Wednesday, April 15, 2009

LATEST RESEARCH: Most Catholics Optimistic About Future of Church

I've attached details of the latest research on Catholics about their faith...


Most Catholics Optimistic About Future of Church, Only a Minority Say an All Male and Celibate Priesthood Important to Personal Faith

Syracuse, NY - In the face of some difficult issues - including the ongoing sex abuse scandal, a priest shortage, dwindling parish memberships and church closings - a surprising number of Catholics revealed a good amount of optimism for their religion, according to the latest 2009 Le Moyne-Zogby Contemporary Catholic Trends (CCT) survey.

When asked whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the Church, 36% said they were very optimistic, and 37% replied somewhat optimistic. A minority of respondents, then, were either somewhat (18%) or very (5%) pessimistic about the Church's future. Progressive Catholics are the most likely to be pessimistic with 40% saying they are somewhat (36%) or very (4%) pessimistic. Only 7%of the self-described Orthodox are somewhat (6%) or very (1%) pessimistic about the future of the Church.

"These numbers remind us that news headlines are only part of the Catholic religious experience. When asked to reflect on the Church, I expect that most people think of their personal religious lives, not the national headlines. Religion is experienced, most vividly, in the parish and the family. In fact, 76% of respondents said that family connections are an important aspect of their faith. So, to me, these numbers suggest that most Catholics are satisfied with their personal religious lives" said Dr. Matthew Loveland, principal investigator of the CCT project.

The results were pulled from polling members of Zogby Interactive's volunteer web panel, a sampling of 3,812 panel members, including 767 self-identified Catholics.

Among other findings:

- American Catholics describe themselves in a variety of ways. For example, given a list of common religious identities, 20% chose Progressive to describe their religiosity, followed next by 11% who chose Orthodox. The least frequent descriptors chosen were Evangelical (7%), Fundamentalist (4%), and Born-Again (3%).

- A stark difference emerged between the self identified Progressives and Orthodox in terms of mass attendance. While 63% of Progressive Catholics attend mass less than once per month, 79% of the Orthodox attend mass at least once a month. Nineteen percent of the Progressives attend mass weekly or more, while 65% of the Orthodox attend this frequently.

-Catholic panel members were asked to rate the personal importance of a number of elements of their faith. Catholics are largely in agreement about the importance of the Sacraments to their faith, as 64% said they are very important and 23% reported that they are somewhat important. Respondents also ranked the Church's concern for the poor highly, as 61% said it was very important and 29% chose somewhat important. Teachings about Mary as the Mother of God are also ranked highly, 54% saying it is very important and 27% somewhat important to their Catholic faith.

- Less agreement was found about other elements of the faith. A minority say it is very (24%) or somewhat (12%) important to their faith that the priesthood remain all male, and fewer believe it is very (19%) or somewhat (13%) important for the priesthood to remain celibate. Here again we find differences between self identified Orthodox and Progressive Catholics. Sixty nine percent of the Orthodox believes it is somewhat or very important that the priesthood remain all male, while only 6% of the Progressives feel this is important to their faith. Similarly, 61% of those identified as Orthodox say a celibate priesthood is important to their faith, while only 6% of Progressives agree.

The Spring 2009 Contemporary Catholic Trends survey polled 3,812 randomly sampled members of the Zogby Interactive Panel between February 23rd and 25th , including 767Catholics. Panel members have volunteered to participate in periodic Zogby Interactive polls. The sample is weighted so that it reflects the political affiliation, age, race, gender, and education of the U.S. adult population.

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