PEW just released a groundbreaking study of contemporary U.S. Catholics. Having participated in conversations from the shaping to analysis stages of this study as a part of the advisory panel, I’m happy to see the full report now available as a tool for understanding consistency and change across Catholic practices, attitudes, and social impact.
Among the notable findings (and methodology) is the sheer impact of the Catholic Church across the U.S. population. Drawing a wide net that extends beyond just those who now claim a Catholic identity, some 45% of Americans are connected to Catholicism in some meaningful way. Two in ten are Catholic. Another two in ten are either “culturally” Catholic, or ex-Catholic. And nearly one in ten have some other connection via a Catholic spouse, Mass attendance, or another connection.
Catholics value belonging to a parish, though perhaps not as much as one might expect. 42% see parish belonging as an “essential” part of their faith; another 39% see it as “important” but not essential. That leaves nearly one in six Catholics saying that parish belonging is *not* an important part of being Catholic, which helps to explain why most Catholics attend Mass less than weekly. As such, we should be looking both in & out of parishes to understand Catholicism in the United States.
Read much more in the full report, freely available online: U.S. Catholics Open to Non-Traditional Families