Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mainstream Catholic Beliefs

Finishing up with the idea of unity, I wanted to share this recent survey. I realize that the attitudes of individual Catholics may not reflect the official teachings of the Catholic Church, but I find the real-life views of Catholics interesting.

I have many Catholic family and friends and the opinions captured in this Barna survey is much more representative of the type of Catholic faith I see in my “real life”. I have to admit when I ran across my first Catholic e-pologists online, I was quite surprised that such Catholics existed.

Here are some excerpts:

“Although the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Catholic has dropped from three out of ten to slightly more than two out of ten in the past two decades, Catholics remain the largest denominational segment in the country (22%). These days, however, they are as mainstream as any people group in the nation. A new survey of more than 4000 adults conducted by The Barna Group examined 97 different facets of the lives of Catholics, comparing them to national norms. The outcome is striking: Catholics are virtually indistinguishable from people aligned with other faith groups - except in the area of faith.”

“All five of the faith-related attitudes tested showed a gap between Catholics and other Americans. Among the elements tested were people’s highest priority in life (Catholics were only half as likely as others to mention their faith, and a majority identified family as their priority) and their commitment to the Christian faith (44% of Catholics claimed to be "absolutely committed" compared to 54% of the entire adult population). Further; Catholics were less likely than average to look forward to discussing their religious views with other people, to attending church services, and to reading the Bible. In fact, Catholics were only half as likely as other Americans to say they look forward "a lot" to reading from the Bible.

Of the dozen faith-oriented behaviors tested, Catholics strayed from the norm in relation to eight of the 12 items. Specifically, the typical Catholic person donated about 17% less money to churches; was 38% less likely than the average American to read the Bible; 67% less likely to attend a Sunday school class; 20% less likely to share their faith in Christ with someone who had different beliefs; 24% less likely to say their religious faith has greatly transformed their life; and were 36% less likely to have an "active faith," which Barna defined as reading the Bible, praying and attending a church service during the prior week. However, Catholics were 16% more likely than the norm to attend a church service and 8% more likely to have prayed to God during the prior week.

The spiritual beliefs of Catholics are also substantially different from the typical views of Americans. Catholics differed from most people on seven of the 11 belief-focused questions raised. For instance, Catholics were significantly less likely to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches and only half as likely to maintain that they have a responsibility to share their faith with others. They were more likely than the norm to say that Satan is not real; to believe that eternal salvation is earned; and to contend that Jesus Christ sinned while on earth. “

“While Protestants in America have experienced the same type of spiritual compromise over the course of time, there remains a substantial gap between Protestants and Catholics regarding matters of faith, if not lifestyle and thought. The survey showed that American Catholics are more similar to non-Christians living in the U.S. than they are to the nation's Protestant adults. Even the born again segment among Catholics showed few differences in lifestyle and attitudes from national norms.“

-Catholics Have Become Mainstream America

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