Interactive Map on How Dioceses Consult Catholics on Family Life Issues

It’s been a while since any of the contributors to the Catholic Conversation have posted, so I think it’s time to change that. Here, I would like to call attention to an interesting map I happened to come across on the National Catholic Reporter’s website today. It looks at how dioceses have sought lay input concerning pastoral challenges facing the family in preparation for the October 2015 Synod. Given that past Catholic Conversation contributors have discussed the questionnaire (known as the lineamenta) issued by the Vatican and also how Catholic groups have gone about developing their own family surveys, readers may find this map of interest.



Catholics and Angels

guardian-angelOne of the things that I like about Catholicism is its liturgical calendar, complete with feast days and other special celebrations throughout the year. It seems like there is always some saint or special occasion to celebrate. This week is no different, though it is unique in that it has a particular focus on angels and features two days dedicated specifically to angels: 1) the feast of the three archangels – Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – and the memorial of the guardian angels. Given these occasions I thought it would be interesting to look at what Catholics think about angels. How many Catholics believe in angels? How do Catholics compare to other religious traditions? Can we say anything about the experiences they attribute to angels? Luckily the Baylor Religion Survey Wave II (2007) contains a couple questions about angels that can help in this regard:

1. In your opinion, does each of the following exist? Angels.  Response categories: 1) Absolutely not; 2) Probably not; 3) Probably; 4) Absolutely

2. Please indicate whether or not you have ever had any of the following experiences: I was protected from harm by a guardian angel.  Response categories: 1) Yes; 2) No

Below I show some cross tabulations of how Catholics compare to Evangelical and Mainline Protestants regarding these two questions. Then looking at only the Catholic population (n=384) I show how responses to the second question differ by Mass attendance and religious identity. It is important to note though that the word ‘angel’ was not defined by the survey so we cannot know whether or not respondents meant angels to be spiritual, non-corporeal (bodiless) beings as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Readers should keep this in mind.

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Overall we see that there is a high rate of belief in angels among Catholics, though less Catholics believe in angels than Evangelical Protestants. Only 15% of Catholics responded that they absolutely did not or probably did not believe in angels. Moreover, over half of Catholics (55%) claim to have had an experience of a guardian angel protecting them from harm. Even among Catholics who do not often attend Mass or who identify as less traditional there are still a good number who claim to have experienced a guardian angel’s protection.

For Catholic Conversation readers, do you any of these numbers surprise you?










Dioceses and lay groups survey Catholics on issues of family life

Last week Brian Starks discussed the Vatican’s interest in lay input concerning pastoral challenges facing the family in preparation for the 2014 extraordinary synod on “the pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization.” Since then, the Vatican’s announcement has been widely discussed in both the secular and Catholic media outlets with great interest.  The news has also led to discussions in the Catholic blogosphere over what exactly the Vatican questionnaire means and how Catholics are to interpret it (see here and here for two takes on the questionnaire).  For those interested in reading the preparatory document for the synod, it is also now posted on the Vatican’s website.  It discusses the reasons for the synod and ends with 38 questions pertaining to how Church teaching on marriage and family is understood by Catholics in one’s diocese and how pastoral care regarding certain family issues is addressed.

Since the announcement that the Vatican is interested in lay input regarding these questions, many have wondered how such data would be collected.  While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW) have created an online survey, according to the National Catholic Register the USCCB has noted that the survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and that “each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican.”  At least one diocese, the Diocese of Rockford, has created a way for individual Catholics to respond to the Vatican questionnaire.  Nonetheless, some lay Catholic groups have taken it upon themselves to create their own surveys.  For instance, the liberal Catholic group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has created a survey which can be found at  Likewise, Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR), a collation of liberal Catholic groups (e.g., Call to Action, DignityUSA, FutureChurch, and Women’s Ordination Conference), have put together a survey titled “The Extraordinary Synod on the Family 2014: A parish-level survey for US Catholics,” which mirrors the format used by the CBCEW. Continue reading

Catholic Public Opinion Research in the Wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

With Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the news media has found it a good time to discuss public opinion research on Catholic related issues.  For instance, The Washington Post has an article today entitled “Benedict XVI leaves as popular pope, but no John Paul II,” which discusses favorability ratings of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope John Paul II.  Looking at the graphic, I found it interesting that while both Catholics and non-Catholics in the U.S. have a less favorable impression of Pope Benedict XVI than they had of Pope John Paul II at the end of his papacy, both Catholics and non-Catholics now rate the Catholic Church more favorably than they did in 2005.  It is interesting to speculate on why there might be an increase in favorable impressions by Catholics (and non-Catholics) toward the Catholic Church.  Perhaps the higher rating is due to stricter standards regarding clerical sex abuse on behalf of Church leaders, as well as the fact that more time has passed since the clerical sex abuse crisis came to forefront of media attention in 2002.  Such findings also show that the Catholic Church is still rated favorably by those who self-identify as Catholic, despite most American Catholics not attending Mass weekly.

Turning to Pope Benedict XVI’s favorability, it is worthwhile to note that the graphic accords with previous research by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which in August of 2012 found that 74% of Catholics were satisfied with the leadership of the pope. Thus, overall Catholics view Pope Benedict favorably.

Feel free to post any other interesting articles related to public opinion research on Catholics that you have come across since Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation in the comment section below.

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Highlighting Research: New Report on Catholic Women and Contraception

Given my last post on NFP and divorce, I would like to highlight a new study that is making headlines on some Catholic blogs.  Commissioned by the Women, Faith and Culture project, the preliminary report, “What Catholic Women Think About Faith, Conscience, and Contraception,” analyzes survey data from a sample of 824 church-going Catholic women ages 18-54, looking at their views on the topics of faith, conscience, and contraception. From the website “Women, Faith, and Culture: Exploring what Catholic Women Think” we are presented with the following statistics:
Continue reading

NFP and Divorce Rates: More Research Needed

Did you know that last month the Catholic Church celebrated NFP Awareness Week?  NFP, or Natural Family Planning, refers to methods for postponing (or achieving) pregnancy based upon observations of a woman’s body that inform her of the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle.  Overlapping with the anniversary of Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, NFP Awareness Week is, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “a national educational campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the Catholic teaching on married love and the gift of human life. The annual campaign, which began in 2002, promotes awareness of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods.” Continue reading

(Lack of) Support for Women’s Vocations among Lay Catholics

As I mentioned in my last blog post, women religious have been a popular topic of late, with numerous Catholics and non-Catholics alike expressing their support for nuns and sisters in the U.S. in wake of the LCWR doctrinal assessment and the “Nuns on the Bus” tour.  Despite the popularity of women religious among many Americans, data show a relative lack of support for  women’s religious vocations.  Below, I provide a chart detailing attitudes of American Catholics with regards to encouraging young Catholic women to enter religious life.  Data come from the Spring 2006 Contemporary Catholic Trends SurveyContinue reading

The Popularity of Women Religious in the U.S.

Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its doctrinal assessment of the LCWR in April, women religious in the U.S. have been the subject of a plethora of news stories.  Such attention has come not only from Catholic media sources, but has pervaded the secular media as well.  A quick online search reveals well over a thousand news stories, and now there is even a website dedicated to disseminating coverage of American women religious.  Similarly, the recent Nuns on the Bus campaign by the liberal Catholic organization Network has drawn much attention from both mainstream and Catholic media, even seeing support from numerous members of the U.S. Congress.  Network’s Executive Director, Sr. Simone Campbell, has likewise made appearances on major media outlets, including the popular Colbert Report.  Women religious have suddenly gained the attention of many. Continue reading

Habits in the News: The Power of Image

Emilio Morenat. The Chicago Sun-Times: “Vatican waging a War on nuns” by Carol Marin (4/20/2012).

Last week, the Vatican’s Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith released the results of its on-going doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the larger of two umbrella organizations representing the majority of women religious in the U.S.  Since then, the story has been picked up by hundreds of media outlets across the U.S. and abroad, and these stories have already led to campaigns in support of LCWR sisters.  Many others have discussed and will continue to discuss the details of the Vatican’s recent decision to reprimand the largest leadership organization of women religious in the United States.  The substance of this story is surely important to readers of “The Catholic Conversation,” but I have been especially fascinated by the pictures and images that accompany these news stories. Continue reading