More than half of those who leave Roman Catholicism in the region turn to evangelical churches, finds a survey.
In Central America, the evangelical faith has become the majority faith, a survey conducted in 2023 showed.
There, 42% now identify as Protestants (a large majority being evangelical Christians) while 39.9% identify as Roman Catholics, according to the results of a survey conducted by M&R Consultores.
The research has been conducted in the countries of Nicaragua, Guatemeala, Costa Rica, Panamá, El Salvador and Honduras. According to Raúl Obregón, of the consultancy firm, the intention of this project is to evaluate and measure periodically and systematically how religion is evolving in Central America.
A representative case of the change in the trend (described previously by missiologists such as Samel Escobar) is that of Nicaragua. Since 1950, the Catholic Church has lost 60% of its adherents in the country and currently only one in three people profess this religion. In 1950, 96% of the Nicaraguan population participated in Catholic activities; today it is only 34% per cent. Non-Catholics were 4.2% over 40 years ago, but the figure has risen to 65% per cent by 2023.
In Central America, more than half who no longer consider themselves Catholics say they are now Protestants.
The results of the M&R Consultores survey highlight that evangelical Christians (42%) are more committed to regular religious activities and worship services than Catholics (21%). Evangelicals (47%) also show a greater commitment to prayer and Bible reading (47%) than Roman Catholics (25%).
Furthermore, 25% of Catholics say they tithe, while in the case of evangelicals the figure rises to 68%. As for offerings, 80% of Catholics say they participate in this, also lower than Evangelicals (86%).
The M&R Consultores survey also points to differences between Catholics and evangelicals in Central America when it comes bioethics.
For example, the response to homosexual practice is that it is considered a sin by 61% of Catholics, while it is considered a sin by 85% of evangelicals.
Asked about sex before marriage, 61% of evangelicals agree the idea that both the man and the woman should not have sex before marriage, while this is what 43.5% of Catholics believe. 40% of Catholics said marriage should only end with the death of one of the spouses, compared to 59% of evangelicals.
As for the legalisation of abortion, 6.6% of evangelicals consider it to be a woman’s free decision about her own body, compared to 8% of Catholics.