St. Patrick’s Day Graph: Irish in America are Protestant, not Catholic

In the American imagination, to be Irish is to be Catholic. The data, however, is clear: most Irish-Americans are not Catholic, and Irish-Americans make up a minority of Catholics in America. Nearly half of Irish-Americans are Protestant; a third are Catholic. The proportions are more equal (roughly 40 percent each) between those that were raised Catholic or Protestant.

Many Irish-Americans, particularly in the South, are evangelicals. In fact, Michael P. Carroll, a dean at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, reports that Irish-Americans make up a larger share of evangelicals in the South (20 percent) than their share of Catholicism elsewhere (16 percent). That’s right—a Southern Baptist is more likely to be Irish than is a Catholic.

Many US southern whites identify as Scots-Irish, i.e., actually Scottish.

yeah most ancestors of the americans claiming Irish ancestry are actually from pre-famine northern ireland (whose ancestors were before then dissenters from scotland who went to northern ireland in to work the plantations)

It could also be due to some in the Church of Ireland leaving to avoid Catholic persecution long ago. The Church of Ireland is Anglican.

I find that number hard to believe. A lot of Irish people came to America because the Protestant British were treating them like second class citizens partially due to religion.

Northern Ireland is majority Protestant though.

Tracing Irish immigration and my own Irish roots in particular is fast becoming a bit of a hobby of mine.
Most Irish immigrants came over to America after the Gorta Mór (the Irish famine). Those that could not afford to come to America were the poorest of the poor…and Catholic. My ancestors immigrated to Yorkshire England where they were force to work in the cotton mills. My Great Grandfather was born in England. Nevertheless, the family still considered themselves to be Irish, no matter that they were born in England. Once they accumulated enough money to immigrate, they left England behind as fast as they could. Irish in America were expected to finacially help thier relatives come over. They would build insulated communities that were strickly Irish. In Pittsburgh, where my family settled, they lived in the worst conditions in parts of the city nobody else wanted. They also took the jobs nobody else wanted. Irish Catholics were HATED in America.
Not sure where the graph is getting its information, but my research is far more complicated.

Shouldn’t they be wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day then?

And they are usually Ulstermen not Irish at all. Good ole Queen Elisabeth the Ist sent over Scots Presbyterians to steal Ireland from the Catholics.

Think Ian Paisley, an Ulsterman who has a rabid hate for Catholics.

Ha! My husband wore orange :slight_smile: his family was Catholic when they came over but left the Church sometime…

Obviously, in America, families are very mixed. People claim various ethnicities, based on surname or some distant or even recent ancestor, but really, how useful us that in understanding how people think and act today?

My children are not English, French, German, Austrian, or Polish. They didn’t get paroled at Appomattox, fighting for Georgia, nor did they pound Petersburg into rubble serving in the New York State Heavy Artillery. They didn’t play in a czarist Russian military band, or survive the First war in the AustroHungarian Army. Or get the Virtuti Militari for action on the Wisla in 1920. They didn’t ride the Mayflower, nor the MS Batory. The didn’t attend the Cane Ridge Revival, they are not Huguenots kicked out of Rochelle. They don’t know much or really care about Alexander Campbell.

They are Catholic, they struggle to live moral lives, like we all do. Nothing in their family past controls their destiny. No group membership accords them privilege or status, neither victim nor victor.

That modern Americans with Irish names are or are not Catholic just means that membership in the Church must come through evangelization and conversion - the future can’t rely on “ancestry”, whatever it means.

Believe it or not, not even all Irish people born in Ireland are Catholic. You will notice that there are three colors in their flag: green for the Catholics, orange for the Protestants, and white for peace.


It’s never relied on ancestry. There’s always been Irish Protestants, French Protestants, German Protestants, etc. No country is 100% of one religion.

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