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Catholics in Congress: one-third of House, one-quarter of Senate


  • Close up view of the intricate detail of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda ceiling and silhouette of George Washington. The 115th Congress was sworn in Jan. 3, with Catholics comprising one-third of the House of Representatives and about a quarter of the Senate. Catholics now total 168 in Congress. iStock photo
  • U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., raises the gavel during the opening session of the new Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 3. Ryan, who is Catholic, was re-elected speaker of the House of Representatives earlier in the day. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The religious makeup of the 115th Congress is significantly Christian -- 91 percent -- with Catholics comprising one-third of the House of Representatives and about a quarter of the Senate.

Overall, there are six fewer Christians in the new Congress, at 485 members. But there are four more Catholics, who now total 168.

The high percentage of Christians in Congress is similar to the 87th Congress in 1961, when such information was first collected. At the time, 95 percent of Congress members were Christian.

The data on the religious makeup of the current senators and representatives was collected by Pew Research Center and announced Jan. 3.

The Pew report notes that the large number of Christians in Congress has shifted in recent years with a decline in the number of Protestants. In 1961, Protestants made up 87 percent of Congress, compared with 56 percent today. Catholics, conversely, made up 19 percent of the 87th Congress, and now are 31 percent of the legislative body.

Looking at each party, two-thirds, or 67 percent, of Republicans in the new Congress are Protestant and 27 percent of Republicans are Catholic. The breakdown between Protestants and Catholics is more evenly divided among the Democrats: 42 percent are Protestant and 37 percent are Catholic.

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