregon and Washington, Vermont is dominated by secular progressive politicians and allows for physician assisted suicide. It is continually rated as one of the least religious states in the union.

Cambridge, MA Cambridge is a place where, according to President Obama, the police act “stupidly.” It is also a place where professors act “stupidly.” At one time, Harvard University – located in Cambridge – was the crème de la crème of American education. Today, its unabashedly left-wing faculty members march to the beat of secular progressivism, militant feminism and contemporary liberalism. The ideas emanating from this indoctrination mill run counter to everything the Catholic Church stands for. Catholics would be wise to attend school elsewhere.

Washington, D.C. Sure, there are a number of heroic Catholics that work in Washington, and we, as Catholics, are compelled to be involved in political life, but our nation’s capital is not a very Catholic place to be. Everyone is two-faced, conniving and scheming to get ahead. The laws coming out of Washington these days, especially the policies put forth by the president, make life extremely hard for Catholics across the country. Politics has always been a sleazy business, and Catholics have always found a way to be active in public life, but I don’t know how anyone can spend a lifetime making backroom deals and selling their vote to the highest bidder and not lose their moral compass.

New York A city so nice they named it twice, right? Wrong! New York City may be one of the most recognizable cities in the world, but it is slowly becoming an inhospitable place for Catholics. Anti-Catholicism was rampant throughout the city during the 19th century and it continues to this day. Indeed, the state’s allegedly Catholic governor is intent on expanding the culture of death and making it harder for Catholic non-profits to help the poor. Cardinal Dolan may live there, and it might have some beautiful churches, but New York – like all global cities – is obsessed with materialism, extravagance, and licentiousness. Stay away.

San Francisco It goes without saying just how anti-Catholic San Francisco is. It is continually rated as America’s most liberal city. Some say its lack of moral standards makes it the modern day equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Catholic population in San Francisco is slain in the “spirit of Vatican II” so much that the Roman Catholic womenpriest movement has a number of supporters living in the area. It was recently reported that Father Brian Costello, the priest at Most Holy Redeemer parish, removed a picture of Pope Benedict XVI from the church just days before the pontiff resigned after parishioners raised concerns about his views on marriage.

Las Vegas Also known as Sin City, Las Vegas is a place where morals go out the window. It is a city where gambling, prostitution and drunkenness are the norm. Its motto is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Catholics know that’s simply not true and that you can easily lose your soul by giving into the temptation that presents itself there. Its drive-through chapels mock the sanctity of marriage and its laxed morals encourage you to distance yourself from God. Las Vegas is the least Catholic city in America by a long shot.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Stephen Kokx is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of political science living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Peace and Justice. His writing on religion, politics and Catholic social teaching has appeared in a number of outlets, including Crisis Magazine, The American Thinker and his hometown paper The Grand Rapids Press. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and is a graduate of Aquinas College and Loyola University Chicago. Follow Stephen on twitter @StephenKokx


  1. As a Catholic myself, and as a retired police officer, I’ve been to most of your alleged top cities, but not all. L.A., Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, San Antonio, and St. Augustine are nothing but pits of debauchery and crime. I wouldn’t ever visit any of them again, let alone live in one of them.

    Another list, one of smaller, more rural towns would be nice for those of us who are tired of being city dwellers and would prefer living around and visiting; places that are unique and small, and where Catholicism is actually the spiritual focus rather than just the religion of the day that so many folks just happen to belong to.

  2. What a troubling article – the more I read the more I felt sorry for the writer. Certainly not what I hoped to find when google-ing for a nice Catholic community. It would appear the teachings of Christ have not touched your heart and your soul sees only the darkness and not the light. I pray that you will find the light of Christ in your life.

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