American Catholic Church Fires in the Catholic News Archive

In 2018, the Facebook group “Cathedrals: From Era to Era” sprang up. Their about section (as of January 2019) reads, “A page for sharing content regarding architectural revolution that occurred within the Catholic Church throughout the 20th Century, and after.”

A commenter made an offhand remark that more than one church featured on that Facebook group suffered from a damaging fire.

The Catholic Research Resources Alliance created and manages a full-text database, The Catholic News Archive, of several major Catholic newspapers. I asked myself: 1) Of the past 100 or so years, what decade or time period had the most church fires?, and 2) what trends or observations can we glean from that?

Below are several charts of my findings – as always, open to correction should someone notice a mistake – along with a narrative. Data are in Google Sheets (link in the narrative), and charts are in Excel.





Read the embedded version below, or the Google Doc here.


Although the quantitative work is mostly done, I cannot resist sharing some of the stories that I find. It should be obvious that most of them will be sad, but it is vitally important that we Catholics, at least, pay attention to the context of our history – especially how it happened on the local level and in the newspapers.¬†Here’s a link to the post series.

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