The best way to estimate the Catholic population

Many people, such as the media, who comment on the number or percentages of Catholics assume a Protestant model of church membership: someone is considered a member when he/she is officially registered in a parish. This emphasis upon registration within our culture is taken for granted. After all, people register for the social security system, drivers’ licenses, library cards, fraternal organizations and, other religious denominations. Why not assume the same with the Catholic Church? Continue reading

Homosexuality and the Local Catholic Church: More Open Than You Might Think

By now it is clear that sexuality is one of the most controversial issues facing religious organizations. The Vatican has promulgated a theological teaching, rooted in one stream of the natural law tradition, which mandates sexual abstinence among homosexuals. Much has been, should be, and surely will be written about this theological teaching of the Catholic Church.  However this is dealt with by the Vatican, in this instance, official teaching cannot inform us as to how Catholic life is being lived at the local level in the United States.

How are homosexuality and homosexuals a part of the local life of the Catholic Church?

Earlier this month I published research studying whether Christian congregations are open to gays and lesbians. My research used the National Congregations Study, a representative survey of American congregations. Continue reading

Catholic Devotions

Catholic devotions are external practices such as prayers “attached to particular times or places, insignia, medals, habits or customs” that “manifest the particular relationship of the faithful with the Divine Persons, or the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . or with the Saints . . .” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 2001).  I believe new life could be breathed into parishes and families if popular devotional prayers were practiced with great fervor and conviction because the need for affective, nonliturgical, communal prayers remains, and because it is an excellent means in and through which to pass on the Catholic faith to the next generation. Continue reading

Parish Closures: New Scholarship and Important Questions

As I mentioned in my previous post/shameless use of this blog for research assistance, I am in the final stages of finishing my dissertation on Catholic school closures. I have always struggled with the temptation to spend days reading wonderful existing scholarship instead of doing the much harder work of putting words on the page.  Recently, I decided that it would actually be negligent for someone with my research interests not to read John Seitz’ (relatively) new book on parish closures No Closure: Catholic Practice and Boston’s Parish Shutdowns (Harvard University Press, 2011). I couldn’t put it down as I got swept up into the ethnographic account of the many faithful Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston who took over and held constant year(s) long vigils at their parishes rather than see them close. Continue reading

The New Evangelization and Its Institutionalization in the Catholic Church

I concluded my last blog on the New Evangelization (NE) noting that I believe parish NE committees are an indication of a larger process of the institutionalization of the NE in the Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD), even though only 35% of parishes currently have one.  I also concluded that if the Church wants its members to know about the NE then developing parish NE committees is an effective method for getting the word out.  Continue reading

A Beautiful Comment


I love it when reader comments add elegance and beauty to the conversation.  Here’s a great example:

“Nice article.  Sisters deserve so much respect for the sacrifices they have made in choosing this vocation.   I always know for any crisis in life they have been there in prayer just a phone call away for me.  I hope we never forget their importance in the catholic church;  educators, nurses,  doctors,  missionaries,  and even when they’re elderly they keep us lifted in prayer.”

This comment made me think of Sister Olga, my second grade teacher at St. Alphonsus Parish (the Church pictured above) and all of the other sisters who have been there and supported me throughout my life.  Their impact is real.