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.


Categories:Culture Politics

  • Edward Garcia

    I totally disagree with your assessment of New York. In fact i could make a stong argument for it being #1. Consider that many parishes have the Sacrament of Reconcilliation every day and multiple daily celebrations of Mass. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (of which I’m an Assiciate member) have ignited a youth movement like I haven’t seen anywhere else in the country. Furthermore I have Pertetual Adoration at my parish. If you consider the vibrant charismatic and tradionalist movements in NY/NJ you would be stunned to see the diverse mosaic that makes our Catholic community strong and truly great. New York is not only a large Catholic community, but old, deeply rooted, strong and powerfully playing witness to the truths of our church through living the Gospel message!!

  • pete

    Ignorance is bliss, right?

  • anne

    i disagree about New York! I did RCIA here and it was wondering being part of the NYC Catholic culture. There are more than 400 parishes in the archdiocese. There is perpetual adoration. There are masses and confessions all day, every day. There are habited nuns and monks on the streets. Where else can you see that? There is the beautiful Cathedral, and churches packed full of young people for adoration with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. It is a Catholic city ifnyou want it to be!

    • Rachel

      Just wanted to say, in Columbus Ohio we have habited sisters and brothers (nuns and monks), 24/7 (except during Mass) adoration and a strong Catholic community. I also went through RCIA. I am so very happy to hear that NY isn’t completely barren of Catholicism or sense.

  • m

    i understand the concern about seattle but i find it unfair to say it is one of the worst place for catholics. the catholic community ( even if small) and the churches there are wonderful. also social services, help and support for the poor are wonderful in seattle. seattle is wrong about abortion and homosexuals but pretty right about everything else… it is a healthy and caring place…

  • Beth

    I did a search for top Catholic cities and found this article. I’ve lived in Burlington, VT my whole life and was fantasizing about living somewhere that I don’t feel so very alone.

  • Kevin

    Portland, OR has quite a big Catholic population, a lot of parishes. However it would not be unusual to see a Nuns on the Bus or ‘=’ pin on a clergyman here.
    Portland is a city full of 22 year olds, regardless of what year they were born. It also has one of the highest numbers of strip clubs per capita (It’s either 1st or 2nd at the moment). I have lived in Los Angeles and have been to Vegas plenty of times (Got married there) and I can say that Portland is worse than both of them from a moral standpoint. I would like to suggest the Spokane, WA/Coeur d’Alene, ID area for the top ten. I’ve been there several times and they still have a serious Catholic school there (St. Michaels Academy), lots of beautiful churches and Pro-Life stickers on hybrids. And no cyclists either.

    • Marie

      I live just outside the city of Portland. I call it Sodom. They may have catholics but most know little to nothing about their faith and we have priests who would never defend the faith if given a difficult choice, for they won’t defend it now. I have been active in trying to educate the lax catholics and others, but frankly it would be nice to live in a place where catholics truly celebrate, embrace and live their faith. All of it. Many are no better than the Protestants who protest church teachings without ever having studied it. There are some great parishes here with strong Dominicans and Servites , and we have a wonderful archbishop now, Sample. But I agree it should be at the top with Seattle of the worst. Do not send you children to Portland.

      • Marie

        meant your children



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