John O’Neill sm
The number of people in the Wellington region who ticked the ‘no religion’ box in the 2013 Census rose by 15 percent in the seven years since the previous census. At the same time the number who said in the census that they were Catholic declined by six percent from 77,015 to 76,177 despite the fact that the general population in the area the archdiocese covers increased by five percent from 622,194 to 652,443.
Question 18 of the 2013 census form asked ‘What is your religion?’ For this question, the census offers various options. The respondent can choose from among them or enter their own choice. Among the given options is ‘no religion’ (with Anglican, Baptist, Catholic etc) indicating that ‘no religion’ is a respectable and valid response to this question. In fact, ‘no religion’ is the first option offered.
The other options are in alphabetical order. It might be assumed, therefore, that those who choose, for example, ‘Catholic’ do so consciously, preferring it to ‘no religion’ or any other option so are conscious of at least some sort of allegiance to Catholicism.
However, when people declare themselves Catholic in the census, there is no way of knowing whether they are telling the truth. Nor can we know what they mean by ‘Catholic’.
The decline in Catholics in the archdiocese is higher than the 3.16 percent decline nationally and, in Auckland, the number of Catholics increased.