An interesting poll shows that Catholics are less devout than others. Or does it? Let’s look at some of the statistics:
Of the dozen faith-oriented behaviors tested, Catholics strayed from the norm in relation to eight of the 12 items. Specifically, the typical Catholic person donated about 17% less money to churches; was 38% less likely than the average American to read the Bible; 67% less likely to attend a Sunday school class; 20% less likely to share their faith in Christ with someone who had different beliefs; 24% less likely to say their religious faith has greatly transformed their life; and were 36% less likely to have an “active faith,” which Barna defined as reading the Bible, praying and attending a church service during the prior week. However, Catholics were 16% more likely than the norm to attend a church service and 8% more likely to have prayed to God during the prior week.
As for donations to Churches, many Catholics are poor, and it’s a significant deviation from the other mainstream American religions, mainly because of the demographics. More Catholics are Hispanic (or Chicano, or Central American). And many of the immigrant class are poorer than other classes. In fact, most immigrants coming to the US from Europe or Mexico, and especially the poor, give less than Protestant denominations, and mainly because those denominations have more built-in wealth.
Catholics do not read the Bible as much as others. I know why it is. The Bible is part of the Catholic faith, but it is the beginning of faith, not the all-encompassing pillar of faith. Many Catholics read Catholic authors, or biographies of saints. Many explore the Catechism or other works. As we do not devote ourselves to Sola Scriptora, we have other vehicles by which to express our beliefs. Interestingly, this blows up the “active faith” question of the poll.
Those who do not preach the Bible prefer to do works of charity and convert through example rather than preaching. I share my faith when asked, but I primarily “preach” through good works, a sense of justice and a respect for morality. I do not carry a Bible around and thump people on the head with it.
Also, many Catholics are life-long Catholics, so to say faith “transformed” their lives is an odd question. I would say faith hasn’t transformed my life because I believe faith has always been an integral part of my life. The semantics of the question give misleading results, which are revealed in the last two questions.
But, as a Catholic, there’s something I’m noticing– the priests are getting older and sparser, especially those from Western populations. I’ve met a few younger priests, and I feel sorry for them, simply because of the enormous workload they are being presented with. Why do we have less Catholics going to mass and going to the priesthood?
I think the answer lies in the nature of Catholicism. Since Vatican II, the Church has become very “familiar”. Masses are conducted in local languages. The laity has a greater role in the Church. Even women are involved in Masses. But the biggest change is the intellectualization of the Catholic populace.
Many Catholics are better educated in America. We’ve gone to better schools and we’ve gone to college. Our call has been to various industries, and we examine our religion with the eyes of a scholar rather than the eyes of the faithful. This sea change gives two groups– the intellectually faithful, and those who are not.
Take Mark Shea, for example. Or Scott Hahn. Or the Anchoress. All three are Catholic scholars (although Mark and the Anchoress might argue with me about that). All three have taken the time to examine their faith, deeply, and gather it about them in an intellectual sense that helps shape their thinking, living, and communicating. I’d like to think I’m a Catholic scholar as well as I find a perfect harmony between Catholicism and science. Visit Cartago del Est or even One Cosmos.
And now, find the other Catholics who have not taken the time to study. They find conflicts with their religion and what they believe. There’s an inner conflict, but they’ve been overtaken with other concerns and haven’t had the time to sit back, relax, pray, and enjoy their faith. When I put the pieces of science together and saw God’s hand in it all, it was a beautiful revelation. People who think that the religious must believe in a literal Creation don’t understand what the Creation story is actually conveying. Everything is literal, which is a folly in how religion is presented. It doesn’t take much to stop, shut yourself down for a moment, stop running to event B from event A, and just be. Let God in, find peace, and rediscover your faith.
The big problem with intellectualism and faith is that modern intellectuals believe that faith is for the stupid. Many subscribe to the Marxian idea that religion in the opiate of the masses. I know many intellectuals who are atheists, agnostics, or non-practicing religious, and frankly I find them angry and misdirected. Many put their faith into politics (right, bobak?). They put their faith into man instead of God and they are disappointed again and again.
I remember when Clinton was doing his “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” thing. You could just see the fear, the disappointment in the faces of the people. They had so much riding on this great man that they were literally shattered when they discovered he was a weak human prone to vices, lying, and political wheeling and dealing, just like everyone else.
Intellectuals who believe in the ideals of men instead of higher ideals often become jaded. What’s worse is the gloating when someone of ideals is found to have vices. How often do we hear the cry of hypocrite? But for those who lose their faith in the political system they are left without something to believe in other than their family, so they focus on their family. Many rediscover their faith when they get older, something that comes when the children leave the house. (I guess it’s from praying for the funds to pay for college.)
The intellectualizing of the Church is also something heralded by the Vatican. John Paul II wrote many documents on religion. Pope Benedict was an instructor on religion and has been involved in the dogma of the Catholic faith to a huge degree. (You wouldn’t know it to read the press releases, however, as the labored points of Benedict are reduced to a sound byte devoid of any of the information of the statement.) Many local priests are scholars, and their sermons involve history, faith, and religious orientation. What they have to battle, however, is the misinformation and moral relativism of the current culture which relies on shoddy intellectual principles. For those who do not attend Church or study religious works, the Catholic Church is archaic. They think the Church is about No Sex & No Fun, when in reality it’s something that is quite fun. How can people think the Church thinks sex is a sin when Catholic families are have 8 or 9 children?!
Most of the problem is the laziness of the current Catholic. No questions are asked. No books are examined. No Bible studies are attended. Instead it’s what they think Catholicism is about instead of actually learning what Catholicism is about. As a result they apply faulty reasoning and assumptions to Catholic doctrine and get caught up in the erroneous perceptions with which the media paints the Catholic faith.
Will this change in the future? Perhaps. Young people today are having a very quiet revolution. Less are having sex, more are having protected sex, and more are rebelling against the culture of liberal idealism of their parents. Does that mean they are more open to religion? Are they more open to exploring Catholicism? Perhaps. Only time will tell.