75% of Americans Say They Are Christians

The Gallup Organization came to that determination following their poll covering 2011.  52% of Americans identified themselves as Protestant/Other Christian and 23%
identified as Catholic.  Other affiliations included Mormon (1.9%), Jewish (1.6), and Muslim (0.5%).  One of the fastest growing group is those who identify themselves as non-affiliated/atheist/agnostic (15%).

According to the study, 92% of the 300,000 respondents say they believe in God, which suggests that “the lack of religious identity is not in and of itself a sign of the total absence of  religiosity.”  Also, separate surveys found an average of 55% of Americans saying that religion is very important to them.
–“Christianity Remains Dominant Religion in the United States,” by Frank Newport, December 23, 2011, appears on the Gallup Organization website (www.gallup.com).

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Reasoned defense of marriage

Dear Folks,

In light of the intellectual and ethical challenges posed to the evangelization
of American culture, below is a reflection of our Holy Father on a
“Reasoned defense of marriage,” which we gave in March to a group of
U.S. Bishops on their “ad limina” visit.

Blessings on your week.

Peace and good will,
Deacon Jim

Reasoned defense of marriage

(This reflection was given by Pope Benedict XVI on March 9, 2012 on the meeting of United States Bishops making a visit “ad limina Apostolorum”;

the text is slightly abridged at the beginning).

 

            …I would like to discuss another serious issue (editor’s note:

the other being ‘freedom of conscience’) which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to American, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family,  and more  generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality.  It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic, grounded in the practice of chastity, has led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Yet,  as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85).  Indeed, “the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitments to this particular area.  Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.  The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific of persons, essentially rotted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation.  Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage.   Defending the institution of marriage as social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony.  Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity.  This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage.  In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravel sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society.  I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of  Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in our 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.   I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity.  The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. CCC, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfillment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love.  It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality.  The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a destructive form of counter-catechism for the young.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging, and counter-cultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth.  They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives.  Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing “apprenticeship  in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom” (#2339).  In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships.  Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment.   It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educting the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

            Pope Benedict XVI

(L’Osservatore Romano; March 14, 2012)

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)…