Cool Pope Francis is so rad at being Pope that some have started anticipating the start of a global "come to Jesus (or Francis) moment" among Catholics. Termed the "Pope Francis Effect," the theory goes that Francis is inspiring many Catholics to start becoming more active in the church again. And while one poll tracking church attendance in Italy seems to suggest that Francis is filling the pews, a new analysis of Catholic attendance in the U.S. suggests that the Francis Effect is not so much in effect in the States. According to Pew, Catholic identification and weekly Mass attendance has held steady since the Pope's election last spring.
Since 2007, U.S. Catholic identification has remained steady at about 22 percent of the population. That hasn't changed since Francis's election in March, according to Pew, citing data from the end of October 2013. And 39 percent of American Catholics self-report weekly Mass attendance, which is about the same as last year's figure of 40 percent. In general, survey respondents tend to self-report a higher frequency of church attendance than their actual history would show, so the real figure of Catholic Mass attendance is probably a bit lower than that.
In case you're not familiar with the Francis Effect, here's a sample of the theory from a representative piece in Forbes:
The other important aspect attributed to the “Pope Francis Effect” is a significant global rise in church attendance. It started in Rome, rapidly spread to the rest of the country and then to much of Europe, and now is being reported all around the world “by the hundreds of thousands,” according to the Italian Center for Studies of New Religions.
NBC reported on the touted effect as well, relying on anecdotal evidence of lapsed American Catholics "lured" back into the church by Francis's message. But even that piece cautioned that "it's unknown how many others have joined Rosa around the country and globe and the vast majority of lapsed Catholics have not been enticed back."