Volume > Issue > Note List > The U.S. Catholic Church is Sinking Fast -- Part II

The U.S. Catholic Church is Sinking Fast — Part II

In our New Oxford Note “The U.S. Catholic Church Is Sinking Fast” (June) we reported on a series of sociological surveys of Catholics conducted by William V. D’Antonio, James Davidson, Dean Hoge, and Mary Gauthier that appeared in the National Catholic Reporter. D’Antonio, Davidson, Hoge, and Gauthier have published their extended findings in a book titled American Catholics Today (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). Their surveys are from 2005 and years prior.

A 2005 survey polled Catholic attitudes on “Helping the poor,” and found that 84 percent of Catholics said it is “very important.” Excellent. Polling on “The Catholic Church’s teachings that oppose same-sex marriage” found that only 47 percent said it is “very important.” As for “The teaching authority claimed by the Vatican,” only 42 percent of Catholics said it is “very important.” This is substandard.

A 2003 survey asked, “How essential are these teachings…?” Only 38 percent said that “Private confession to a priest” is “essential.” Only 29 percent said that the “Belief that only men can be priests” is “essential.” Terrible.

Surveys over the years asked, “Can you be a good Catholic without this?” “Without obeying the Church hierarchy’s teaching regarding abortion”: In a 1987 survey, 39 percent of Catholics answered “yes”; in a 2005 survey, 58 percent said “yes.” “Without obeying the Church hierarchy’s teaching on divorce and remarriage”: In 1987, 57 percent said “yes”; in 2005, 66 percent said “yes.” “Without their marriage being approved by the Catholic Church”: In 1987, 51 percent said “yes”; in 2005, 67 percent said “yes.” “Without obeying the Church hierarchy’s teaching on birth control”: In 1987, 66 percent said “yes”; in 2005, 75 percent said “yes.” A trend is readily apparent.

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