CARA survey: many U.S. Catholics parish shop

The group’s ongoing study of American Catholics is continuing to yield interesting nuggets, like this one:

One of the most surprising aspects of the results so far has been how positive Mass attending Catholics are in their evaluations of their parish (…yet there are also many interesting sub-group differences here as well). I always remind people that many respondents in these surveys have chosen to be a part of the parish they are evaluating. One way we know this is that 31% of parishioners report that they are not attending the parish closest to their home—they may even drive right by another parish on their way to Mass. Some Catholics are clearly going “shopping” and finding parishes where they feel they fit in well or where they feel their needs are best met. Of course with a few exceptions parishes are territorial (Can. 518Can. 100-107) but there are clearly unofficial “market forces” at work as well and these tendencies may be gaining strength…

…In an era where more parishes are closing than opening, these market forces may be putting pressure on some parish leaders. The phenomenon may also be eroding some of the neighborhood culture of Catholic parish communities (in CARA’s commissioned in-pew surveys we have discovered parishes that are drawing Mass attenders from otherdioceses—most often in the Northeast). At the same time the survey data seem to indicate that this mobility may also make for happy parishioners.

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