Collapse of Catholic weddings in Ireland
This morning the Central Statistics Office released a new report with statistics on marriages and civil partnerships in 2014. It contained some figures of relevance for anyone interested in the state of Catholicism in modern Ireland.
There were 22,045 marriages registered in the Republic of Ireland in 2014. Catholic weddings accounted for 13,072 of all weddings (59.3%). Civil marriage ceremonies accounted for another 6,167 (28%). The Humanist Association of Ireland performed 895 (4.1%) marriages. Of the two largest Protestant denominations, there were 445 Church of Ireland (Anglican) marriage ceremonies (2%) and 81 Presbyterian (0.4%) ceremonies. The Spiritualist Union of Ireland performed 819 (3.7%) marriage ceremonies.
The proportion of weddings taking place in the Catholic Church has been in steady decline over the past 2 decades. In 2014 it was the lowest recorded in the history of the state and was down 3% from 2013.
In 1994 Catholic weddings accounted for 91.4% of all weddings while civil marriages were a mere 5.1% of the total. By 2004 Catholic weddings were only 76.2% of all weddings and civil marriages accounted for 20.4% of the total.
The 2014 figures reflect a marked urban-rural divide. Catholic weddings accounted for 73.6% of all weddings in the western province of Connacht but made up only 36.9% of all weddings in Dublin City. 73.3% of all weddings in the Republic’s 3 Ulster counties took place in the Catholic Church, as did 65.9% of all weddings in the southern province of Munster. Catholic weddings accounted for 62% of all weddings in Leinster (excluding the Dublin Region).
The Dublin Region (which is comprised of 4 local authority districts) had the lowest proportion of Catholic weddings; only 43.5% of weddings in this region took place in the Catholic Church. Dublin is Ireland’s most urbanised and secularised region. It also contains the highest number of immigrants; the 2011 census found that close to one in six residents in the Dublin Region were non-Irish (compared to less than 10% of residents of the Mid-West and South-East regions). The proportion of marriages held in the Catholic Church was 36.9% in Dublin City, 49.5% in South Dublin, 47.9% in Fingal and 50.7% in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. (Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is Ireland’s wealthiest local authority district and 87.6% of the population was Irish in the 2011 census, compared to only 80.7% in Dublin City.)
The average marital age has reached the highest level ever recorded. The average age of the Irish groom in 2014 was 35 (compared to 26.2 in 1977) and the average age of the bride was 33 (24 in 1977). Catholic couples are disproportionately younger. Of Catholic weddings, the average age of the groom was 33.5 and 31.7 for brides, compared to 37.6 for grooms marrying in civil ceremonies and 35 for brides. Almost 9 in 10 weddings were the first time for both groom and bride.
The marriage rate in 2014 was 4.8, exactly the same as it was in 1864, in the wake of the demographically catastrophic Great Famine. The marriage rate in Ireland remained relatively steady thereafter for a century but rose steadily in the 1960s. It peaked in 1973, when it reached 7.3, and has been in steady decline since then.