The Numbers Still Don't Lie

So what’s up with all the gloating? Yet another reminder of how limited papal infallibility and supremacy is:

Neither are Catholics uniformly on board with Francis’ many calls for social and economic justice. Most (57 percent), chiefly Democrats and women, say the Catholic church should focus more on social justice and the obligation to help the poor than on abortion and the right to life. But 33 percent of Catholics, chiefly Republicans and men, say the opposite.

Overall, Catholics are statistically in line with most Americans on current hot-button social issues:

72 percent (like 71 percent of all Americans) say government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
73 percent of Catholics (66 percent of Americans) say the U.S. government should do more to address climate change.
61 percent (63 percent of Americans) want to see a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
51 percent, chiefly Democrats, (53 percent of Americans) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
The Catholic church preaches against homosexual behavior. But PRRI finds most U.S. Catholics either don’t know or don’t heed that teaching:

53 percent of Catholics say they don’t think same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs.
60 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
76 percent favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination.
65 percent oppose a policy that would allow small-business owners to refuse, based on their religious beliefs, to provide products or services to gay and lesbian people.

Reactions to the pope also reflect the complexity of the church in the United States today. Catholics are not only divided by ethnicity, generation and geography; they also differ in the ways they see the church, its role in their lives, in politics and in society.

Now if you are aware of statistics like that, aside from claims of papal audacity, why would you write this in defense of the papacy?

Catholics believe that the same infallible Spirit of Christ who filled the apostles and fired the Church into birth at Pentecost, and went on to inspire the Scriptures, still dwells in the apostolic church today. Catholics believe the church, led by the successors of the apostles, and the successor of Peter continues to proclaim and teach the gospel without fail.

Whether or not Peter was first among the disciples or the Bishop of Rome supreme among the metropolitan bishops, apparently Roman Catholics don’t listen to Christ’s vicar on earth or believe that he carries all the spiritual weight that Fr. Dwight claims. Yes, the Yankees have a lot of championship bling, but if they are not going to make the playoffs this year (not saying they won’t), don’t you cease beating your breast at least for this season?

And if you are a defender of the papacy, don’t you think about sending a memo up the chain of command to warn that so many words about so many non-essential matters may dilute the episcopal brand? You might even wonder if all those claims about superiority have gone to the Vatican’s head and clouded the bishop’s ability to discern what is truly important.

The more exalted the claims for papal audacity, the louder the numbers.

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31 thoughts on “The Numbers Still Don't Lie

  1. Seth, what could possibly lead an Evengelical with an IQ over 70 to join based on that document?

    There’s less useful content to a spiritual life than Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And the song is half as spaced-out as that memo.

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  2. hey, come join us, don’t worry about any spiritual or stuff about Jesus

    it’s just a big couch-potato happy time of releasing any thoughts whatsoever

    right into eternity.

    wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  3. “it’s just a big couch-potato happy time of releasing any thoughts whatsoever

    right into eternity.

    wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    I’m intrigued. Tell me more.

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  4. Seth, and wouldn’t #6 have been a reason for Fr. Dwight to remain Protestant?

    Stop imagining that there’s a perfect church somewhere. Utopianism is an American disease. Wrong expectations produce dissappointment. If you expect conflict and imperfection you won’t be so disappointed with the Catholic Church (or with life generally for that matter)

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  5. Here’s a gem from the 10 commandments post Set mentioned:

    I know. I know. The first Catholic Church you went to seemed just as liberal as the local Lutherans. To tell you the truth, the Catholic Church is in an epic battle with the evil of modernism. Don’t just complain about fuzzy feel good sermons, comfort hymns and carpeted churches. Find a good parish and join those of us who are working to ‘reform the reform’ and play your part.

    I thought that Brian said the RCC is the answer to ecclesiastical consumerism. But now we’re told to find a “good parish.” I’m confused. Isn’t looking for a good parish akin to church-shopping?

    And the church is in an epic battle with the evil of modernism? How do we know when the church has won the battle? When a modernist pope tells us it has won?

    This is the superior paradigm?????

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  6. Going over to the RCC is akin to those colleagues hurling their iPhones into Lake Ontario and saying “eff it, i’m not gonna do nothing any more!!!!’ and being so proud of it

    I understand some doing this have given 40 years to a job they hated and they have the $$$ to live out the 2 or 3 years before they croak from boredom. Or they are doing a Timothy Leary inspired drop-out without considering the logistics of the next 30 years of deep regret they’ll have before they croak in their 60s.

    To be fair, the RCC does have this secret room of philosophers and political theorists that certainly appeals to someone with a brain. But that’s not what is going on in public and so forget it.

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  7. Robert, the irony of the cage-stage converts to Roman Catholicism – they ultimately have to do just as much church-shopping in their perfect Church as anyone else.

    As I’ve said before, where are these mythical “advantages” to being Roman? I have yet to see them in action.

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  8. Seth, the advantage is you get to have a big apple-pie smile on your face and say everything has now been fulfilled and you aren’t going to bother taking any questions about it.

    And you can join web, tom and kevin on here…

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  9. “…the successor of Peter continues to proclaim and teach the gospel without fail.” This is not just untrue as official Catholic teaching but also off-putting as Catholic convert crap. The Church guards the Deposit of Faith (or tries to), and its officers have sacramental authority. How well or poorly it teaches the gospel at any given time… Well, go see the CCC, where the gospel is in there, but also at times fights for air amidst all the fashionable theo-academic gibberish. Or even try out the pointlessly ballyhooed “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” were St. John Paul II the Great seems to struggle to actually get a message out that connects. The Bishops are the best argument AGAINST Catholicism, IYAM. The gospel stands despite their ninnying about.

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  10. DG,

    Thoughts from a mildly vexed blog reader in Newark-

    I don’t see how you can constantly in good faith conflate self-identified but non-practicing Catholics with those who meet the RCC’s clear teachings – you know the difference and the importance of that difference.

    You or others here can believe the RCC teaches heresy and that there is a connection of that heresy with the troubles of the RCC (although I’d argue historical data disproves it; the trouble is in liturgy, ambiguity based in a desire to please the world, and a failure to discipline).

    But I would hope you would do so with conceptual clarity – how would pervasive dissident belief demonstrate how limited papal infallibility and supremacy is -? “Limited” is an odd word – you offer no argument, and I can’t see how the claim even makes sense.

    As I expect you know, the pope can fall asleep on the job (to reference an old Italian expression “Pietro dorma”) rather than teaching the faith and disciplining those who don’t obey. In other periods, discipline is good and teaching clear – and the RCC is healthier.

    By all means criticize the individual pope, criticize the entire structure of the RCC, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to all concerned, and more consistent with truth, justice, and the way America ought to be if you would be habitually more rigorous in doing so (even if it’s your turf, it’s just a blog, etc.)?

    It would also be charitable to the Catholics you seem to like having here, to demonstrate you understand what they take the time to explain. Not saying give false acceptance or promote ambiguity, just demonstrate understanding in your posts (not just reluctantly in your comments) – as the rule, not the exception.

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  11. Robert,

    “But now we’re told to find a “good parish.” I’m confused. Isn’t looking for a good parish akin to church-shopping?”

    A citizen is still subject to the federal government even if I prefer living in state x over state y. What I’m not justified in doing is going all secession-militia mode. Just as someone who prefers thomism over molinism or chooses to become a jesuit over a franciscan is not engaging in something akin to “ecclesiastical consumerism”. It’s a false dichotomy to think either borg-collective or Protestantism.

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  12. Kent, all –

    [Kent:] Seth, the advantage is you get to have a big apple-pie smile on your face and say everything has now been fulfilled and you aren’t going to bother taking any questions about it. And you can join web, tom and kevin on here…

    Untrue, unjustified, uncharitable.

    Here are some numbers I thought would be of interest to participants here:

    34% of Americans were either raised Catholic (32%) or converted (2%). This proportion has probably never been higher, and probably never will be higher in American history, at least without an unlikely radical change in US culture.

    Go Yankees? Not really the best approach.

    Of the 32%, 41% no longer identify with being Catholic. That’s 13% of the US pop, a bit shy of the 15% who are Mainline Protestant (some of the 13% became mainline, of course, so ex-Catholics are the #2 ‘religious group’ in America after self-identified Catholics).

    That leaves 59% percent of those raised Catholic who still identify as such = 18.8% of the US pop. Add in the 2% of converts, that’s nearly 21% of the US pop who are self-identified Catholics.

    But self-identification is meaningless, as opposed to the RCC’s standards for the faith. To raise again my provisional estimate that 85% don’t qualify as Catholic based on being non-practicing or espousing non-Catholic views, that would make the US pop about 2.8% in good standing with the RCC. Some might qualify this to be higher (‘some who say they reject xyz teaching don’t really fully consent in rejecting it’), but I don’t think that is a useful approach.

    So all of these groups fall in the 1%-3% of the US pop range:
    -faithful, practicing Catholics;
    -Jews (all self-identified, including non-practicing);
    -Muslims (all self-identified, including non-practicing);
    -NAPARC + other small P&R groups you might respect (all self-identified, including any non-practicing you haven’t booted out)- depending on your criteria, you could probably reach consensus on an estimate that is higher than 3%, perhaps greatly so.

    So for Catholics, yes, it’s a disaster – in the US and worldwide. Spain, Italy, France, and Germany are in almost exactly the same state, and Poland and Latin America are moving to catch up.

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  13. Kevin, I hear you and agree that judging Roman Catholicism by these numbers is partial, even prejudiced. But so is the Roman Catholic apologist’s presentation of Rome as the surest, bestest, cleanest, truest Christian expression that ever existed since Mary stubbed her toe carrying the baby Jesus.

    The Call to Communion often includes all the trappings of papal authority, history, unity, etc. It never includes that, oh, by the way, the communion you are joining includes the folks who fill out these numbers.

    And these numbers do or should modify the theory of Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Why do the bishops let the faithful ignore the church’s teaching? Why do the bishops allow these people to consider themselves Roman Catholic when they don’t hold or practice what the church prescribes?

    I don’t see enough acknowledgement of these serious issues, especially among the Prots who turn Roman Catholic as if they had just landed in Homer Simpson’s Land of Chocolate.

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  14. (I should have included the Orthodox Churches in tthat list as well, of course).

    Also useful is to add the 16% of CiNOs to the 13% ex-Catholics (united in heresy or non-practice but at one point Catholic) to get 29% of the US pop who are in a great position to use a supposed authoritative knowledge of the RCC to entertain and spread nonsense.

    That 29% makes the cultural treatment of the RCC frustrating for the 2.8%. We’re outnumbered 9 to 1.

    One could also add the serious Orthodox, Catholic, and P&R to get not-quite 10% of the US pop who are allied to institutions which despite fundamental and significant disagreements are at least trying to maintain Christianity as we’ve known it for centuries. So a comparable outnumbering vis-a-vis the total pop.

    No empathy from the arguably similarly-culturally-marginalized serious P&R folks?

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  15. Cletus,

    A citizen is still subject to the federal government even if I prefer living in state x over state y. What I’m not justified in doing is going all secession-militia mode. Just as someone who prefers thomism over molinism or chooses to become a jesuit over a franciscan is not engaging in something akin to “ecclesiastical consumerism”. It’s a false dichotomy to think either borg-collective or Protestantism.

    The author is not talking about choosing another parish that is equally orthodox. He’s talking about good RC parishes and bad RC parishes, bad as in doctrinally impure, heretical, whatever you want to call it. If I have to start discerning good RC parishes from bad ones, I don’t see how that isn’t ecclesiastical consumerism.

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  16. @ Kevin,

    I’ll put the point another way. You as a Bible-believing Catholic and I as a Bible-believing Protestant, for all of our Very Real differences, still have more in common than we do with Cardinal Kasper.

    Think about that. Assume for the moment that your doctrine is dead-center orthodoxy. What is the meaning of ecclesial unity if a Protestant outside your church can be closer to you in the faith (and I’m probably still pretty far … no false ecumenicism here!) than a prelate in your own church?

    Visible or invisible — which matters on the day of judgment?

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  17. Jeff –

    I’ll put the point another way. You as a Bible-believing Catholic and I as a Bible-believing Protestant, for all of our Very Real differences, still have more in common than we do with Cardinal Kasper.

    In many absolute essentials I expect so, and woe betide all who call themselves Christian should the RCC worldwide groan and marvel to find itself Kasperite come the meetings in Philly next month.

    Think about that. Assume for the moment that your doctrine is dead-center orthodoxy. What is the meaning of ecclesial unity if a Protestant outside your church can be closer to you in the faith (and I’m probably still pretty far … no false ecumenicism here!) than a prelate in your own church?

    In seeking the meaning of ecclesial unity, I keep in mind that which formed the basis of Benedict XVI’s first sermon as pope: “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” (I’ll be pedantic for any others reading and say yes, I see the irony).

    Visible or invisible — which matters on the day of judgment?

    Invisible – except that the visible and invisible are joined in a single Church (I ran across a Reformed writer who defended that view as well, arguing against those who claimed an emphasis on the invisible splits the Church in two). I don’t believe they can be separated before the day of judgment, and that the visible plays an essential role in human history (even if not all a part of the invisible aspect are a part of the visible).

    Since I identify the locus of that unity of visible and invisible as the RCC, I am stuck dealing with its problems at the same time I benefit from its glories.

    The history books will show this as one of the great periods of struggle for the RCC, alongside the Arian Crisis and 10th century. Not sure whether we’re through the worst of it, but if not, I expect we should be within the next decade.

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  18. D. G. Hart
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
    Kevin, I hear you and agree that judging Roman Catholicism by these numbers is partial, even prejudiced. But so is the Roman Catholic apologist’s presentation of Rome as the surest, bestest, cleanest, truest Christian expression that ever existed since Mary stubbed her toe carrying the baby Jesus.

    Compared to the mess called “Protestantism” [or even “Presbyterianism”] it likely is. Like Churchill said about democracy–it’s the worst form of government except for all the others.

    And of course, if orthodoxy on the part of the faithful is to be the yardstick, the Mormons are clearly the true church, so this essay fails on any level.

    BTW,

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/08/in-polls-we-trust

    ne of the many claims of today’s polling industry is that it is the source of credible evidence about religion. It tells us week by week how many Americans regularly attend religious services, whether religion’s strength in our lives is holding its own or declining, and how often we pray. We learn how various denominations are faring, whether some parts of the country are more religious than others, and which kinds of religious beliefs are most appealing, and to whom. So pervasive has this information become, in fact, that for many people it defines what American religion is.

    But while polling has climbed in visibility and authority, drawing headlines and shaping the very public opinion it purports to reveal, a contrary trend has started. Public confidence in the polling industry has dropped dramatically over the past decade. People have grown tired of its ceaseless rollouts, especially during election season. Fewer and fewer of us answer the phone when pollsters call. Response rates have fallen so low that it is impossible to know what exactly polls represent. Even in predicting elections, polls have been missing the mark so badly that poll watchers voice growing suspicion about erroneous methods and potential biases.

    We should question, too, the religious findings pollsters have announced so confidently. That cannot be done, however, in the same way that political polls are questioned. Because elections actually happen, those polls can be criticized in terms of whether they made correct predictions. Different questions and new ways of weighting the data can be used next time to make better predictions. Religion does not provide the same benchmarks for ­recalibration.

    Religion poses a more fundamental question anyway. Is polling even a good way to think about it? To be sure, religious organizations collected statistics long before polling was invented. Denominations kept track of membership rates and baptisms and conversions. Bible societies canvassed communities to see how many families owned Bibles. Never, however, was religion viewed as an “opinion” that could be tapped with simple “yes” or “no” questions. But that is how religious pollsters have proceeded from the very beginning.

    Not that this will stop Dr. Hart from taking the polls as gospel, but the discriminating reader shouldn’t.

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  19. I really have a simple question: If the RCC is antiabortion, why does it turn the other way when its institutions of higher learning are in league with Planned Parenthood.

    http://www.lifenews.com/2015/08/19/shocking-report-63-catholic-colleges-have-relationships-with-planned-parenthood/

    Is it:

    1. Because Rome really doesn’t care about abortion?
    2. Because Rome doesn’t care about moral purity on the lay level but only on the Magisterial level?
    3. Because Rome’s teaching on abortion has not been elevated to the level of unchangeable dogma?
    4. Because many of those schools are very prestigious and make Rome look good?
    5. Because disciplining them would hurt Rome’s intent to be a big tent?

    Are there any other reasons? I’m serious here. After a while, the failure to discipline really needs an explanation besides: Well, Jesus said there would always be wheat and tares. Yes, but he also called on the church to discipline the tares. Discipline doesn’t perfectly remove all tares, but it keeps the weeds from overgrowing the field.

    What gives?

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  20. Robert –

    I really have a simple question: If the RCC is antiabortion, why does it turn the other way when its institutions of higher learning are in league with Planned Parenthood.

    The pope, the bishops, religious orders, and the laity all have roles to play (or fail to play). Some have status anxiety, some are afraid to rock the boat (internationally and within the US), some have no jurisdiction to effect change.

    The question is who are you proposing should do what (i.e., whose job is it)?

    Take Notre Dame for an example – in 1967, University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh organized control to be transferred the religious order that established it to a board of directors, half clerical half lay. I.e., it is not institutionally a part of the RCC.

    Why was this permitted and even welcomed? Status anxiety, football, a sense of being “truly American,” amazing growth in the endowment.

    Note that the local bishop has neither power nor authority over the university; and this is true of all of universities which are “run” by religious orders (e.g., the Jesuits) and especially those with boards which are are half lay. In some cases, the boards have 1 priest to 11 laymen. There is no sense in which these can be described as part of the RCC, whatever their histories.

    Each university has its own story, but the pivotal moment was when Notre Dame’s Fr. Theodore Hesburgh in 1967 had a conference which issued a statement – the “Land O’ Lakes” statement – in which ‘intellectual freedom’ entailed the Church staying out of university affairs:

    “The Catholic university today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with a strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence.

    To perform its teaching and research function effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.

    To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential
    conditions of life and growth and indeed for survival for Catholic universities as for all
    universities.” — Land O’ Lakes statement

    https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/mission/pdf1/cu7.pdf

    So it’s shameful b.s., a compromise, and something the bishops have little to no authority to correct – short of threatening excommunication, which the USCCB members are not ready for – and bishops typically do not stray far from the minds of their fellow bishops.

    So the question is, why don’t the bishops threaten excommunication against the university board members before important votes? Why don’t they threaten excommunication against the university executives the board installs?

    4. Because many of those schools are very prestigious and make Rome look good?
    Absolutely.

    5. Because disciplining them would hurt Rome’s intent to be a big tent?
    To some extent – I suspect the priests on the university boards may well be fuzzy thinkers.

    The bishops still seem to think the gentle, compromising way will be the most effective in evangelizing, if only we pursue it a bit longer. Never mind its track record of disaster.

    1. Because Rome really doesn’t care about abortion? | 2. Because Rome doesn’t care about moral purity on the lay level but only on the Magisterial level?
    Laxity is an issue, but no, I would say they care- they are just pursuing the wrong solutions.

    3. Because Rome’s teaching on abortion has not been elevated to the level of unchangeable dogma?
    No, it is unchangeable. Abortion in all cases is immoral. This is an example of how consistent ordinary teaching over time (the Ordinary Magisterium) can be as unchangeable as an ex cathedra papal declaration.

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  21. Maybe not the Yankees but the Cubs:

    A radical overhaul in the nation’s third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese could shutter many of the Chicago church’s houses of worship by 2030 as it reckons with decaying buildings and an expected shortage of priests, the church’s chief operating officer confirmed Friday.

    Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich told priests and advisers in meetings in recent weeks that the shortage – an estimated 240 priests available in 2030 for the archdiocese’s 351 parishes – could necessitate closings and consolidations. The archdiocese governs parishes in Cook and Lake counties.

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  22. So far the converts haven’t made a dent:

    The nation’s vice president, 164 of the 535 members of Congress, including the speaker and the minority leader of the House of Representatives, five of the eight current justices of the Supreme Court, and 11 of the 34 individuals President Obama has appointed to serve in his cabinet claim Catholicism as their religion.

    With the degree of influence that follows from this preeminence, Catholic teachings should be having a significant effect on the culture, policies, and laws of this nation. But they are not. Abortion is widespread, same-sex marriage is legal, assisted suicide is gaining acceptance, pornography is rampant, and freedom of religion — especially Christianity — is being curtailed.

    Why is this so? The answer is plain. Too many self-proclaimed Catholics do not practice the faith. They do not live their lives according to the precepts of the religion they profess, and they certainly do not let the faith affect their drive for material success. They have melded into the secularist American culture so completely that their views on moral issues and their behaviors, public and private, are indistinguishable from the population-at-large.

    Of the 82 million self-identified Catholics, only 68 million are members of a parish, and of these only 24 percent attend Mass at least weekly, according to data from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. People who do not practice the religion will not shape their behavior according to its dogmas.

    Although there is no formal splitting of Catholicism into sects, as has occurred in Protestantism and Judaism, there are wide divergences in beliefs and practices among people who call themselves Catholic.

    But you can’t be Protestant because Protestantism bad.

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