Catholics are losing their religion

December 22, 2014
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By Lea Z. Singh |

He's not the only one who doesn't know
what's happening at Mass on Sunday.
If the Austin Institute's latest report is right, then the beliefs and practices of the laity in a Catholic parish on any given Sunday are disturbing. The Austin Institute recently released a survey entitled "Relationships in America", which is based on the responses of 15,738 Americans aged 18 to 60 and asks various questions about religion, relationships and family.

The whole report is fascinating reading, but what I am concerned with here is something that Maggie Gallagher discusses in her latest column at National Review Online: the fact that so many Catholics do not believe the fundamental teachings of the Church.

One of the good things about this survey is that it took the trouble to divide up Catholics into four groups: traditional, moderate, liberal and other (survey participants self-identified into these groups). As Maggie Gallagher notes, "the labels are clearly capturing something real, because by every measure in this study (and unsurprisingly), traditional Catholics are more supportive of Catholic teaching and practice than are liberal Catholics, with moderate Catholics falling in between and “other” Catholics generally less actively involved than liberal Catholics."

Ms. Gallagher then crunched some numbers from the survey to produce the following:

Breakdown of total parishioners at church on any given Sunday

%
Traditional Catholics39.5
Moderate Catholics39.5
Liberal Catholics14
Other Catholics7

I've used these numbers together with the survey results to produce the following percentages of beliefs and practices at a hypothetical church on any given Sunday (I multiplied the actual percentage response per group by that group's representative percentage attendance at mass, noted above):

Q: How many Catholics in the pews believe in life after death?
A: 81.5 % of those at Mass on any given Sunday.


Actual percentage of the group, as reported in survey% in church on Sunday
Traditional Catholics8533.8
Moderate Catholics8232.4
Liberal Catholics7510.5
Other Catholics694.8
TOTAL SUM81.5

Q: How many Catholics in the pews believe in the resurrection of the body? 
A: 50.6 % of those at Mass on any given Sunday.


Actual percentage of the group, as reported in survey% in church on Sunday
Traditional Catholics5822.9
Moderate Catholics5120.1
Liberal Catholics304.2
Other Catholics493.4
TOTAL SUM50.6

Q: How many Catholic men in the pews viewed pornography in the last week? 
A: 25.3% of those men at Mass on any given Sunday.



Actual percentage of the group, as reported in survey% in church on Sunday
Traditional Catholics218.3
Moderate Catholics2610.3
Liberal Catholics354.9
Other Catholics261.82
TOTAL SUM25.32

Q: How many Catholics in the pews have engaged in premarital sex? 
A: 71.7% of those (over 18 years old) at Mass on any given Sunday.

Engaged in premarital sexActual percentage of the group, as reported in survey% in church on Sunday
Traditional Catholics6425.3
Moderate Catholics7930.81
Liberal Catholics7210.08
Other Catholics795.53
TOTAL SUM71.72

The Survey also presents some other disturbing findings about Catholic beliefs. Here are some of the charts that are available in their report. Unfortunately they do not report the actual percentages, and only present these line graphs without any numbers attached. Still, they give a good idea of what the breakdowns are:


Aside from those Catholics who hold actual opinions contrary to the Catholic faith, notice how many respondents are "not sure" (red). Something is terribly wrong when so many Catholics do not know what the right answer is.

Based on these figures, the Catholic Church has a lot of work to do in re-evangelizing its own flock. Is it any wonder that a lot of parishes are struggling with the kind of appalling hollow Catholicism that is so vividly described in this anonymous personal testimony at First Things?

Why are Catholics so weak in their faith and practice? Maggie Gallagher asks this question in her article, and I echo it here. 

It is a question that the Church needs to answer very urgently.

Top Photo: Steve Rideout Photography via photopin cc

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