by Edd Doerr
Stereotypes abound when people discuss religion. One is that all Catholics march in lockstep to Gregorian chant from the Boys Club on the Tiber. Well, 't'aint so and never has been. The latest demonstration of this truism is the report on the polling of 1445 Catholic adults titled Catholics in America: Persistence and change in the Catholic landscape, by Catholic University sociologist William D'Antonio and colleagues, released on October 24.
Here is a hasty summary: only 28% think a celibate male clergy is important; only 30% accept Vatican authority; only 35% oppose same-sex marriage; only 36% see merit in praying the rosary; only 49% oppose abortion; 67% believe in helping the poor, while only 64% believe Mary is the "mother of God"; 86% say that "you can disagree with aspects of church teaching and still remain loyal to the church"; weekly mass attendance has declined from44% in 1987 to 31% in 2011, while those who attend less monthly increased from 26% to 47%; 83% say that the sexual abuse scandals have hurt church leaders' credibility. (Other polls have shown that over 90% of Catholics disagree with the Vatican's position on contraception; Catholic private school enrollment has dropped from 5.5 million to about 2 million today and a majority of Catholic voters oppose tax aid to church-related private schools; Catholics in the US Senate have been strongly pro=choice and anti-school-vouchers; the Catholic divorce rate is similar to the non-Catholic rate.)
And of course this survey did not count the large number of people who have left the church entirely. I have had personal contact with Unitarian-Universalist congregations in which a majority of members are former Catholics.
The point I wish to make is that there are commonalities between a great many Catholics and humanists or freethinkers, and that in these troubled times, with one political party practically taken over by anti-choice, anti-public-education, climate change and evolution denying, plutocracy-loving fundamentalists, naturalistic humanists need to build bridges to other Americans who may wear religious labels but who share a good many of our core values.