Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Survey on Catholic "Unity"

(larger view of table above)


A 1999 survey by National Catholic Reporter on American Catholic Beliefs (note, some of the beliefs are required dogma).

"The purpose of inquiring into Catholic identity is to describe more precisely this aspect of the actual lived faith of Catholics, which may or may not fit exactly with official teachings. All religious groups have elements of popular religion that develop among the faithful. The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed that the sensus fidelium -- the sense of the faithful -- is important.

Anyone investigating Catholic identity soon finds that being a Catholic has many possible facets. The Catholic tradition is old, rich, variegated, and for some, bewildering. There are saints, social reformers, relics, mystics, spiritual virtuosi, devotions, obligations, art forms, institutional rules and hundreds of moral teachings. What are the most central and the most important facets? What most defines what being a Catholic really means?"

"The table also shows attitudes broken down in three levels of education. Catholics with different levels of education differ on only two of the six ratings. On the fourth, concerning Mary, the Mother of God, the most educated Catholics have a lower rating than the others; the difference between the most and least educated groups is 16 percentage points. And on the sixth, concerning the teaching authority claimed by the Vatican, the most educated Catholics have a much lower rating than the others...[only 28% of those with a college degree said "the teaching authority claimed by the Vatican" is very important to them.]

Here is an indication of trends in the future. Since educational levels among American Catholics are steadily increasing, we may expect future Catholics to resemble the more educated Catholics today. Probably future Catholics will attach less importance to devotion to Mary and to church authority."

(23% of Catholics polled believe a person could be a good Catholic and not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. 38% of Catholics polled believe a person could be a good Catholic and not believe in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist. 77% of Catholics polled believe a person could be a good Catholic and not go to Mass every Sunday. 72% of Catholics polled believe a person could be a good Catholic “without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on birth control".)

27 comments:

Kepha said...

So, Catholics have an infallible teaching authority (i.e., popes and councils he approves) but still lack unity, but because they stay within the Catholic institution they are better off than Protestants?

Albert said...

That's bad news. The Bible says that the resurrection of The Lord is essential to the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). One cannot call himself Christian while denying the reality of the resurrection.

Randy said...

Liberal Catholics exist. So what? Lots of people in protestant churches disbelieve their own churches teaching. So what? All that matter is whether the teaching is true or not. If it is then we follow it even if that makes us a minority. Jesus said there would be wheat and tares.

Are we better off than protestants? Is the teaching is true? That makes us way better off because we know where to find the truth. Protestants have chosen a version of the truth that they think is close but they really don't know.

The other point of unity is common sacraments and common leadership. The most liberal Catholic can be in my parish and we can get along. Why? We both accept leadership from the same priest, bishop, and pope. We can break bread together and be 1000 times more united than protestants from denominations that are very close in doctrine. Jesus' plan for unity works(Mt18:18). The protestant plan has failed and failed and failed for 500 years.

Albert said...

Randy: The other point of unity is common sacraments and common leadership. The most liberal Catholic can be in my parish and we can get along. Why? We both accept leadership from the same priest, bishop, and pope. We can break bread together and be 1000 times more united than protestants from denominations that are very close in doctrine. Jesus' plan for unity works(Mt18:18). The protestant plan has failed and failed and failed for 500 years.

Me: You and the MOST liberal Catholic can't be united. He does not believe the "essentials" Roman Catholics ought to believe.

Carrie said...

but because they stay within the Catholic institution they are better off than Protestants?

According to Randy, the answer is "yes".

Anonymous said...

Nice employment of a double-standard, Randy. Either disagreements over doctrine invalidate a rule of faith or they do not. A typical Catholic criticism of Protestantism is the 'tragedy of denominations'. The claim is that as Sola Scriptura leads to division, whereas Catholics are united. Therefore, the argument goes, Sola Scriptura is invalid as a rule of faith because it leads to disunity.

But when we get a look behind the curtain - Catholics have as much disagreement over doctrine as any other denomination(s). Again, disagreement either invalidates a rule of faith or it does not. The reality is that Catholicism offers no epistemic advantage over Protestantism. At least not one that can be proven.

Randy said...

You folks confuse unity with doctrinal agreement. We can disagree on doctrine and still be in one church. Even if we disagree on essentials we can make it work. If the church has not seen fit to excommunicate a person then I need to respect that. Are they better off than protestants? I can't say. God will judge them both. I am not asked or even permitted to do that.

On a practical level it works. We can be the body of Christ together. We can serve the poor. We can worship. We can run a parish. We can do it side by side while disagreeing on what the church calls essentials.

I can suggest people who believe false doctrines should not be allowed to communion but if the church does not agree I need to accept that. They are much more hesitant to take such steps than the protestant church I was in. It is hard to get used to.

Still I would not accept that we lack unity. They know their belief is out of step with the church. They are living a contradiction. I could not do that but apparently they can. Still they have decided not to break with the church of Jesus and the church has decided not to break with them. The church warns them that their dissent could cost them their eternal soul. They ignore that at their peril.

Anonymous said...

Randy said: On a practical level it works. We can be the body of Christ together. We can serve the poor. We can worship. We can run a parish. We can do it side by side while disagreeing on what the church calls essentials.

So where's the vaunted 'unity'? It turns out, according to Randy, that 'unity' doesn't refer to aggreement on the Salvific nature of baptism, the Real Presence, the number of sacraments, or even the physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ. No, according to Randy, worshipping together and helping the poor constitutes real unity.

Throw in a church yard sale and a potluck supper and call it the Unitarian Church.

Rhology said...

The definition of "unity" within RCC all depends on the counterclaim being made at the moment.

If the claim is doctrinal, then folks like Randy say You folks confuse unity with doctrinal agreement. We can disagree on doctrine and still be in one church.

If the claim is institutional, they point their fingers and jeer that "we" "Protestants" have too much disunity to have a say in the discussion. Double standards.

Rhology said...

We can do it side by side while disagreeing on what the church calls essentials.

That sounds a TON like my SBC church and the OPC, PCA, and Bible churches down the road! Who knew!

Carrie said...

Catechism of St Pius says:

14 Q: Why is the Church called One?
A: The true Church is called One, because her children of all ages and places are united together in the same faith, in the same worship, in the same law; and in participation of the same Sacraments, under the same visible Head, the Roman Pontiff.


Perhaps we need the RC definition of "same"?

The "true Church" is "one" simply because they all congregate together (on some Sundays since that is optional in the minds of the majority) under the same roof even "while disagreeing on what the church calls essentials".

Locational Unity.

Randy said...

The point is doctrinal unity is required only insofar as what we as church are going to confess and teach as truth. All Catholics agree on that. So we can get beyond it. We don't need every memember to agree on every detail. We just need every member to agree that this is the faith of the church and the church must conduct itself according to those truths. They do that. It is a double-mindedness that I don't quite understand but it does allow the church to work. Personally, I had to accept what the church teaches as true before I could join. I just can't digest contradictions.

The problem many churches have with this is they vote. They vote on what is true doctrine and what isn't. Our church elected elders and voted pastors in and out. Then some pastors and elders went to synod and decided doctrine. Things like women in office and gay marriage would be decided there. To allow people who disagree on essentials to remain in the church means they can vote. That means they can change any doctrine.

In the Catholic church that cannot happen. We don't decide doctrine by majority vote. The church can say something is wrong even when the majority don't agree. That is as it should be. God's truth does not depend on people's opinions. So the church can afford to be less agressive in getting rid of dissenters.

The truth is if it were up to me I would push doctrine harder. That is a matter of judgement for the bishops and pope and they have chosen to be quite patient. They are getting stricter over time and I am happy to see that.

The point is it works far better than you imagine. Liberals rarely accept poverty, celibacy, and obedience so the clergy are very conservative. The pope chooses very orthodox priests to become bishops. The catechism is there to insure nobody can teach heresy. You don't need everyone to be like-minded. You need the truth to be clear. Some people obey and some will not. God will judge them on that day.

Anonymous said...

Locational Unity

I'm pretty sure that every church provides that. You don't even have to be Catholic....

kmerian said...

Just because someone considers themselves a "good catholic" doesn't mean they are. I would like to see similar surveys done in other denominations.

That there is a lack of teaching and firmness in the Catholic Church is true. Too many have become concerned with filling the pews rather than preaching the truth.

Liberalism is everywhere in American society. This survey is just more proof of that.

Rhology said...

We don't decide doctrine by majority vote.

The Assumption of the BVMary wasn't?
Papal infallibility?
The abundance of Liberation theology in C and S America?

God's truth does not depend on people's opinions.

Which is why we're fond of Sola Scriptura.

Liberals rarely accept poverty, celibacy, and obedience so the clergy are very conservative.

Then why the abundance of liberal clergy and writers in the RC hierarchy? Hans Kung? Raymond Brown?

Peace,
Rhology

Anonymous said...

dwfThe truly "telling" feature in this "survey of Catholics" is that 80% said that they could be good Catholics while not going to weekly Mass, which any Catholic knows is a mortal sin. In short, this is yet another survey of "Catholics" who are more accurately called "former Catholics" or "non-practicing Catholics" who want "good Catholic" to mean "me," and answer accordingly. Ask these same questions of practicing Catholics and we all know that the uniformity would be striking.

Strwaman again noted.

Anonymous said...

"The abundance of Liberation theology in C and S America?"

This is getting to the "sola ecclesia" level of rudeness. You've already been informed that liberation Theology is outright condemned. Please stop your slander.

Carrie said...

Strawman again noted.

So you are saying that Catholics who do not attend Mass every week are not truly Catholic? Are they under excommunication? Can you provide proof of that?

Carrie said...

We don't decide doctrine by majority vote.

I assume you mean majority vote amongst laity.

Some doctrine is decided by majority vote of bishops during a council.

Randy said...

We don't decide doctrine by majority vote.

The Assumption of the BVMary wasn't?
Papal infallibility?

Not sure I follow here. These were proclaimed by the pope in one case and an eccumenical council in the other. How does that translate into a majority vote?

The abundance of Liberation theology in C and S America?
This is actually denied by the church. So this would be an example of a popular theology being rejected.

God's truth does not depend on people's opinions.

Which is why we're fond of Sola Scriptura.
Yes, but in the final analysis there comes a vote. Voting on morality is a crazy notion but Sola Scriptora gives you no other choice.

Liberals rarely accept poverty, celibacy, and obedience so the clergy are very conservative.

Then why the abundance of liberal clergy and writers in the RC hierarchy? Hans Kung? Raymond Brown?

There are some liberal priests. Still the priesthood is vastly more orthodox than the laity. Certainly much moreso that the theologians. Still Brown and Kung were never made bishops. No mystery why. Bishops are yet more orthodox than the priests. The younger bishops are even stronger.

Randy said...

By majority vote I mean the kind of scenario where the same issue comes up over and over again. Bishops do vote on things at a council. When they come to a strong consensus and the pope ratifies it then we have a doctrine we can trust. It won't be overturned when public opinion changes.

Anonymous said...

"So you are saying that Catholics who do not attend Mass every week are not truly Catholic? Are they under excommunication? Can you provide proof of that?"

First of all, excommunication does not remove you from the Catholic Church. I point out that the survey does not question PRACTICING Catholics. There is a sense in which you remain a Catholic, whether you know it or not--especially as a baptized and believing Christian.

It is a matter of cannon law and (as even you should know being an ex-Catholic) is a mortal sin to intentionally avoid weekly Mass. Such "Catholics" who do so are no more or less "Catholic" than you are. Would you put stock in a survey conducted among "Catholics" that you qualify to be called "Catholic" as much as any Bishop?

This is a strawman. You might be having fun setting it up and knocking it down, but it's not the Church you're thrashing about.

Anonymous said...

"I point out that the survey does not question PRACTICING Catholics."

That was wrong. What I meant was that 80 percent of the people in the survey you cite were not PRACTICING Catholics by definition.

Go to an actual Mass and surver the people on theior way out and see what you get in results. The agreement among such taken from around the world would eclips what you'd get from one denomination in one modest-sized Amrican city.

You know it. I know it. Even the strawman knows it, and he doesn't have a brain. :-)

TJW said...

I'm an ‘ex-Catholic’ and don't find Randy’s arguments very convincing, nor do I find Carrie’s either. People aren't excommunicated for sinning or being ignorant. There are people that self-identify as Catholic at a purely social level. That is going to skew any survey results in a way that other denominations do not experience (save for religions like Judaism where they have cultural and ethnic Jews versus ‘religious’ Jews).

Even the Protestant critics here know full well that the vast majority of individuals in these surveys are disregarding a significant number of essential Catholic beliefs. It is disingenuous of them to imply that the diversity of belief shown in this survey is somehow the product of doctrinal, rather than practical, disunity.

I am not sure what the response of the RCC should be to these people. Perhaps they believe that as these people age they will eventually become more orthodox and that aggressive attempts by the church to disassociate them would simply drive them away permanently. I’m not going to come up with a bunch of excuses for them but it is a complex matter, more complex that some here make it out to be. I do know that the RC concept of church membership is more akin to citizenship in a nation than to membership of a club so they tend to treat removal from the church as a far more dire consequence than Protestants do, so maybe that explains part of it.

I do, though, think that the Protestants here have a valid point when they question the rhetoric of those RC's that over-simplify the issue of unity. All Catholicism can do is provide a clear basis for doctrinal unity. Even I, as a non-member of the church, am far more capable of determining the RC position on the issue of, say, salvation, is than determining what the bible alone would demand that I conclude (I find many of the arguments given by different Protestant groups to be convincing or at the very least within the scope of reason, but obviously they all can't be right - but I can find no basis for choosing among them).

The problem of social/nominal Roman Catholicism is surely one that won't be cured by fundamentalist style 'preaching' or mass excommunications. But it is something that needs to be explained and understood because clearly these individuals are in a comfortable 'limbo' that I as an agnostic, and surely the Protestants and Catholics here as theists, agree is unsatisfactory. These people are being dishonest with themselves by identifying themselves as RC but ignoring the RCC teachings on practically everything.

Carrie said...

Go to an actual Mass and surver the people on theior way out and see what you get in results.

Okay, I'll do that at the next Christmas or Easter mass.


It is a matter of cannon law and (as even you should know being an ex-Catholic) is a mortal sin to intentionally avoid weekly Mass. Such "Catholics" who do so are no more or less "Catholic" than you are.

Then why does the Catholic Church count members by number of baptisms? Shouldn't they be polling the members to see if they agree 100% with all doctrinen (and attend mass every week) or disqualify them? Are priests polling the members before giving them the Eucharist? Shouldn't the confessional lines be out the door with 80% of your members in mortal sin!

You guys just can't seem to get the point. The Catholic apologist says that Prots have no unity because we have different denominations that disagree on non-essentials. But your own Church is full of people who not only disagree with non-essentials, but disagree with clear dogma.

Now you want to toss out all from your membership who are not "practicing" according to your criteria - can I not do the same? All Prots who don't agree on a list of essentials are not Prots. Done. Unity established.

A little honesty with regard to the unsustainable Catholic e-pologist argument would go a long way here. The only strawman floating around here is the one built by your own fellow e-pologists (unless they have missed a mass intentionally, then I'm not sure what their relation is to you).

Anonymous said...

Go to an actual Mass and surver the people on theior way out and see what you get in results.

Okay, I'll do that at the next Christmas or Easter mass.


Enough said. Q.E.D.

Anonymous said...

"Now you want to toss out all from your membership who are not "practicing..."

Carrie, any poll of "Catholics" that would have to include you as a "Catholic" is a joke. You can take it seriously if you wish, but then you also seem to think "sola scriptura" is magically supported by scripture alone. I put even less stock in your ability to interpret flawed polls than in your ability to interpret scripture. Protestants are in chaos by their very nature. They affirm schism and discord as part of their reason for being. This is what "Protestant" essentially means: one who moves against another. Why should this disturb you? It's your identity.

I'm singularly unimpresed.