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Where American Catholics Are

The new NYT/CBS poll of American Catholics is out, and it shows that they want a more liberal church, because the Church is “out of touch.” Surprise, surprise.

The numbers worth really paying attention to, though, are the responses from Catholics who go to mass weekly. They’re the ones who care enough about their faith to show up, and therefore are where the heart of the US Catholic Church is. Go to the interactive graphic, and select for weekly massgoers. Among the findings:

+ There is no sense of crisis among weekly massgoers. That’s not to say they think things are great, but simply that they don’t have a sense that things are going off the rails.

+ They generally think their bishops are out of touch, but they feel a lot better about their priests.

+ Only a minority (42 percent) have great confidence that the cardinals in conclave will make a good choice for the next pope.

+ Just over half of weekly massgoers would like the next pope to hold Pope Benedict’s line, or be even more conservative — but 40 percent of weekly massgoers want to see a more liberal pope (versus 54 percent of all US Catholics).

Here’s where things get really interesting. Remember, these are weekly massgoers, not cultural Catholics, or casual Catholics:

+ Strong majorities want to see married priests and women priests.

+ Even stronger majorities are against abortion and the death penalty.

+ Thirty-four percent want the next pope to hold the line against artificial contraception — though only 24 percent say they oppose using contraception.

+ Two-thirds say they obey their own conscience over the Pope’s teachings (badly worded question; should have said “the Catholic Church’s teachings”)

+ Three out of four say you can disagree with the Church on abortion, divorce, contraception, and issues like that, and still be a good Catholic.

What do you think? Here’s what I think: I am genuinely surprised by how outside of the Church’s teachings so many regular massgoing Catholics place themselves. I thought the orthodoxy among weekly mass attendees was stronger. I was wrong.

Here’s what James Noel Ward thinks:

The Church is in a state of sloth from suckling on the state’s teat because most Catholic charities around the world are funded by grants, not the faithful. Priests have disappeared from their confessionals and rectories to hang out in louche leather bars. Lawsuits and inner-city decay have bankrupted dioceses around the world. Folks in Europe don’t even pretend the Church exists anymore. So we do not need a black pope, we do not need a pastoral pope, we do not need a friendly pope, and we do not need some smiling old forgettable jackass. We need a son of a bitch pope.

Really? Well then, the moment has come at last:


(Seriously, though, what do you think about the poll results?)

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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