‘Strong’ Catholic Identity at a Four-Decade Low in U.S

Pew Research has just completed the 2013 religious survey. Even in my parish there is a great loss of Catholic identity. Only 27% of Catholics identify themselves as “strong Catholics”. Even worse only 50% of that 27% of strong Catholics attend mass at least once a week. What is the cause of this? A great lack of teaching?


I also found this interesting:

My opinion: the sex abuse scandals.

Lack of catechesis from parents and to children coupled with a following of secular culture which tells everyone to follow their feelings instead of their consciences (which can sometimes give the same answers, but other times not), which leads people to make rash decisions based on little evidence. And with the lack of catechesis, their consciences are not being properly formed as well as their knowledge of truth, which leads them to come to incorrect conclusions.

This can cause people to leave the Church because they find it “boring”, or because some people made mistakes (priest sex crisis) that they no longer want to associate themselves, when the problems can extend past the boundaries of the Church (pedophiliac teachers and leaders).

So, to sum up:

  1. Lack of catechesis
  2. Following secular culture

Also leaders in the Church (Bishops, Cardinals, etc.) not doing their main jobs i.e. teaching, shepherding souls.

Is it possible that the scandal is only a side effect of the problem and not the initial problem?

I agree :thumbsup:

Not in my opinion. I think they scandalized the entire world, and there’s just no way to water it down.

It’s been demonstrated that for some, yes, the sex abuse scandal caused them to leave. But I also think the flock’s educational level shouldn’t be discounted. The more education one has, the more one tends to think from a variety of perspectives and consider new problems in different ways. This isn’t to say that only the uneducated are faithful or faith-filled – far from it. But I’m not altogether certain that the Church and apologists really know how to respond to concerns that come via education with anything other than a “take it or leave it” attitude. For example, I often hear Catholics on EWTN programs claiming that atheism requires the belief that life is essentially meaningless. But this is a straw man in that there are atheists who claim the opposite: life is imbued with more meaning because it is finite. I’m not claiming that their claim is valid, but ignoring it or simply saying it’s wrong won’t help anyone with this question to hang around. CAL still seems to be focused on apologetics as it relates to Catholicism vs. Protestantism and for younger generations, I really think that’s far less of an issue than atheism and secular humanism.

Additionally, Americans now typically have a broader sense of and appreciation for fundamental human rights. There are a number, then, who have left or will leave because of issues like same-sex marriage because they believe it to be a basic right. I don’t expect the Church to change its teaching on that subject so unless it relents on something like civil unions (again, unlikely), these folks won’t be coming back. Some of the verbiage coming from Catholics on this topic doesn’t sound welcoming either, which adds to the feeling that the Church is for hate-mongers (again, whether this is accurate or a pack of lies).

I’m not discounting bad catechesis or the perception that Mass is boring…but I really think these are more comforting reasons in some ways than facing the trickier problems.


This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the precepts
of men.

Good points. Seems like we lost a lot after the educators decided the Baltimore Catechism wasn’t Catholic enough (or some other reason). Today we have a dumbed-down liturgy and a catechism no one understands. Maybe the nuns were too strict but we sure have reached the other side of the pendulum swing.

Part of the problem here is that this is an American/W. European centric way of looking at it though. To a certain extent, of course a diocese is going to address issues as they pertain to their area, but doctrinal beliefs are something that need to be universal. “Take it or leave it” isn’t very hospitable, but is there actually any other way that you can do it? I mean, either Catholicism is true or it isn’t. By its own claims, it has no leeway to claim that it is mostly true. What’s the point of catechizing people with heterodox beliefs?

The faith on the whole is continuing to grow, and frankly, I don’t expect the West to be all that important in another 50 years anyway. You may have to accept the possibility that being faithful is going to mean having membership fall (within certain regions, not on necessarily on the whole).

Other than with a reality check.

I doubt the sex scandal had much of a direct effect. It’s true that its brought up a lot, but my theory is that people do it because its cheap & easy ammunition, not because there’s actually much weight behind it (even though they might think there is). It also gets brought up a lot that the Vatican is supposedly hording huge sums of wealth, and that argument is just as embarrassingly bad as the other. One way or another, people are going to find something to throw.

It affected me. I found it profoundly disturbing.

There were priests who sexually abused children and these actions were covered up by superiors. I’d think that would be all the knowledge that’s necessary. If exaggerating it isn’t acceptable, neither is minimizing what abuse did take place.

One thing more. The Church has engaged too much in secular politics. This has had the effect of bringing it down to that level. It isn’t above the fray, it is in the fray.

It has a pollitical State, the Vatican State, so of course this is the case.

The breakdown of the family and traditional family values based on Christian principles…both parents(or only one parent in many cases) to busy working…both issues which in turn have lead to the decline in church attendance…we live in a country of relative safety…contentment…material wealth…good health…abundance of food…entertainment…we are to busy enjoying the blessings God has given us and only need him when a crisis happens …basically a falling away from God…when will he take away the many blessings he has given this country and jolt us out of our apathy

Catholics in the 1950’s and 1960’s made a monumental, catastrophic blunder. They failed to heed the admonition to “be IN the world, but not OF the world.”

Historically, America has been a relatively hostile place to Catholicism. Catholics were expected to stay in their own neighborhoods and not disturb the WASPs who really ran American civil society. In those days, we were in many ways prevented from being IN the world at large and it chafed.

After WWII, many of the anti-Catholic barriers came down and catholics joined the mainstream of American life. In the exuberance of this opportunity, we forgot to be discerning, we forgot to refrain from becoming OF American culture first rather than catholics first. We didn’t raise our kids to guard themselves, to have filters that could catch and reject the harmful aspects of American culture. Kids grew up unaware of the unhealthy and immoral influences they imbibed from TV, public schools, peers and the general culture. Catholic cultural identity evaporated almost overnight and catholics somehow deluded themselves into thinking that mass one day a week and perhaps a CCDD class once a week for their kids would be enough to hold off the onslaught of 24/7 American culture. It’s not. Not remotely enough.

This is why we need to rebuild catholic culture in America. Authentically catholic schools (the whole curriculum and culture, not just a religion class tacked on), youth organizations, devotional societies, services clubs, fraternal organizations. These are crucial NOT so that we can avoid living IN the world (we all have jobs and neighborhoods, after all), but so that we can do so without becoming OF the world.

Beyond the USA, western civilization has fallen for a nefarious philosophy that says that humans are by nature good and that evil only enters via external influences (I’m a VICTIM!). Thus, it becomes easy to look at the horrors of history and blame religion for it rather than look deeper to find that those same flaws lie within us all. Scapegoats have always been a nice way to avoid unpleasant truths. It’s Christianity’s turn in the hot seat of history. Finding somebody else to blame is always nicer than admitting our own flaws (sins). It’s a fad that will burn out eventually. Scapegoaters always go overboard and discredit themselves in the long run. Guys like Dan Brown that make up absurd “facts” and publicize them will become more common before they collapse under the weight of their absurdity.


Good post.

Meanwhile as this news comes out…Is the USCCB still wanting to preach about immigration reform in September?

All these reasons, to me, are what lead to this…

Sex abuse scandals: Yes
Banal Liturgy (Pope B’s words)/Liturgical abuse: Yes
Bad catechesis: Yes & Yes

My personal #1 reason: Complete and utter failure of the hierarchy in the Church of the last 40/50 years is what has lead to this. The Catholic Church is the true Church, yet protestants seem to be more faithful than the vast majority of Catholics. Our priests and bishops are to be respected bc of their offices, but they are by no means above critiquing, and they have failed us faithful by refusing to be good leaders (will probably get pounced on for saying that on CAF) but it’s true…is this something new? Not even close…

“The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.”
-St. John Chrysostom

Why didn’t you leave the Catholic Church then? (I’m assuming your still Catholic, as under religion you have “Catholic, with reservations”)

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