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 (www.gallup.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 (www.publicreligion.org/research2012/10/american-values-survey-2012).
Prepared by Deacon Jim McFadden