Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pew Report on the "Francis Effect" on U.S. Catholic Church as First-Year Anniversary of Papal Election Comes and Goes

Some solid empirical data on what the "Francis effect" is accomplishing in the U.S. Catholic church up to now: the Pew Research Center recently released a report of a survey it conducted in February, as the first-year anniversary of Francis's papacy approached. Michael Lipka has summarized the report (here) in an executive statement. Its unsurprising findings:

While 71% of those interviewed see Francis as a major change for the church (one for the better), the percentage of Catholics attending Mass weekly remains stuck at 40%. The survey also finds no evidence at all of more involvement of Catholics in volunteer work for their parishes or the wider community, and no evidence at all that Catholics are returning to confession as a result of a "Francis effect." 

The graphic at the head of the posting summarizes what the survey found about Catholic attitudes or beliefs regarding the key issues of birth control, allowing priests to marry, ordination of women, and same-sex marriage: 

• 77% of Catholics think the church should endorse the use of artificial contraception; 56% expect this to happen by 2050. 
• 72% think the church should permit priests to marry; 51% expect this to happen by 2050. 
• 68% want the church to allow ordination of women; 42% expect this to happen by 2050. 
• 50% think the church should recognize same-sex marriages; 36% believe this will happen by 2050.

As Rebel Girl notes at Igelsia Descalza, though only a third of U.S. Catholic dioceses chose to poll the faithful on these and other issues in preparation for the upcoming Synod on the Family, and though the U.S. bishops appear uninterested in reporting to lay Catholics what such surveys as they conducted tell us about the actual beliefs of lay Catholics, the Pew report leaves us in no doubt about where American Catholics stand on these issues. 

As she also notes, the percentage of respondents stating that they think the church should recognize same-sex marriages is lower than the percentage of Catholics supporting same-sex civil marriage in other surveys because the question asked in this Pew survey is whether the church should recognize same-sex marriages. The question made no distinction between civil and sacramental marriage.

And so it goes . . . the Francis effect on American Catholicism, as the first-year anniversary of Francis's election to the papacy comes and goes.

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