Archdiocese survey finds diverging views among area Catholics

The majority of Catholics responding to a survey by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee do not accept church teachings that ban artificial contraception or prohibit divorced and remarried members from receiving the sacraments.

They believe the church should permit same-sex unions. And they do not consider the church as the moral authority on issues related to the family.

Those are among the findings of a first-of-its-kind survey of area Catholics solicited by Pope Francis and posted last month on the archdiocese’s website.

The results of the survey, conducted at Francis’ behest by dioceses around the world, will provide the context for an extraordinary synod on marriage and the family planned by the Vatican for October.

The 1,300 respondents represent just a fraction of the 10-county archdiocese’s reported 600,000 members. And the results aren’t particularly surprising: They’re in sync with those in other U.S. dioceses that have made theirs public, and research has long suggested that Catholics mirror the broader society on many social issues.

But they do offer a glimpse of the pastoral challenges facing a church that has struggled to remain relevant in an increasingly secular society, where even many of its own members question — and at times flout — its fundamental doctrines.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki was unavailable for comment Wednesday, his first full day back after returning from a pilgrimage to Rome for the canonizations of the late Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.

Spokeswoman Julie Wolf called the results “arguably a bit of a shock to the system,” though she stressed in an email that the survey was not scientific and that the archdiocese had a short period in which to publish and promote it.

“There’s no doubt that there are people who question Catholic teaching,” said Wolf, who added that the primary responsibility of bishops is to teach, and that the survey “helps to clarify for the bishops what Catholics know and believe.”

“The bottom line is that the survey was a way to give voice to members of the church,” she said.

The Rev. David Cooper of St. Matthias Parish in Milwaukee, who heads the Association of United States Catholic Priests, said the results are hardly surprising.

“We’ve known this since 1969,” Cooper said. “Once (Pope) Paul VI declined to follow the advice of his own commission on family and sexuality, which called for changes, from that point forward, ever increasingly larger numbers of Catholics lost faith in the moral credibility of the teaching authority,”

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I read a few of the questions posted online. It seemed to me that the questions were directed at diocesan officials rather than individual Catholics. I really doubt whether this ‘survey’ was carried in the manner intended.

In any case, the article mentions 1,300 respondents, out of an archdiocese of 600,000. I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from this. A diocesan official says it was not a scientific survey.

The fact is, Church teaching on contraception, divorce, and same sex marriage will not be changing.

I have a bad taste in my mouth for surveys.
The only folks that ever seem to answer them are people with an axe to grind.
Also, surveys give people the impression that if enough people demand change, things will change.
They seldom, if ever do.
I find that surveys frustrate the people who really care, and upset the people who have already decided not to care.

We’re getting ready to have one at our parish. Consultants insist that we will get a feel for the “pulse” of the parish. We could just look around the table and say “well, what do you think?” LOL. I already know what the people who refuse to volunteer, enroll their children, or attend any Bible study, missions, or volunteer in any capacity think.
They think church needs to offer THEM more.
It doesn’t occur to them that they can make a parish more dynamic, spiritual, and effective in ministry. Nope. Leave that to someone else. Maybe the consultants, eh?

In response to several of these surveys I have heard individuals on the CAF and elsewhere point out that the number of respondents, relative to the overall population, invalidates the results of the survey.

While it would be nice if it were true, given the results, I don’t believe that’s a valid argument to make. Small sample sizes (not that these sample sizes are particularly small) can tell us things about a larger population if they are representative. That is, was the sample drawn at random so that its makeup reflects the overall makeup of the population.

In this case, we can criticize the respresentativeness of the population by claiming a biased response set. In other other words, those individuals who bothered to respond probably feel very strongly about these issues. As a result, the actual population is probably more in line with Church teaching.

However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern. I’m sure those orthodox individuals who agreed strongly with Church teachings also responded. The fact that they are a minority suggests that there are less individuals passionately in favor of Church teaching as opposed to those individuals passionately opposed. That’s cause for concern for everyone.

Spokeswoman Julie Wolf called the results "arguably a bit of a shock to the system,"

This strikes me as odd in that, even as later in the article Rev. David Cooper states that we’ve known this since 1969. If it truly is a shock to the system than it just speaks to the total inattention of the Bishops to the diocese in not realizing the sheep have left the fold. On the other hand, it may just be disingenuous to try to save face even though, as the former point suggests it just makes it look even worse.

In any case, survey’s are notoriously inaccurate although just by looking around I think it’s easy to see that this most likely is not far from the truth. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL has said much the same. The great apostasy is underway, for sure, but extrapolating doctrinal changes from this information is very problematic. A good read on this topic can be found here:

God bless,

I am just taking the diocese at its word that it did not conduct a scientific survey.

Survey or not, there’s no doubt that many Catholics are in at least informal apostasy from the Church. That’s a tragedy, because the only way our civilization has of reversing its decline will be a return to Catholic moral teachings.

And actually, the diocesan staff should know the diocese well enough to have answered the questions about the extent of that apostasy without even resorting to a partial survey.

Yes, that is why I was taken aback by that quote from the spokesperson.

Sadly, in many cases however, the staff as well is certainly part of the issue.

God bless,

Not to offend, but I think maybe orthodox Catholics have just been too trusting and accommodating in the face of the more progressively driven scattering among them for the last 50 years. Also, let’s face it, secular values are really hard to overcome or resist. We all have that weakness to a degree or another. (Get behind me Satan ;)) I honestly don’t know how it got to this point though, where most so indifferently just blow off Church basics. It feels like there are more liberal Protestants in the Church than Catholics, and not just among the laity. A small, more committed Church I think is very desirable. But I am not about to go around kicking people out; that’s a recipe for damnation. It’s a depressing mess, no doubt about it. I guess you just focus on your own faith … that’s what will get you through it no matter what happens … :o:(

I took the survey myself and it was offered exactly the way they indicated in this article. My parish bulletin gave me the url and I went there, printed out the questions, composed my answers and then returned to the website to type them in. It was NOT a scientific survey as anyone could fill it out. It was more of a sample of beliefs of those who felt strongly enough to complete the survey.

The survey itself was extremely detailed and unlike any other I gave taken. It was only 10-12 questions, but each of them was like an essay question on a college exam. It was quite difficult to complete. (My hubby quit after a couple of questions.) I had expected a multiple-choice sort of survey, but this was nothing like that.

As far as what changes can occur, there is this quote from the link the OP gave:

“The archbishop has pretty much said that everything is on the table, but there are some things he can’t impact — like same-sex marriage or women or married priests — because of church teaching,” she said.

I am eager to see what comes of it all!

“We’ve known this since 1969,” Cooper said. “Once (Pope) Paul VI declined to follow the advice of his own commission on family and sexuality, which called for changes, from that point forward, ever increasingly larger numbers of Catholics lost faith in the moral credibility of the teaching authority,”

Well, at least it’s not this huge shock, which suggests they’ve been paying attention. :shrug:

But it is disappointing that so many Catholics reject Church teaching on these grave matters.

Possibly going to be a lot more suffering in purgatory because of it. :sad_yes:

The only item I disagree with the Church on is really contraception. Educated people are not going to have numerous babies due to medical and financial considerations.
As far as Gay marriage it is really just a fad or gimmick. Massachusetts has had gay marriage for ten years and less then 8,000 gay people have been married and a number have divorced after a short period.

Okay okay okay okay okay okay okay okay okay we know that 90some percent of Catholics don’t accept the vast majority of sexuality teachings.

This statement doesn’t make any sense. Are you saying that only uneducated people can trust in God’s promises or that educated people aren’t smart enough to chart their cycles?

That was my thoughts exactly. I have a MS in Engineering, and my wife is a Physicist. Yet we have 6 children, and are open to more.

The very fact that we are well educated (and logical) included the teachings that God is infinitely more intelligent that we are, and thus knows more about what is good for us than we do.

It also includes the recogniztion that a couple do NOT create a child, they only participate in the creative process. A living being must have a soul, and that can only come by an deliberate act of God. It is not something that God just lets happen, like sin. He, and He alone, can create a new human. Ergo, when a new human is created, it can only be due to the deliberate Will of God, a Will that can be nothing but absolutely Good.

So if people reject this teaching, it can only be because they are undereducated…

I’m wondering at this point, what the Church is thinking and why it is becoming so popular to cater to human opinion. What can this survey possibly hope to achieve because I find it hard to believe that the ecclesiastic powers that be are ignorant of the non-existence of true catechesis. To be blunt, people may dissent, mock and even persecute the Church, but that is completely irrelevant as the truths of the faith are absolute.

What on earth is a ‘scientific survey?’ I’ve worked with surveys much of my life and never heard the term. If ‘scientific’ means ‘experimental,’ then of course not, as all surveys are non-experimental.

LOVE! :heart:

There are several points in this post that are just incomprehensible.

Well, OK, not this; everyone is aware of this problem.

Spokeswoman Julie Wolf called the results “arguably a bit of a shock to the system,”…

This. How anyone, let alone anyone working at that level in a diocese, could be surprised by those results indicates a level of cluelessness that is stunning.

“There’s no doubt that there are people who question Catholic teaching,” said Wolf, who added that the primary responsibility of bishops is to teach…

Consider this survey an expose on how well the bishops have met that responsibility.

… the survey “helps to clarify for the bishops what Catholics know and believe.”

“Clarify”??? How is it that something known by nearly everyone in the pews can be unknown to the clergy?

“The bottom line is that the survey was a way to give voice to members of the church,” she said.

Give voice? What is that meant to suggest? That the opinions of the laity will somehow affect church doctrine? To believe that is to reject what the church teaches about herself.

“We’ve known this since 1969,” Cooper said. “Once (Pope) Paul VI declined to follow the advice of his own commission on family and sexuality, which called for changes, from that point forward, ever increasingly larger numbers of Catholics lost faith in the moral credibility of the teaching authority,”

If the problem is known to have existed since 1969 how can anyone profess to be surprised at hearing about it now? And what is Fr. Cooper intimating by his phrase about Paul VI “declin[ing] to follow the advice of his own commission”? That the teaching is wrong? That the Holy Spirit took the day off when the pope issued the encyclical?

Still, perhaps the sheer notoriety of the results will - encourage - the bishops to pay a bit more attention to “the primary responsibility of bishops.


Soliciting the opinions of the laity is NOT the same as catering to opinions. The pope wanted a snapshot of the problems facing the Church. In no place did the questions infer amy change to the doctrinal beliefs of the Church. What they did ask repeatedly was how to return separated Catholics to the Church and to full communion.

A thorough reading of the actual questions can be found here:


Preparatory Document
Vatican City

The many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care include: mixed or inter-religious marriages; the single-parent family; polygamy; marriages with the consequent problem of a dowry, sometimes understood as the purchase price of the woman; the caste system; a culture of non-commitment and a presumption that the marriage bond can be temporary; forms of feminism hostile to the Church; migration and the reformulation of the very concept of the family; relativist pluralism in the conception of marriage; the influence of the media on popular culture in its understanding of marriage and family life; underlying trends of thought in legislative proposals which devalue the idea of permanence and faithfulness in the marriage covenant; an increase in the practice of surrogate motherhood (wombs for hire); and new interpretations of what is considered a human right.

I think it is important for all Catholics to withhold judgment until we see where this is actually headed.

The preparation phase of every synod includes questions sent out all over the world. It seems this time around that the questions are being disseminated more broadly. But the same thing happend for the Synod on the New Evangelization a few years ago (here are the questions in preparation for that synod).

It’s not about catering to human opinion. It’s about getting the sense for where people are at. Sure, they could go off anecdotal observations of the bishops. But they have to have some concrete method of gathering data. Better doing it this way than relying on anecdotes or (even worse) newspaper headlines. Everyone knows that there are problems. But articulating those problems is much easier when you’ve got something in front of you to go from.

Those who think that if enough people respond a certain way that the Church will change Her teaching are grossly misinformed. But knowing the full scope of where people are at is very helpful when it comes time to identify where attention needs to be focused because of the teachings that are being most misunderstood. It will also help in crafting a response to those misunderstandings. That’s what the Synod is for. I’m excited to see the final product that will come out of the whole process.

I do think such surveys have value. Because of them the Church can focus it’s New Evangelization efforts in the correct way. It clearly shows where the faithful have a lack of understanding on the validty of the Church’s teachings, and allows the bishop to focus their efforts on closing those particular gaps.

It is not the Church that must change, as the Church has the Truth, what needs to happen is that the faithful need to come to a greater understanding of why the Church is correct on these matters.

If used correctly, it is a tool that the Church can use to change hearts and minds.

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