New Poll Shows That Even Catholics Don’t Agree with Catholicism

A New York Times/CBS News poll released today shows that the wishes of many Catholics go directly against the doctrines of the faith:

Laurie Goodstein and Megan Thee-Brenan summarize the results this way:

On every other hotly debated issue, Catholics wanted the next pope to lead the church in an about-face. Seven out of every 10 Catholics surveyed said the next pope should let priests marry, let women become priests and allow the use of artificial methods of birth control. Nine out of 10 said they wanted the next pope to allow the use of condoms to prevent the spread of H.I.V. and other diseases.

Sixty-two percent of Catholics said they were in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. Catholics approved of same-sex marriage at a higher rate than Americans as a whole, among whom 53 percent approved.

You have to wonder: If all these people believe the Catholic Church is heading in the wrong direction, in so many different areas, why stay in the Church?

The most telling question in the poll may have been this one: “On difficult moral questions, which are you more likely to follow — the teachings of the Pope, or your conscience?”

If you’re Catholic, this should be simple: You follow the person who has a direct line to God, right?

Apparently, that’s not the case at all. Here’s the breakdown of Catholics who would follow the teachings of the Pope in difficult situations:

Wow. The Pope has a lower approval rating than Congress.

No wonder he resigned. When even Catholics don’t really care about what the man who’s supposed to be their leader says, it’s time to go. (Though I wonder if those numbers are more of a reflection on Joseph Ratzinger or the title of “Pope” itself.)

When you read the article, one idea isn’t stated but still shines through: If Catholics really want the Church to change direction, the best way to make the point isn’t going to be staying on the inside — the members of the Catholic hierarchy have made it very clear they don’t care about what their followers want.

The best solution for Catholics is to walk away and not look back.

They must stop giving the Church money.

They must stop sending their kids to Catholic schools.

They must stop attending Mass.

They can still believe in God without lending support to a corrupt, wicked system.

As the saying goes, “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.”

At the same time, we need to offer Catholics a better way out. If they like tradition, there needs to be a secular alternative. It’s naïve to think Catholics will leave the Church when there’s nothing else waiting for them.

But for Catholics who just go because it’s what they’ve always done, there’s no excuse. By calling yourself a Catholic, you’re implicitly saying you support Catholicism, warts and all.

The poll shows that many Catholics are better, more compassionate people than their leaders. And a new Pope chosen by the current group of cardinals isn’t going to change that.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • cipher

    The childhood conditioning is difficult to overcome. They’re terrified of going to hell.

  • Alan Eckert

    The easiest transition is to check out Episcopal churches. They get the routine traditions with (generally speaking) a more liberal outlook

  • anniewhoo

    I was raised Catholic and still have many Catholic friends (and siblings). Like the polls suggest, they all disagree with the pope and so much of church doctrine, and yet, they still call themselves Catholic. I honestly don’t get it. It’s like joining a book club, even though you don’t read.

  • Chris B

    This confirms at least one thing for me: Christians create god in their own image, not the other way around. Raising awareness of such value reflection would probably help people realize the ridiculousness of religious dogma.

    I cannot fathom how religion maintains any credibility when it espouses its doctrines as absolute truth, and then adjusts those doctrines to better fit shifts in contemporary values. If you have absolute truth, it seems rather obvious that no adjustment should be necessary. My guess is that the church now needs a warmer, fuzzier, more relatable pope, so they can undergo this sort of value adjustment.

    I am also rather disgusted (I wish I could say surprised) that 40% of people still think the pope is infallible. This is a man who has completely failed to protect children from pedophile priests. I suppose he is infallible, though in a different sense, so long as he is protected by his minions at the Vatican.

  • Miss_Beara

    I don’t get the people that convert to Catholicism. My cousin wasn’t an atheist or agnostic, just someone who casually believed in god. Then he met a girl who was from a huge fundie homeschool family (not saying homeschooling is bad, but this type of homeschooling fits the stereotype). Through her he became this full blown Catholic convert. They broke up, she wanted to get married and have children right away and he didn’t, but he kept the religion. I don’t know if he agrees with church doctrine. I hope he doesn’t, but then why call yourself Catholic? 12 years of Catholic school and I never believed any of that bs, even as a child so how do adults willingly convert to it?

  • Bob Becker

    Well, look at it this way: their view may be that they’re the ones who understand the faith on such matters and the Pope and his cardinals do not. Hence the reluctance of the people in the pews to give up the title “Catholic”. which would also mean abandoning the rituals, the sacrements ( as Catholics conceive them) and more. And your strident insistance, Hemant, that all who think differently on these matters American Catholics may not think are among the core beliefs of the faith, must admit they support a corrupt system smacks, more than a tad, of arrogance.

    P.S before anyone asks, I’m an atheist, not a Catholic.

  • Pepe

    Well there was that one atheist blogger who converted to catholicism (I forget her name) a while back. I still haven’t seen any updates on why she did it (I’ve been waiting for Hemant to post about it).

  • Pseudonym

    Hardly. It’s more like joining a book club because you like reading, despite the fact that the people who run it are jerks.

  • Pseudonym

    By calling yourself a Catholic, you’re implicitly saying you support Catholicism, warts and all.

    So why haven’t you emigrated from the United States? By still calling yourself “American”, by retaining citizenship and by still living there, you are implicitly saying that you support invading other countries on flimsy pretexts, indefinite detention without trial, persecuting whistleblowers, torture, drone strikes and so on.

    As it happens, I know that you don’t support the stuff on that list. I’m smart enough to know that just because you call yourself a member of some organisation of people doesn’t mean you support everything that the organisation does. Hell, I even don’t judge people who are members of American Atheists. And believe me, when I see their advertising campaigns, that’s a hard thing to do.

    You are an individual, and you deserve to be treated as such. Moreover, there is no shame at all in working to change an organisation from the inside. Quite the contrary, in fact; that’s a good and noble thing, and you have my deep respect.

    If the golden rule applies anywhere, it applies here.

  • Hemant Mehta

    I posted about it when it happened, but there’s nothing to really add to it. Leah did it for reasons that involve (I think) objective morality and how morals have to come from God… something weird like that. Nothing that hasn’t been rebutted repeatedly.

  • Rovin’ Rockhound

    The label is very hard to get rid of. I went to Catholic school in a Catholic country for 12 years and I was doubting by age 9. Even after living to the US for several years and being very much an atheist I still called myself Catholic – it took quite a bit of “soul” searching to start using atheist.

    It’s like people’s answer when asked where they are from: most will answer with the place where they grew up, even if they haven’t lived there for many years. At some point it switches to their actual town, but it’s hard to shake.

  • Mario Strada

    How is her readership doing? I went to read her blog a few weeks ago and I had an attack of narcolepsy.

    She wasn’t talking about anything very controversial and she often defends atheists (at least judging by some of the titles) but I just could not get interested in the topics. And I am a guy that gets interested in almost everything. I mean, as a teenager once my dad found me 40ft underwater reading a newspaper I found while we were scuba diving.

    Nevertheless it would be interesting to have a follow up and ask her how she is doing.

    In my experience, most converts either marry into it or are attracted to the pageant. It sure beats a couple of guys blabbering while holding snakes.

    BTW, I am an Ex Catholic myself. Baptized in St. Peter in Rome, no less.

  • LesterBallard

    I don’t know how it works, but it seems that it would be easier to leave the church than to emigrate to another country.

  • Hemant Mehta

    I don’t know her numbers, but I’m glad she seems to be happy.

  • Chris B

    In some respects, I imagine so, but there are some similarities, like the risk of losing friends, family, and social/cultural norms. For an extreme example of difficulty leaving religion, see the “honor killing” post from tonight:

  • pagansister

    On the Public Catholic blog there is a poll that basically disputes this one—polls cannot be trusted to be accurate in many cases.

  • pagansister

    How many actually believe in a literal Hell? I would guess not many—that is a guess.

  • Pseudonym

    It’s a difference of degree, I’ll grant you that. But it’s not a difference of substance. There are people in the world who do judge all Americans for what the US government does, partly because it’s nominally a democracy, and hence you are part of the system.

    If you want to leave your country, your church, or your book club, then that’s great. If you want to stay and make it better, that’s great too.

  • Pepe

    Yeah, that’s what I remember from the posts around the topic. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around how someone, who used to be a skeptic, suddenly buys into all of that.

  • mck9

    I was never a Catholic myself, but as I understand it, there is no salvation outside the Church. According to the Church.

    For a Protestant, salvation depends on one’s own relationship to God. Switching from the Presbyterian church to the Methodist Church down the street is about as wrenching as buying a Ford instead of the usual Chevy.

    To a Catholic, God has given the Church the keys to the Kingdom. It is the Church that grants salvation, or withholds it, by the administration of its sacraments. To flee the Catholic Church, even with its widely acknowledged faults, to become an Episcopalian (to say nothing of, shudder, a Baptist) is to consign oneself to the eternal flames of Hell.

    That belief must put a damper on any thoughts of brand-switching.

  • Kevin Sagui

    These results aren’t anything new, and I think eventually (in the next couple of decades), you’re going to see an American catholic church break off from Rome, keeping the traditions of the church but modernizing the policy to reflect the views of the masses.

  • Kevin Sagui

    It’s possible that is official church doctrine and we just weren’t aware of it, but I was raised Catholic and was always taught that being Christian of any stripe was sufficient.

  • Sven2547

    The United States government is answerable to voters. There is accountability, and a mechanism for every citizen (of voting age) to have a say in their government. If the US government does something that I dislike, at least the will of the People was carried out at some level. If not, the careers of said politicians will be short indeed. If a candidate for public office had these percentages of support on major issues, would he / she stand a chance of election? Heck no!

    The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is not answerable to its parishioners. There is no accountability, and no mechanism for anyone to have a say in the Church leadership short of actually joining the Church leadership and rising through the ranks.

    And as LesterBallard pointed out, leaving a country takes a lot of money and effort. Leaving a Church take no money or effort. In fact, the act of going to Church takes more money and effort than the act of not going!

    The comparison is poor at best. You are literally comparing a democratic republic to a theocratic dictatorship and acting like they are even remotely alike.

  • viaten

    More like joining a book club because you think you should read, but you just skim a few books and think that counts as reading them in depth.
    Actually, catholic faith seems to show itself more and more as a superstition. There are lots of problems with the clergy and moral teachings might be questionable, but those sacraments are still real. Right?

  • Drakk

    >> [invading countries, drones, torture etc]

    Those things are not core tenets of American citizenship in the same way that papal infallibility etc are core tenets of catholicism.

    >> Moreover, there is no shame at all in working to change an organisation from the inside.

    That means a lot more for an organization such as a democratic country where there is an expectation for the leaders to take the demands of the populace into account, and less so in a heirarchial one such as the catholic church, whose leadership is less so beholden to their regular membership.

    Moreover, there are hundreds of sects of christianity out there. There must be at least one whose tenets more closely correspond to any individual’s personal beliefs. Why not join one of those instead?

  • Rain

    Do you believe the pope is infallible when he teaches on matters of morality and faith, or not?

    Some of the popes actually contradict each other don’t they? I realize religion isn’t exactly rocket science, but come on, that one is a no-brainer.

  • Rain

    “New Poll Shows That Even Catholics Don’t Agree with Catholicism”

    Try walking out of a Catholic church with a cracker in your pocket. Then we’ll see what percentage of Catholics agree with Catholicism. pope or not.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Well, maybe like joining a book club, but the club only has one book, which is really old and outdated, and as books go it’s downright horrible.

  • cipher

    Right, but it was hammered into them when they were children that the Church is the only vehicle of salvation. Breaking the rules and actually walking away are two different things. It’s one of the many reasons it’s such a dangerous and insidious institution.

  • Rich Wilson

    I also know a woman who converted to her husband’s Catholicism. The way he put it, she took a long look at it and ‘agreed’ with it, with no pressure from him. And the no pressure from him I completely believe. At this point, I get the impression that she’s more a believer than he is, and he’s the one raised in it.

  • ortcutt

    I can say that for people of my parents’ generation, identifying as Catholic was about identifying as “ethnic” (e.g. Polish, Lithuanian, Italian, Croat, Slovak, etc…) non-Protestants. The Protestants were “Johnny Bulls” (Mainline Protestants) and “Holy Rollers” (Evangelicals). If you didn’t go to church for ten years, and denied all Church authority, you’d still nonetheless think of yourself as “Catholic” as a way of thinking about what you weren’t, namely Protestant.

  • Michael W Busch

    You are correct about the Roman Catholic Church’s official view on salvation. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #846: “Outside
    the Church there is no salvation”. #847 & 848 give an exemption for people who do not know about Christ or the Church “through no fault of their own”, but that is it.

    This is contradicting language to a lot of Catholicism-as-practiced and also to several statements by the Second Vatican Council. e.g. “Unitatis Redintegratio” calls for the reunion of the major Christian denominations and says “the Spirit of
    Christ has not refrained from using them [other Christian groups] as means of salvation”. And “Nostra Aetate”, along with some useful instructions urging religious tolerance, says non-Christian religions “often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

    Perhaps it is not surprising that many Catholics disagree with the hierarchy – the hierarchy often disagrees with itself.

  • Michael W Busch

    An important caveat to this story: In addition to the usual sampling considerations, a poll of American Catholics will show different results as compared to a poll of Catholics worldwide (although perhaps not that different in Canada, Australia, or Europe as compared to Latin America, Africa, and sections of Asia).

    Given that caveat, I notice that there is still considerable hypocrisy about contraceptive use. In the US, 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives and most (but not all, unfortunately) use the more effective methods. So something like 1 in 6 American Catholics are saying one thing and doing another.

  • Claude

    It’s easy to walk away, as I did, if you lose faith. I doubt Catholics stay in the church because they are terrified of Hell. I imagine they stay because they are Christians acculturated to the distinctive traditions of the Catholic Church. Plus the cliche that the RCC has the best aesthetics is true.

  • Michael W Busch

    I kept going to mass for several years more or less out of habit, so the acculturation can be a powerful force. But eventually the rationalizations of ‘by this they actually mean that’ got too numerous, and I realized the whole set of ideas and practices isn’t good. Then it was pretty easy to walk away.

  • Pseudonym

    Those things are not core tenets of American citizenship in the same way that papal infallibility etc are core tenets of catholicism.

    Apparently 83% of surveyed Catholics disagree with you on that point, at least.

  • Pseudonym

    The key point is identity. National identity, ethnic identity, gender identity, sexual identity, religious identity… these are all aspects which make up our identity as a person. You’re asking people to change their identity just because some arsehole happens to be associated with it in the popular imagination.

    Plenty of Americans didn’t want to be defined by George W Bush. Plenty of people who were pro-universal suffrage didn’t want to be defined by activists who chained themselves to railings or bombed letterboxes. Plenty of people who were pro-civil rights didn’t want to be defined by Malcolm X. Plenty of atheists didn’t want to defined by Madalyn Murray-O’Hair. Plenty of Catholics don’t want to be defined by the previous pope. I support them all.

  • Claude

    Vatican II identified the Church as the “people of God”; that means the laity not just the hierarchy.

    Pope Pius IX orchestrated the doctrine of papal infallibility in the late 19th century, and obviously many Catholics are highly skeptical of it.

  • flyb

    I was kinda stunned by the fact that 40% believe he is infallible regarding those areas. Especially considering the percentages for favoring birth control and disagreeing with the pope.

  • mck9

    You get a free pass if you are non-Catholic through no fault of your own, through ignorance or an accident of birth. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.

    But once you’re a Catholic, you’re on the hook for good:

    Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    Thus a typical Catholic is not likely to feel free to leave the Church just because he or she disagrees with the Pope about this or that. Without regular receipt of the sacraments from God’s duly appointed representatives — however flawed they may be in practice, as all mortals are — one’s soul is in grave peril.

    There are probably Protestant sects with similarly absolutist views about their own importance. For the most part, though, Protestantism is more of a do-it-yourself affair. The differences among Protestant denominations are mostly about style, emphasis, and socioeconomic status. There are doctrinal differences as well, but most people don’t pay much attention to them, if they are even aware of them. People switch churches pretty commonly without fearing for their souls.

  • Claude

    Your departure sounds more thoughtful than mine!

    The Church affected me disproportionately to the short time it had me. Not in a bad way.

  • Pseudonym

    It is true that the doctrine of papal infallibility is a latecomer to Catholicism, at least as official dogma. It was a majority opinion among Catholic theologians in the late medieval period, but not official teaching IIRC.

    Moreover, as I understand it (I’m not Catholic, so I’m going by what I’ve heard), even if you agree with it, it only kicks in when certain technical conditions are met. The pronouncement has to be made from the throne of Peter, or something like that. By that definition, I’m not aware of the recent ex-pope actually making an infallible pronouncement.

    I could be wrong on this.

  • Michael W Busch

    Having been raised Catholic and sent to a Catholic elementary school, the cultural habituation was pretty strong in my case. Although even in elementary school, I would ask the catechism teacher awkward questions.

  • Claude

    You are pretty much right about all of it! I think the primary condition is that pronouncements must relate to doctrine. Not sure if Pope Emeritus uttered any.

    Catholicism is complicated!

  • Claude

    I was also a cradle Catholic but did not go to Catholic school and was an undistinguished CCD student. I developed skepticism of the hierarchy early on but for some reason (probably lack of imagination) didn’t question even the most exotic tenets of the Church.

    Such as: how is transubstantiation supposed to work? I wonder how many practicing Catholics know the nitty gritty on that one.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Every god that ever was, was created by humans. Some out of fear of the unknown or death, but in addition in almost every case the reason soon became – power. Economic and political power, whether it was the shaman of a small tribe or the head honcho of an organisation numbering more than a thousand million followers.

    Surpassing strange that so many people know what their god thinks about how other people should behave. Even more that their god agrees with them on so many matters.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    That took me a while to figure out what you were referring to. That would be that 16% say they oppose the use of birth control but according to your figures only 2% actually don’t use them, right?

  • Michael W Busch

    Re. transubstantiation: I never bought into that one, since it doesn’t really make sense. And cannibalism wasn’t appealing.

  • Michael W Busch

    Right. It’s actually closer to 1 in 7 (14%). The 98% rate of at least some contraceptive uptake is from recent surveys done by the Guttmacher Institute – I should have provided that reference. Sorry for posting without editing.

  • newavocation

    A question they should have asked is whether or not they believed they had to be a member of the catholic church in order to get into heaven. The pope is like a friend of the night club bouncer, there might be a long line but he can get you in.

  • David McNerney

    “Are you in favour of Catholic rules and mores being forced upon others even when you don’t follow them?”

    Didn’t see that question.

  • Agrajag

    They don’t actually believe that. They just recognize it as one of those questions where there’s a “correct” answer, and have been taught trough decades of school and religion that the “correct” answer is the one you should give, even if it’s not what you really think.

  • Sindigo

    Sure, I’ll join the throng of people who want to amend your analogy. I think that, for most people it’s like belonging to a book club from birth and then reading a bunch of different books from the ones on the reading list. Then when you find out that the books on the list are really hateful and that the people who run it are actually just as bad, defending the book club in public anyway and going to all its meeting whilst secretly hoping it will change. Even though it would simply be easier on your brain to leave and join a book club which like the books you like.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    The 98% number is not quite right. The Guttmacher Institute study asked what woman have used contraceptives at some point in the past. 98% of Catholic women responded yes. But this does not mean that they continued using contraception or that they still believe that contraception is OK to use.

  • Drakk

    I identify as a gamer. This is predicated on the fact that I play videogames. If I didn’t play videogames, I’d have no business calling myself a gamer.

    If you want to believe in nine different types of angels but don’t care for the magic man in the hat, why attach the same name to yourself as the magic-hat-man believers? There are hundreds of sects of christianity. One of them is bound to match up better with your beliefs, if not mirror them outright.

    I’m not asking for people to change their identity. Your identity is what you are and what you believe, not the name you attach to it. The name is a label, a linguistic shorthand which conveys the point faster than explaining your entire worldview. Find a better label. If you don’t like the magic hat guy, “Catholic” is not what you should call yourself. There’s (probably) a name for people who are “Catholic-minus-magic-hat-guy”.

  • baal

    With the on-going scandals and how spread they are across the planet, coupled with the Catholic virtue of ‘obedience’, there isn’t an ability to ‘work from the inside’. It looks like the entire leadership is rotten and the controlling message is still cover up.

    Also go reread the polling listed in OP. It’s not that there is some marginal difference here and there, it’s broad based substantive disagreement on the teachings. I agree with you that people are staying due to how they practice (I.e. going to Mass) but at somepoint, if you can’t agree with the overall direction of the Church, you should leave it.

    There is precious little influence you have from the inside. We’ve seen the nuns get even more marginalized and priests who work to distribute condoms be defrocked. If they get that, why would the hierarchy listen to the laity?

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m not sure if you’re using the wrong terms, or if the conversion to Catholicism was really weird, but I believe in accuracy when criticizing religion, so let’s clear something up. Fundies usually means fundamentalist Christians, who are not Catholics. Sometimes fundamentalist gets applied to all sorts of groups, and maybe even to Catholics, but it has a specific meaning referring to a set of American Christian sects (or their offshoots in other countries) that are usually Biblical literalists.

    So if your cousin got to Catholicism through a fundie girl, that would be kind of weird. If he got to Catholicism through a conservative Catholic girl, that would be fairly typical, if still weird because, as you said, who the hell converts to Catholicism, of all things?

  • pagansister

    Many times I think a convert to a religion IS more religious than a person who is raised in that faith.

  • pagansister

    I agree—eating one’s “savior” is very, very unappealing!

  • Mairianna

    Catholics suffer from “Guilt by association” in more ways than one!

  • arensb

    Bill Donohue, in his response, wonders whether people who rarely attend mass should even be considered Catholics.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall that the Catholic church is only too happy to count those people — and even people who haven’t set foot in a church since their baptism — as Catholics, when it comes to bragging about the size of their denomination, or in countries where religions receive government funds proportional to their membership.

  • icecreamassassin

    Except that one of the core beliefs that a Catholic is supposed to have is the acceptance of the authority of the church leaders. The pope and the cardinals serve as the representative of god’s authority on Earth. These are Catholics that deny the fundamental concept that the pope and bishops represent any level of divine authority.

    That certainly is the case since Vatican II. It’s written parcel and paper – Catholics are to acknowledge the authority of the pope. I grant that the concept of ‘papal infallibility’ is squishy even in the depths of Catholic doctrine,

    Now, *practically*, I would suspect that the vast majority of Catholics do not subscribe to the idea that the pope and bishops *really* convey any sort of divine authority. The pope and bishops say some religious stuff, and most Catholics will take it as advice but not as any sort of command. Which is fine – kinda a big part of the Protestant reformation.

    If the practitioner him/herself decides that matters of faith are not bound upon a centralized authority…and one of the core tenants of the Catholic church is some manner of centralized authority…isn’t that sufficient to say that practitioner should be looking elsewhere (say, one of the 80 bajillion Protestant churches out there that accept the rest of the core fundamentals such as god/Jesus/diving inspiration of bible/blah blah blah)?

    Maybe not. Maybe that papal authority really isn’t any necessary part of being a Catholic. But 13 years of Catholic school told me differently.

    Perhaps it’s time for a bunch of Catholics, with or without leaders, but large swaths of the people who want to identify themselves as Catholics, to go ahead and spell out what the fundamental tenants of the label ‘Catholic’ entail. A basic list of “What makes us Catholic” vs. “What makes someone not a Catholic” of sorts even. And that *has* to be possible – if it’s not, then the label ‘Catholic’ has no discernible characteristics at all and is meaningless.

  • Randomfactor

    And then not reading it.

  • abb3w

    Note, the survey data here (and in the GSS) suggests the dissatisfaction among self-identified Catholics is quite a bit higher among those who say they are not very religious and/or attend church less than monthly, compared to those who say they are strongly religious and/or attend church at least weekly.

    I’d also suggest checking the exact question wording on several of these, as some of the overview graphics are misleading otherwise.

    It’s inaccurate to say Benny#16 had an approval rating below Congress; the chart in question is those who would follow the pope rather than their own conscience (or “Both” or “don’t know” or no answer). His overall approval rating among US Catholics is somewhere circa 70%, according to the Pew Forum’s recent poll — which is actually rather better than the last polled approval rating for God, but down circa 20 points from JP2.

  • abb3w

    Short response: she’s right that polls for the attitudes of “self-identified Catholics” do not accurately represent “self-identified strongly religious, weekly Churchgoing Catholics”. Contrariwise, she forgets that that’s a smaller portion of the population, and thus diluted significance politically. She’s about THIS close to a “no True Scotsman”.

    Unfortunately, Ms. Hamilton censors her comments pretty grievously.

  • abb3w

    There’s also a theological error. Under church doctrine, a sacrament is valid to eternity. Something like nine in ten of the self-identified Catholics have received the sacrament of Confirmation. They may be Catholics in bad standing, but they are still canonically Catholic — in the most literal sense.

  • Michael W Busch

    The exact phrasing in the survey report (Jones & Dreweke 2011) was “only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning”.

    Digging down into the data a bit more, 98% of American Catholic women reported using contraception at some point in the past and 87% contraceptive use at the present time. So there is still some hypocrisy, but you’re right that it may not be as great as 1:6 or 1:7.

    Caveat to that: the contraceptive use survey polled Catholic women, while the survey above was intended to cover all American Catholics.

  • McAtheist

    I was born and raised in a small fishing town in Scotland, in 1963 my Uncle (presbyterian) got married to catholic girl, he had to convert otherwise she wouldn’t marry him.

    Even as a ten year old I didn’t understand the outrage and scandal, I had already figured out that if he didn’t convert he wouldn’t get laid.

  • McAtheist

    good analogy, some people can’t get their head around moving to a new town, others can’t get their head around the fact they are actually atheist.

  • Tobias27

    Like many religions, Catholicism is very much about belonging to a social group – and about human inertia.
    Let’s face it – most people don’t examine their lives very honestly or rationally in all sorts of areas – religion, politics, economics, etc.

  • Carmelita Spats

    You are right…I have tried to get an official excommunication from the RCC. I qualify since I had an abortion. I went back and forth with the local diocese and they would NOT grant me a document on their letterhead stating that I was excommunicated even though I meet the criteria since I’m an atheist and I had an abortion. The best they could do for me after FOUR months of haggling was to give me a letter stating that I had “defected” from the RCC. Nowhere in the document was the word “excommunicated” used. To this day, NO ONE has been able to explain WHY they use the term “defection” and not “excommunication.”

  • Pseudonym

    I identify as a gamer. This is predicated on the fact that I play videogames. If I didn’t play videogames, I’d have no business calling myself a gamer.

    Why would you want to associate yourself with misogynists? Why would you want to have a hobby which is defined, in the popular imagination of many people, by stylised violence which may spill over into everyday life?

    Is there a name for “gamer-minus-misogyny”? Is there a name for “American-minus-current-administration”? Do we really need one, or can we trust people to be smart enough to know the difference?

  • Pseudonym

    Your first and third paragraphs apply equally to the United States.

  • Claude

    That is so funny that you pursued excommunication with such gusto. Since you are an atheist, excommunication, designed to censure practicing Catholics, might not have been considered apt in your case.

    Re what abb3w said below, I’ve argued with Catholics that I am not Catholic, since I’m an atheist/agnostic of long standing and was even denied confirmation (because of opposition to some tenet of church doctrine, though I can’t even remember what the squabble was about now). They insist that by canon law it was sufficient that I was baptized into the Catholic Church to be a Catholic for life. I don’t know about all this, but it’s pretty funny, too.

  • Sids

    Anyone else notice that 40% consider the pope to be infallible on moral issues, but only 13% hold his teachings on morality above their own consciences?

  • Anna

    For what it’s worth, she may have been an atheist, but it doesn’t sound like she was a materialist. I seem to remember that she believed in dualism, which seems like a slippery slope to accepting other forms of supernaturalism.

  • addicted4444

    Misogyny isn’t a central plank of being identified as a gamer.

    Infallibility of the pope, celibacy of priests, no using condoms, hatred of gays, are all central tenets of Catholicism handed down by the highest power in the religion.

    A closer analogy would be if Drakk joined the association of misogynist gamers, and claimed he was not misogynist. Others, would have rightfully questioned why he did not leave it for the association of non-misogynist gamers when he does not believe some of its most defining characteristics.

  • Anne Geyer

    icecreamassassin, thank you for asking this question and doing so respectfully. As a politically liberal Roman Catholic, I can’t tell you how tired I get of people telling me my reasons for doing things (they somehow all seem to know better than me) or reducing my very complicated faith to a superstitious caricature gleaned from Bing Crosby movies and half-remembered customs so ingrained that they’re mistaken for doctrines.

    Like you, I went to Catholic school: 16 years, including a respectable amount of college-level theology. How can there be disagreement? I’ve spent a lot of time studying and thinking about these issues, so I feel fairly confident my answer. But it’s a long, boring and at times litigous explanation that I’m sure I will screw up, which is probably why most people (both in and outside the church) go with the easy-to-say “Catholics are what the pope says they are.” And that’s how caricatures get promulgated.

    But you asked for a definition, so I’ll take a shot: Roman Catholicism is a large Christian sect marked by a long history, a centralized organization, an emphasis on both ritual as well as scripture and preaching, and… one other thing that I’ll get to below. There are also some technical theological issues that differentiate us from Protestants involving the role of faith+works vs. faith alone, but since they aren’t part of the clergy/lay divide you mention, I won’t go into them.

    As for “acceptance of temporal authority” – if by acceptance you mean an all-or-nothing obedience, then I’m sorry to say that the core assumption of your argument above is incorrect. This is not even a peripheral belief. (And yes, I know that even many Catholics think otherwise; they’re misinformed.) Catholicism requires *respect* for the teaching of church leaders both now and throughout history — hence the much greater reliance on tradition than in Protestant churches.

    But just because the current Clan of the Red Beanie would like us all to forget about it, there are other factors that Catholics are taught to rely on for guidance. For one thing, there’s scripture, although that falls under the “tradition” part of authority. Respect for the “sensus fidei” (‘sense of the faith’ by the entire body of the faithful) is also a core teaching. So is fidelity to one’s individual conscience when you truly believe you are acting correctly. There is actually a lot more flexibility than outsiders are led to believe by ultra-conservatives.

    That one other thing about Catholics that distinguishes them is the value placed on unity of the faithful. There’s a tradition in Protestantism that serious differences of opinion are cause for believers to break away and start an independent organization, but in Catholicism the tradition calls for staying in and continuing the argument. (There are pros and cons for both: What constitutes “serious”?) Your expectation that Catholics should leave because of disagreements we have is possibly colored by the Protestant way, which is more dominant in American culture.

    As for the things that you name as beliefs that should drive Catholics out (not allowing married priests, birth control, or same sex marriage) — the first two are not absolutes even for the hierarchy. There *are* married priests and situations where birth control has been approved. Both involve very special circumstances, but the reasoning behind the decisions allowing these exceptions also allows room for further liberalization of the rules. And not only is same sex marriage a civil matter beyond the scope of theology, there is actually historical precedent for same-sex marriage within the Church! So no, I don’t see why I should have to give up my membership in a huge group whose important beliefs I do embrace just because The Management is hidebound.

    As for the corruption in the hierarchy that we Catholics are now all too painfully aware of, I’ll offer a parallel. I think George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzalez, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and many others but most of all Dick Cheney — I think they’re all war criminals who belong in jail. But I would never considered giving up my U.S. citizenship.

  • Pseudonym

    These are not central tenets of Catholicism, as 83% of surveyed Catholics can attest.

    I’m sure the pope emeritus believed that papal infallibility was a given, even though (as we’ve established elsewhere in this thread) it’s a theological latecomer, so it’s hard to see how it’s “central” by any reasonable definition of the word “central”.

    In related news, the executive branch of the United States says that the executive branch of the United States can execute US citizens without due process. A significant proportion of US citizens don’t buy it for a second, yet for some reason don’t magically cease to be US citizens.