"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Survey: Religious identity slips among U.S. Catholics

One in four Americans call themselves Catholic, but a survey released Monday finds this is more a cultural brand label for many than a religious identity.
An overwhelming majority, 88%, say "how a person lives is more important than whether he or she is Catholic," according to Catholics in America: Persistence and change in the Catholic landscape. The survey is part of ongoing research by teams of sociologists led by Catholic University sociologist William D'Antonio.
The survey, a comprehensive look at the beliefs and practices of 1,442 U.S. Catholic adults, also finds that 86% say "you can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church." Only about 30% support the "teaching authority claimed by the Vatican.

And 40% say you can be a good Catholic without believing that in Mass, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Christ — a core doctrine of Catholicism.

That could reflect the decline in Mass attendance. The survey finds it's fallen from 44% attending at least once a week in 1987 to 31% in 2011, while those who attend less than monthly rose from 26% to 47%.

When asked why they don't go to Mass more often, 40% say they are simply not very religious.
This is the fifth such national survey conducted by D'Antonio since 1987. The surveys, published in The National Catholic Reporter, provide information about demographics, beliefs and practices in American Catholic life.

The church's opposition to the death penalty, same-sex marriage and permitting priests to marry "has not persuaded a majority of Catholics," says Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter and author of a new book on Catholic community life, The Emerging Church.

More than half of Catholics, including those most highly committed to the church in their personal practices, say it's their own moral views, not those of church leaders, that matter, says survey co-author Michele Dillon, chair of the sociology department at the University of New Hampshire. "They see this as their church and they won't be exiled because there is a doctrine they disagree with.

The sexual abuse scandal, which exploded in the USA in 2002, has hurt church leaders' political credibility at least somewhat say 83% and 77% say it has hurt priests' ability to meet parishioners' spiritual or pastoral needs. Only 29% say the bishops have done a good or excellent job in handling the issue.

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