Monday, October 29, 2007

Surveys on Catholic "Unity"



The following post is one that I made on my own blog a few months back in response to some comments on another post on Catholic unity with regards to beliefs of the laity. The original comment said:

“We are unified in that there is a core set of beliefs (dogmas) that all catholics believe. There will always be people who disagree on this aspect or that one. But, our beliefs on these dogmas are resolute. Protestants, on the other hand, cannot agree on any aspect or teaching. They all claim Sola Scriptura, but that is all.”

Recently, "anonymous" had this to say on the Gerry Matatics post:

“go to 100 Catholic Churches, gather 500 people at random and ask them what are the roles of scripture, clergy, grace and the sacraments, then do the same with 100 Reformed Baptist churches and see what happens. There isn't a person reading this that does not know that the former group would be nearly homogeneous compared with the latter which would sport as many theories as a 9/11 Truther symposium.”

In response to these assertions on Catholic "unity", I am providing the following excerpts from surveys published on Catholic websites:


Catholic beliefs and practices: the challenge ahead for Australia

-Only 6.8 per cent of 20-24-year-olds attended regularly (down from 7.2 per cent in 1996) and 5.6 per cent of 25-29-year-olds (down from 7.0 per cent) attended [Mass].

-Acceptance of the virgin birth among Mass attenders ranged from 73 per cent for 18-24-year-olds to 81 per cent for those aged 56 or over.

-In the case of belief in the Eucharist truly being the Body and Blood of Christ. Only 46 per cent of 15-17-year-old Mass attenders accepted this doctrine, whereas 81 per cent of those aged over 56 did so. In between these groups the level of belief rose with age.

-Belief in God as the Holy Trinity again reflected age differences, with 51 per cent of 15-17-year olds accepting it, increasing to 78 per cent for over 56-year-olds.


Young adults’ lack of participation problem for U.S. Catholic Church, study says

-One of the main results of the new survey was to confirm and reinforce earlier findings that younger adult Catholics tend to have a looser, more tenuous relationship with the church than their older counterparts.

-The younger Catholics are less likely to accept church teachings on issues of sex and marriage or to consider the church's teaching role important in such matters, for example, and they are less likely to attend Mass regularly or to consider Mass attendance important for being a good Catholic

-Only one-fourth go to Mass on a weekly basis.

-Less than half believe that the teaching authority claimed by the Vatican is very important. A majority disagree with church teachings related to sexual and reproductive issues.

-And if a sizable number of young adults report that they do not understand their faith well enough to explain it to their own children, they have a problem, and so does the church.

The Cara Catholic Poll

-Seventy percent of Catholics believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist while 30 percent believe bread and wine are only symbols of Jesus.

Clearly all Catholics do not agree on the essential dogmas (and very clearly they don’t agree on general teachings like prohibition of birth control). A preemptive strike by a commenter on my introduction post said this:

"Are there dissneters in the Catholic Church? Sure. Does any Catholic claim we are 100% unified? No. Besides Carrie, what do you hope to accomplish? That Catholics are just as disunited as Protestants? So what?"


The answer is: parity is not good enough. Catholicism claims a superior position to Protestantism in matters of unity and certainty and yet those claims can not be backed up. The "so what, you're no better" answer does not cut it in these discussions.


25 comments:

Rhology said...

Carrie, what do you hope to accomplish? That Catholics are just as disunited as Protestants? So what?"

Said commenter eventually became too preoccupied with insulting remarks than to answer my question related to that, so I'll post it here again:

What I hear you saying is that SOME disunity is OK, as long as it's not up to the level of the many Protestant groups.
Is that right?
If so, shouldn't RC e-pologists change their tactics a bit?

Carrie said...

Said commenter eventually became too preoccupied with insulting remarks than to answer my question related to that,

The particular comment you quoted was from kmerian who is always quite cordial. I am sure you would agree and that you were actually referring to "anonymous" in your comment.

That said, hopefully "anonymous" will now answer your question.

Rhology said...

Yes, correct to both. The convo had continued a bit since Kmerian's comment, and 'twas to Anonymous that I asked that last question. 'Course, anyone is welcome to answer it. ;-)

Anonymous said...

And Anonymous answered that what you're "hearing" was not what was being said. This is mere observation.

What was being said was that you yourselves illustrate the degree of unity among Catholics by the types of deviations you cite as if they were indications of major schism, which ought not even show up on the RADAR.

Catholic unity in teaching across all churches and rites compares better than most protestant teaching across a single denomination in a single town usually does. You know it. I know it. So what? You'll continue to pretend otherwise, but you know full well that if the sort of disunity in teaching that exists in let's say all the Baptist churches in Dallas Texas vs. all of the Catholic Churches worldwide from the 4th century on, there is no comparison.

Protestant theology taken as a whole is a shambles of discord and chaos. Protestant teaching has the order, consistency and unity of a blind child’s coloring book. Whatever falls in between the lines and is actually an appropriate does so almost more by chance than anything else.

Aside from that, yeah, Catholic and Protestant unity are exactly the same. You make a point.

Rhology said...

the types of deviations you cite as if they were indications of major schism, which ought not even show up on the RADAR.

What I was asking about was HOW MUCH deviation is OK.
RCC claims that it has unity. But what we're seeing is that unity is not present.
The RC response has thus far, here, been "well, we have more unity than Protestants!"
But note the goalpost-shifting - now it's not "we have unity" but "we have more unity than you even though we don't have total unity".

So, maybe you can help me out. RCC apparently does not have unity.

2 questions.
1) Agreed?
2) If so, shouldn't RC e-pologists change their tactics a bit?

Peace,
Rhology

GeneMBridges said...

What was being said was that you yourselves illustrate the degree of unity among Catholics by the types of deviations you cite as if they were indications of major schism, which ought not even show up on the RADAR.

The text cited deviations de fide doctrines like the theology of the Mass and the Trinity. Are dissents on those issues not indications of major schism? According to Anonymous, Arianism and Modalism would not be indications of major schism. This directly undercuts the Roman Catholic claims regarding necessity of the Ecumenical Creeds and their authority, not to mention their utility.

Catholic unity in teaching across all churches and rites compares better than most protestant teaching across a single denomination in a single town usually does.

A category error since "Baptist" and "Reformed Baptist" and "Free Will Baptist" are denominations The more you narrow it down, the more agreement you get. What you're doing is trying to compare a single visible instituitional entity with a movement, eg. Protestantism, and then you reason from there to denominations. These are hardly convertible.

Also, in Baptist ecclesiology, the churches are all autonomous anyway, so to call out Baptistery as you do simply begs the question in favor of non-Baptist ecclesiology.

Try this with Presbyterians. It isn't enough to call out "Presbyterians." "Presbyterianism" is a category. The PCA and OPC are denominations.

So, how much deviation is required before we cross the threshold? How do you know, Anonymous, how much deviation is okay and how much is not? Apparently, it must be a good bit for you not to be concerned that just over 1/2 of the young people surveyed believe in it.

Of course, any argument you offer will have to take a look @ the clergy too, since the ultimate infallibility of the Church as a whole will wind up in the teaching office. I wonder, how has modern biblical criticism affected Rome's view of the authorship of Scripture? How about Liberation Theology's long holiday in South America?

What we will find in this thread,of course, is that laypersons like "Anonymous" are usually more conservative than the clergy on these things, but that is, of course utterly irrelevant in Catholic ecclesiology, since the laity are routinely ignored.

Anonymous said...

"What we will find in this thread,of course, is that laypersons like "Anonymous" are usually more conservative than the clergy on these things, but that is, of course utterly irrelevant in Catholic ecclesiology, since the laity are routinely ignored."

Thanks for the lesson in Catholic governance. It's a good thing you're an expert, eh?

Anonymous said...

"A category error since "Baptist" and "Reformed Baptist" and "Free Will Baptist" are denominations The more you narrow it down, the more agreement you get."


This is just another way of saying Baptists are in chaos, as each "denomination" came about because the original "denomination" couldn't survive for more than a few decades without splitting to the point of schism.

Even so, take just one of these "denominations" which is nothing more than another splinter of the reformation and it won't hold up compared with itself in the same city over the last century as well as the Catholic Church does over the last 16 centuries.



"Try this with Presbyterians. It isn't enough to call out "Presbyterians." "Presbyterianism" is a category. The PCA and OPC are denominations."

By all means do so.

Even so, what disqualifies Baptists? You say "Also, in Baptist ecclesiology, the churches are all autonomous anyway" which is simply another way to say that they are in chaos.

Sorry Gene, no sale. If you want to claim "protestant unity" is unity because you have many thousands of churches each having 16 clergy teaching the same thing, well hey, go ahead, but I won;t buy it.

Anonymous said...

"How about Liberation Theology's long holiday in South America?"

Liberation theology is absolutely condemned by the authority of the Church and has been. Your strawman is showing.

Isn't excommunication and sanction good enough for you? Are you getting nostalgic for a good heretic burning? (Calvin knew how to roast a heritic as well as any inqusition-era politico.)

Anonymous said...

“go to 100 Catholic Churches, gather 500 people at random and ask them what are the roles of scripture, clergy, grace and the sacraments, then do the same with 100 Reformed Baptist churches and see what happens. There isn't a person reading this that does not know that the former group would be nearly homogeneous compared with the latter which would sport as many theories as a 9/11 Truther symposium.”

In response to these assertions on Catholic "unity", I am providing the following excerpts from surveys published on Catholic websites..."


Note that Carrie does not cite the percentage of people who claim to be Catholic and actually attend Mass at least on a weekly basis as the basis of the survey.

I said "go to 100 Catholic Churches, [and] gather 500 people at random..." in short, get people who actually go to church: not Aunt Edna whose grandmother was Catholic but except for Christmas and Easter every other year hasn't been to Church since her baptism. Of the "Catholics" cited in the poll most were not actually practicing Catholics by their own admission. Strawman again noted.


Ask 5000 randomly-selected ACTUALLY PRACTICING Catholics from anywhere to explain baptism and see how much the answers vary. Add to that a single clergy member to answer any questions that they would have and the variety of answers would deflate to a statistical handful.

On the other hand, ask 5000 random practicing Baptist (Southern, Reformed, Free will, Evangelical, Plaid, or whatever "denomination"), from one US state to explain baptism and you you'll have a fair chance of getting hundreds of different opinions. Add to that a single clergy member to settle any questions that they would have and the number of various answers would hardly decrease; and you might get a handful of people calling for the clergyman's head for good measure.

You know it. I know it. Why pretend otherwise?

GeneMBridges said...

This is just another way of saying Baptists are in chaos, as each "denomination" came about because the original "denomination" couldn't survive for more than a few decades without splitting to the point of schism.


An utterly ahistorical characterization of Baptist history.

Baptists were originally divided into Particulars and Generals. They survived for more than a few decades. The two gradually blended, and now the Particulars have begun separating again. How is this "disunity" in a "denomination?" "Baptists" are not a "denomination" they are movement/.

You might want to pick up a book on Baptist history before parading your ignorance for the world to see. Of course, it is easy to do that when you hide by the name "Anonymous." If you are going to call people's errors out, why don't you come into the light and do so like Scripture teaches, or is this
reflective of your low view of Scripture?

You say "Also, in Baptist ecclesiology, the churches are all autonomous anyway" which is simply another way to say that they are in chaos.

Au contrare, you can't seem to follow your own arguments. You are alleging disarray in a "denomination" by imposing your standards upon theirs without supporting argument, but if the churches are independent of each other and have their own confessional standards, and on topo this, your own epologists count independent churches, not just aggregates of them as "denominations", then the argument fails at the critical point of comparison, since you are comparing Baptistery to one single allegedly unified institutional church.

Liberation theology is absolutely condemned by the authority of the Church and has been. Your strawman is showing.

That hasn't stopped its proliferation in South America among Roman Catholic clergy. Your ignorance is showing.

If you're going to make that argument, we can say that the SBC's confessional authority has condemned the churches following after CBF doctrines. So, based on your own logic, Baptists are not in disarray.

And notice that "Anonymous" has yet to tell us what the threshold is for an acceptable amount of error.

He also walks right by his own failed argument, for, if true, it would mean that Arianism and Modalism in 49 percent of the young people is not a sign of schism. Read carefully: Anonymous, allegedly a good Catholic who affirms the Nicene Creed does not think that dissent from Orthodox Trinitarianism is problematic enough to think are signs of major schism. What sort of disagreements, if not that one, would be such a sign?

I'll take his nonresponsiveness as tacit admission that my reply was successful and his argument was a failure.

Sorry Gene, no sale. If you want to claim "protestant unity" is unity because you have many thousands of churches each having 16 clergy teaching the same thing, well hey, go ahead, but I won;t buy it.

Of course, this is not my claim at all. This your tendentious misrepresentation. Rather, we deny that "unity" is to be found in Scripture in reference to a single, visible, ecclesiastical community or institution. Further,the claim is not that we are in a superior position, but that yours is not superior, rather they are @ an epistemic par.

GeneMBridges said...


Note that Carrie does not cite the percentage of people who claim to be Catholic and actually attend Mass at least on a weekly basis as the basis of the survey.


In Catholic theology does one have to do this in order to be considered a Roman Catholic? Was the original argument about only "practicing Catholics" that attend mass @ least once a week? Where was this in the original post? Carrie is only bound to reply to the original argument.

100 Catholic Churches, [and] gather 500 people at random..." in short, get people who actually go to church:

Did your original claim include going to Mass at least once a week? Notice that Anonymous is coming back to Carrie, now s/he is coming back with armloads of caveats not in the original. This is an admission that his original argument has failed.

On the other hand, ask 5000 random practicing Baptist (Southern, Reformed, Free will, Evangelical, Plaid, or whatever "denomination"), from one US state to explain baptism and you you'll have a fair chance of getting hundreds of different opinions.

Really? Do you have statistics to back this up? Done a survey of Reformed Baptists that faithfully attend their churches?

Why should we do this when the confessional standards vary? John Piper's church has a confession for the elders and another, broader one for the members. Since they are prepared to accept members who, for example, are not Calvinists, should we conclude that their congregation is "disunited" if includes Calvinists and non-Calvinists? Is a right belief in the meaning of baptism necessary for salvation? Necessary for "unity?"

Define "unity." Who is "Anonymous" to impose this standard on Bethlehem Baptist Church? What he does is impose an artificial, unargued apriori definition from his own communion onto another and then castigate it for allegedly not measuring up to his standard.

Add to that a single clergy member to answer any questions that they would have and the variety of answers would deflate to a statistical handful.

Yes, we can take a look at the variety of answers we might get on some things, like, let's say, the traditional authorship attributions of the books of the NT, it is no "statistical handful" that embraces higher critical theory.

Anonymous said...

"You say "Also, in Baptist ecclesiology, the churches are all autonomous anyway" which is simply another way to say that they are in chaos.

Au contrare, you can't seem to follow your own arguments. You are alleging disarray in a "denomination"

No, I point out that you claim by definition that at least any given Baptist "denominations" isnothing more than a chaotic mix of whatever they want themselves to be. Thus goes the swan song of sola scriptura as it must be sung: "o sola mio." Every pew can contain its own church and every man is the pope.

But fortunately, we don’t need to guess who is actually right among the many thousands of Baptist congregations that will-nilly define their own "right." We can let Rhology be the judge, since tells us that the sign of a Christian is that he understands scripture rightly. As a self-proclaimed Christian, he therefore must be in the know; and we can rest assured that his take is the "right" one. Let's see who passes the white throne judgment of Rhology? How much do you wanna bet that between Gene, Carrie, James and Rholology you could not find agreement on even the five points of Calvinism?

Rhology said...

Let's see who passes the white throne judgment of Rhology?

I don't understand these references to me or my "judgment". Unless you can point out where I've set this attitude out towards my Sola Scripturist brethren, these are just baseless cheap shots.

Albert said...

Anonymous: You'll continue to pretend otherwise, but you know full well that if the sort of disunity in teaching that exists in let's say all the Baptist churches in Dallas Texas vs. all of the Catholic Churches worldwide from the 4th century on, there is no comparison.

Albert: You are also making a false comparison. The Christian Churches of the 4th century did not know that the bishop of Rome was infallible when he spoke ex cathedra. They also did not know that the assumption of Mary was a dogma. And we all know that Papal Infallibility and the Assumption are dogmas. You cannot be a faithful Roman Catholic if you don't believe these.

Anonumous: On the other hand, ask 5000 random practicing Baptist (Southern, Reformed, Free will, Evangelical, Plaid, or whatever "denomination"), from one US state to explain baptism and you you'll have a fair chance of getting hundreds of different opinions. Add to that a single clergy member to settle any questions that they would have and the number of various answers would hardly decrease; and you might get a handful of people calling for the clergyman's head for good measure.

Albert: As far as I know, Baptists unanimously believe that baptism is for believers only and by immersion only. Getting hundreds of different opinions is an impossibility since you are referring to PRACTICING Baptists.

kmerian said...

Well, I guess I should jump in. I do apologize if it seems I am goalpost shifting. But, my original point was that there is a core set of beliefs laid out in the RCC. Now, I am not denying that there are a lot of people in the pews on Sunday who don't agree with those core beliefs.

This is a problem in every church.

To me, your post shows the poor teaching of the church. Perhaps we Catholics do overplay the unity thing a bit too much. In theory we are far more unified in Protestants, in practice, well....

Rhology said...

Kmerian,

On that, I agree 100%. Props to you.

Carrie said...

To me, your post shows the poor teaching of the church. Perhaps we Catholics do overplay the unity thing a bit too much. In theory we are far more unified in Protestants, in practice, well....

Kudos for your honesty, kmerian.

If we can get rid of the illegitimate arguments we can focus in on the important stuff.

Ree said...

First, our bold apologist known as "anonymous," claims that "there is a core set of beliefs (dogmas) that all catholics believe."

Then, when Carrie shows otherwise, he shifts his claim to say that, "Catholic unity in teaching across all churches and rites compares better than most protestant teaching across a single denomination in a single town usually does."

Notice, he's shifted from what Catholics believe to what the Catholic churches teach.

Then, when Rhology points out the proliferation of liberation theology throughout South America, anonymous shifts again when he says, "Liberation theology is absolutely condemned by the authority of the Church and has been."

So now, he's no more saying that Catholic churches are teaching a unified doctrine, but rather, that infallible doctrine exists. (Big deal--Protestants believe that too. We just disagree on where it can be found.)

At this point in his argument, it doesn't matter if true RC doctrine is taught in local churches and it doesn't matter whether church members accept and believe "true Catholic doctrine." Anonymous's so-called Catholic unity has quickly disintegrated before our eyes. This so-called Catholic doctrinal unity is nothing but a chimera.

We know it and he knows it.

Rhology said...

Ree said:
when Rhology points out the proliferation of liberation theology in South America...

Yeah, and what about that time when GeneMBridges said the same thing?!?!?!?!? ;-)

Ree said...

Oops, sorry. Did he say it first? Oh well. I trust he won't mind.

Anonymous said...

"I'll take his nonresponsiveness as tacit admission that my reply was successful and his argument was a failure. "

OK. That is one of the dumbest things I've ever read. I'm actyually dumber for having read it.kmkas

Anonymous said...

"First, our bold apologist known as "anonymous," claims that "there is a core set of beliefs (dogmas) that all catholics believe."

Then, when Carrie shows otherwise, he shifts his claim to say that, "Catholic unity in teaching across all churches and rites compares better than most protestant teaching across a single denomination in a single town usually does."

Notice, he's shifted from what Catholics believe to what the Catholic churches teach. "
-------------------

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT! I never said "there is a core set of beliefs (dogmas) that all catholics believe." Wrong number.

Anonymous said...

"Then, when Rhology points out the proliferation of liberation theology throughout South America, anonymous shifts again when he says, "Liberation theology is absolutely condemned by the authority of the Church and has been."


Ummmmmm huh? Liberation theology is condemned, and did not get a "free ride." as claimed. I asked before, isn't excommunication and sanction good enough for you? What do you want, that after these people have by their own free will removed themselves from the Church that the Church chase them down and execute them?

PeaceByJesus said...

I know this is an old post, but i just came across it and have a large compilation of stats as re Roman Catholicism and Evangelicals: doctrinal and moral/political views