Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Catholics vs the Vatican

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.


Don Wharton said...

Thanks Edd! There is some excellent information in this survey. It can make people wish that the Catholic Church was a democracy.

lucette said...

The "Vatican" is just a piece of land given to the Pope by Mussolini to placate the Italian people.
I think that "Vatican" should be replaced with "Holy See" when we talk about Catholics' beliefs.

Edd.Doerr said...

You are right, Lucette. The Citta del Vaticano is a sovereign microstate (about 106 acres) inside Rome and has been independent only since 1929, the former centuries-old sovereign Papal States having been absorbed into Italy in 1870. The Holy See is the official HQ of the RC church, and it is the Holy See that has special observer status in the UN GA and that maintains diplomatic relations with at least 3/4 of the world's nations.

Well do I remember 1984 when Reagan wanted to initiate US diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the only religious body with which the US has diplomatic relations. I testified for ARL and various humanist groups at the congressional hearings on the matter in opposition to US recognition of the Holy See. My oral and written testimony at the 2/9/84 congressional hearing may be found in my 2006 book Here I Stand, available from me for $10 (covers s&h) at Box 6656, Silver Spring, MD 20916.

Vatican is the commonly used term for Holy See, but most people would not understand the difference, including the State Dept guys who testified at the hearings on behalf of the Reagan administration.