Catholic Trends–Winter 2013

Catholic Trends—Winter 2013


Obama wins Catholic Vote in 2012.  Despite pressure from many American Catholic prelates, Catholics narrowly gave their support to incumbent Barack Obama, who got 50% of the Catholic vote compared to 48% for Governor Mitt Romney—the same distribution for the total electorate.  This is similar to the results in 2008, when President Obama got 53% compared to 46 for Senator John McCain.

However, among Catholics who attend Mass weekly, 42% preferred Obama compared to 57% for Romney.  Among white Catholics, the Obama percentage was 40% and among Hispanic Catholics it was 71%.  So, it was the Hispanic vote that gave Obama the Catholic vote.

(The CARA Report; Winter 2013)


The Department of Defense Budget: a bloated sacred cow?

For those who think the DOD’s budget is an obscene false idol, President Obama’s selection of Republican Chuck Hagel to be the new Secretary bodes well for shrinking the defense budget.  The 2012 DOD budget was $646 billion—roughly 20% of the total U.S. budget.  For the 2013 budget the defense allocation is $701 billion, the largest discretionary category after entitlements at $2.217 trillion (56%).

Samuel Johnson once said that “Patriotism is the last refuge for scoundrels.”  By associating patriotism with a bloated defense budget, one is immune from criticism.  To question our defense expenditures is tantamount to being unpatriotic.  A little perspective is needed.  Writing in The New Yorker, journalist Jill Lepore observed, “Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting  the Axis.”  The Council of Foreign Relations reported that in 2011 the United States had 4% of the world’s population, accounted for 22% of the gross domestic product, yet was responsible for 42% of military spending.  Lepore observed that what drives our defense budget is “the idea that the manifest destiny of the United States is to patrol the world…six decades after V-J day nearly 300,000 American troops are stationed overseas including 55,000 in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, and 10,000 in Italy.”  Republican Congressman Ron Paul claimed that the  U.S. military operates out of 900 bases deployed in 130 nations.

What this amounts to is our militarism creates an aura of on-going war preparation (c.f. Iraq and Afghanistan),  which is unaffordable and increasingly dangerous.  A shift in this Washington consensus is crucial to America’s future and hopefully the nomination and confirmation of Chuck Hagel is a step in the right direction.

(The Progressive; March 1, 2013)

Catholic Confidence in Organized Religion Falls.  Battered by the priest sex-scandal and cover-up by too many Catholic bishops (cf. Bernard Law and Roger Mahoney), Catholic confidence  in organized religion has fallen to a 46% approval rating, which may explain why 70% of American Catholics do not show up for Sunday worship.

(Lydia Saad, July 12, 2012; Gallup Organization (


Christmas and Easter Catholics.  Current research shows that nationwide weekly Mass attendance has dropped from an estimated 62% in the 1950s to about 30% today, although churches are still filled to overflowing on Christmas and Easter.

Fr. Stephen Fichter, a CARA research associate and a pastor in the Archdiocese of Neward, NJ polled a sample of C&E Catholics, who gve the following reasons for attending Mass only at Christmas and Easter:

• 70% said they were too busy

• 16% said they were too lazy

• 7% thought that Mass was not beneficial to them

• 4% disagreed with some particular church teaching

• 3% reported having a negative experience.


Most Catholics Accept New Mass Translations.  While there was much wailing and rending of garments among many liturgists over the new Mass Translations, 70% of U.S. Catholics think the new translation of the Mass that was introduced in November of 2011 is a good thing—including 20% who strongly agree.  Those who attend Mass at least weekly are most positive with 84% agreeing or strongly agreeing.

(“Translations of the Mass: Findings from a Comparison of Old and New”, by Rev. Anthony J. Pogorelc, SS (


Catholic Attitudes on Political Questions.  Which comes as no surprise, there is considerable diversity and fluidity in the American Catholic landscape regarding political questions; such as:


Social Justice and Abortion.  By a margin of 2-to-1 (60% to 31%) Catholics say that the Church should focus on social justice and the poor rather than abortion and the right to life.

Contraception and Mandated Coverage.  Overall, 81% of Catholics say that “using artificial birth control methods is morally acceptable, while only 14% say it is morally wrong.  The high level of openness to contraceptive use extends to Catholics who attend church at least once a week: 70% of them say using birth control is morally acceptable.  Asked if religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should be required to provide their employees with health plans that cover contraception at no cost, 56% of all respondents said yes.  Catholics who attend weekly Mass were opposed to the contraception requirement, but not by an overwhelming margin: 52% opposed the requirement.

The Death Penalty.  The survey found a distinctive Catholic response on the death penalty.  Given a choice between the death penalty and life without parole as a punishment for those convicted of murder, Catholics overall split 47% to 46% in favor of life without parole.  Catholics who attend weekly Mass were strongly in favor of life without parole over the death penalty (57% to 37%).

(“When Polarization Meets Diversity: Demographics and Pasrtisanship in an Evolving Religious Landscape,” by E.J. Dionne and William A. Galston by Public Religion Research Institute; October 12, 2012 (


Prepared by Deacon Jim McFadden





Taking Care of Business


March 1, 2013; First Friday Mass (C)

Gn 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28   Ps 105   Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis H.S.

     The story of Joseph being sold into slavery prefigures Jesus, who was betrayed by one of his own disciples and put to death on a cross.  Jesus came to reconcile us to an all-just and merciful God.  His parables point to the work he came to do within our community to bring us to the Kingdom of God.  This work is not super-imposed from the top-down, but is like yeast in dough; in other words, building the Kingdom of God is an inside job, which requires our cooperation.  We need to take care of business.

What is the message of the parable of the vineyard?  To begin with, Jesus’ story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have been taken from their cultural experience.  The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, much the same way that the San Joaquin and Napa valleys  and Foothills are dotted with them.  It was common for that time for the owners to let out their estates to tenants.  The owners would make a profit by collecting rent.  Why did Jesus’ story cause consternation among his listeners?  The parable was both a prophetic message and a warning: the house of Israel is the “vineyard of the Lord” (cf. Isaiah 5:7).  Similarly, St. Francis, a CATHOLIC College Preparatory is also a vineyard where young women are called to be disciples and formed to be saints within an academic setting.

Does this parable speak to our community in 2013?   It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he relates to people.  First, it tells of God’s generosity and trust.  The vineyard is equipped with everything we, the tenants of St. Francis, need.  The owner went away; he is not with us physically, but he has entrusted his estate to us, especially the young women whom we’re called to help form into disciples and saints.  Are we cooperating with this mission?  In order to be formators for the Troubies in the S.F. vineyard, we must be formed ourselves.  There is a basic spiritual principle that says that “one cannot give what one does not have.”  Are we embracing on-going Faith formation?  Are we a community of public and private prayer, in which we daily rest in God’s presence as we engage in active and transformative communication and listening? Are we striving to plumb the depths of our Deposit of Faith in which we explore Sacred Scripture and Tradition?   Are we fully, actively, and consciously participating in the Eucharist, especially on Sunday in which we keep holy the Sabbath?  Are we living out Matthew 25 in which we minister to Jesus by serving the poor, which we will be doing today as a community?

This parable calls us to be honest with ourselves.  Lent is a good time to take stock and to renew our commitment to participate in Jesus’ Mission in  the S.F. vineyard.  We should also be reassured by the patience of God.  God does not give up on his people; not once, but many times he forgives the tenants for the debts that they owe the landowner.  And, while the tenants will take advantage of that patience and lapse into indifference and rebellion, God’s plan, while being resisted, will not be overcome.  His judgment and justice will prevail in the end.

Jesus foretold both his death and ultimate triumph.  He would be both rejected and killed, but he also knew that after the rejection would come triumph and glory—the glory of Resurrection and Ascension.  The Lord blesses his people with the gift of the Kingdom of God, which is happening right here at St. Francis.  And he promises us that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him.  He entrusts his gifts, especially our Troubies, and his grace to each one of us and he gives us work to do in his S.F. vineyard, the Body of Christ.  He promises us that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end of our sojourn here. Let us work for the Lord with the joyful hope and confidence in his Resurrected victory!