The CARA Report: Catholic Trends

Dear Folks,
Below are some gleanings from the recent CARA Report (Center for
Applied Research in the Apostolate; Georgetown University).Peace and good will,
Deacon Jim

Catholic Trends-(February)


(The following are gleaned from The CARA Report (Winter ’12))


What’s Important to American Catholics?


Several core aspects of Catholicism are considered “very important” across all generations, according to a study conducted by The National Catholic Reporter (October 28, 2011).   These beliefs include belief in Jesus’ Resurrection (73%), helping the poor (67%), Mary, the Mother of God (64%), and the Sacraments (63%).

Other beliefs vary from generation to generation.  In terms of being “very important,”  other aspects included prayer (46%), opposition to abortion (40%), Devotions, such as the rosary (36%), opposition to same-sex marriage  (35%), Magisterium teaching authority (30%), opposition to the death penalty (29%), and a Celibate, male clergy  (20%)

The study found that “Highly committed Catholics tend to be older, married, and Catholic-educated.”  Interestingly, these “highly committed Catholics” say that “One can be a good Catholic without adhering to church teaching on specific issues,” such as abortion (31%), helping the poor (39%), divorce and remarriage (46%), weekly Mass (48%), helping the parish (56%), and birth control (60%).

The study also measured the impact of the sex abuse scandal vis-à-vis the American hierarchy.  Most Catholics think that the Catholic bishops as a whole did fair (38%) to poor (31%) job of handling accusations of sexual abuse by priests.  Only three in ten say the bishops have done a good job (24%) or excellent (5%).

Religious Change During Adolescence


Sociologists Lisa Perce and Melinda Lundquist have written an excellent analysis on this topic in their new book, The Faith of Their Own.  They describe five profiles of religiosity, which are apparent in the youth population of the U.S. and which they call Abiders (highly religious—consistent involvement in religious practices), Adapters (moderate participation), Assenters (they believe in God…but religion does not appear very central to their lives), Avoiders(“spiritual but not religious; passively disengaged), and Atheists.

Family religious background is the best predictor as to what profile an adolescent will fit.  In general the religious practice of parents will significantly influence the religious profile of teens.  For example, parent attendance at weekly Mass is a strong predictor of teen participation at liturgy.  You think so?

Parish Finances


Of the 18,000 or so U.S. parishes, the average parish has an annual revenue of more than $695,000 with more than $477,000 of this from weekly offertory collections.

How much do Catholics give to their parish?  ‘Modestly’ would be putting it delicately.   In what has been a constant thread since for the past 50 years, Catholic registered parishioners give $727 per hear (or $14/Sunday), which is less than half of mainline Protestants ($1,627).

Why do Catholics typically give less?  One explanation is that they make up their mind that particular Sunday (63% decide that way), whereas the majority of Protestants say they plan their church giving on an annual basis.  This situation may explain why Catholic homilists tend to avoid controversial topics as it would be akin to a self-inflicted cut in parish revenue.

Not surprisingly, tithing is a relatively rare phenomenon among Catholics as only 11% of Catholics report giving 10% or more of net income to their church.  That figure may expand if one included  donating to non-parish charities.

Diocesan Salaries


While nobody is going to get rich working for the Church, some are doing pretty good.  According to The National Diocesan Salary Survey the average salary of  legal counsel was $154,709; Chief, Finance and Administration, $114,601; Chief of Staff/Operations $105,091; Chief, Personnel, $104,522.

(to be continued)…


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