A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fun With Statistics

A recent Pew Research Center survey of Catholics regarding their views on the family announces "U.S. Catholics Open to Non-Traditional Families."  Among other things, the Center announces:
  • "45% of Americans are Catholic or connected to Catholicism." 

This would be quite astonishing, if true. Turns out it is only "true" with quote marks. The key phrase is "connected to Catholicism," which allows one to include just about everyone. TOF knows a nice woman who insists that she is an ordained priest in the Catholic Church. It is actually a schismatic sect. "Connected to Catholicism" includes people who:
  • have left the Church
  • have a Catholic spouse or a Catholic parent
  • consider themselves “culturally Catholic” but do not attend church or practice the faith
  • attend Catholic churches but are not members. 
That leaves 20% of the population who actually identify themselves as Catholic. Why the razzmatazz? Who knows? But notice that "connected to Catholicism" includes atheists who had one parent who was once Catholic but fell away.

A passing thought: Ever notice how no one else is ever "fallen away"? We never hear about a "fallen-away atheist." For that matter, TOF has not heard of "fallen-away Baptists" or "fallen-away Lutherans." Even if they have become "non-practising" they are not described as having "fallen away." Why is that?
The study goes on to say of Catholics (presumably the 20% who do not fall into one of the four categories above that can be more briefly described as "not Catholic") that:
  • 39% do not view homosexual behavior as sinful
  • 49% do not think that remarriage without an annulment is a sin
  • 54% do not regard cohabitation as a sin
  • 66% do not believe that contraception is a sin. 
So, a large number of people who call themselves Catholic do not subscribe to Catholic teaching. Stop the presses. The technical term for this is "not Catholic."
TOF is reminded of a letter-to-the-editor of the local paper who listed all the matters on which he or she (TOF does not recall) disagreed with Church teaching but concluded, "but I am not a Protestant." Well, actually, yes, you are. Otherwise, you would not be protesting. 

It's not clear what "behavior" the first bullet refers to. Does it mean sodomy in particular or would it include holding hands or kissing? Some people may find one more problematical than another.

We also learn that of those who "identify themselves as Catholic" 39% do not go to Mass at least once a week, leading to the astonishing conclusion that nearly four in ten of self-proclaimed Catholics do not actually practice their religion. Pew then notes (perhaps with astonishment) that those who do attend Church regularly are "less accepting of" the various items bulleted above. IOW, those who are more faithfully Catholic are more attuned to Catholic teaching, even though some proportion has succumbed to the kultursmog.
Or claims to have. There is always the possibility that some folks have become shy about admitting some things to strangers.

Lost amidst the smoke and mirrors is the idea that the Church is a field hospital for the spiritually wounded. It would be as great a surprise if everyone were in complete agreement with all the things taught by the Church in which they claim membership, as finding everyone in a hospital to be in good health.

Pew goes on to say: "Catholics are divided on the question of whether it is sinful to spend money on luxuries without also giving to the poor, but large majorities say it is not a sin to live in a house larger than needed or to use energy without concern for the impact on the environment.
62% said "working to help the poor and needy" is essential to what being Catholic "means to them" (that latter being a nicely narcissistic turn of phrase). 
One wonders how long the other 38% were asleep during the sermons. But wait: It would be no surprise if the 38% who did not regard helping the poor and needy as essential had also comprised the 39% who did not attend mass regularly. The weren't there, apparently, to learn any better.
41% said they "consider it sinful to buy luxuries without also donating to the poor."
The good news (literally) is that 41% said it is a sin; but that leaves 59% who remain slaves to the consumer society. But notice that it was not either luxuries or donations. It was to indulge oneself in luxuries while making no donations. That is an easier row to hoe than what Aquinas required, let alone what Jesus told the rich young man.

Pew goes on to reveal that there are still sins; viz., environmental ones, but TOF is not going there, save to note that many environmental regulations have the effect of raising costs for the poor, so helping the poor and campaigning for environmentalism may actually be contraries.

It does not seem to click that roughly the same proportion of Catholics say cohabitation, remarriage after divorce (and without annulment), homosexual behavior, and indulging in luxuries without helping the poor are sinful. Almost as if there were some connection among them all.


  1. 39% do not view homosexual behavior as sinful
    49% do not think that remarriage without an annulment is a sin
    54% do not regard cohabitation as a sin
    66% do not believe that contraception is a sin.

    I would suggest that many of these are not "protestant" but poorly educated and informed about the Faith or seem to have the impression that the "spirit of Vatican II" (they never read the actual documents) has liberated us from all that old-fashioned morality stuff.

    In a way they cannot be blamed. It has been decades since I've heard a parish priest preach about the dangers of Hell or the need for Confession & such unpleasant topics. I HAVE met Directors of Religious Education who refer to the Eucharist as "the bread of life" and basically pooh-pooh the Church's teaching on birth control &c.

  2. Of course, the Southern Poverty Law Center has made an obscene amount of money by claiming the conservatives and border security activists they target have "links" to extremists. Such "links" include speaking at a conference where a reputed extremist once spoke; attending events, even if mainstream, that extremists also attended; and writing articles for publications that at some time also published articles by extremists.

    No wonder the SPLC sees "extremists" everywhere -- except on the left.


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