Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Bishops on the Pew Study

[More on the Pew Study in a previous post, with links to various analyses.] From the USCCB website:
WASHINGTON— The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted to the findings of a report on religious beliefs and practices by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life made public today.

The study, which is based on a survey of more than 35,000 American adults, estimates that nearly 92 percent of American adults say they believe in God or a universal spirit. The findings also point to the fact that Americans take religion seriously, that faith is a very important part of their lives and that many of them attend religious services regularly and pray daily.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington agrees.

"History testifies that religious faith is very important to Americans. At every juncture of our past, Americans have called upon God for guidance, protection, and direction. There is a clear identification with religion in America which, for Catholics, reflects the dedicated efforts of priests, catechists and teachers in our history," said Archbishop Wuerl, chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

The Pew study also states that 74 percent of Americans believe in life after death and that 63 percent believe that Scripture is the Word of God. Another 63 percent of respondents with children at home say they pray and read Scripture with their children and 60 percent send their children to religious education programs.

The study also concludes that most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith and that the majority of those affiliated with a religious tradition agree that there is more than one way to interpret the teaching of their faith.

For Fr. J. Brian Bransfield, specialist in the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis of the USCCB, "it is hard to quantify the tremendous thirst for truth among families and people of all ages, as demonstrated by the overwhelming response to the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. This thirst is sometimes misdirected through the effects of secularism, with its focus on individualism and consumerism. Prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said, 'God does not count in large numbers.' In the face of any measure, the steady and ongoing response of the Church is an ever renewed commitment to robust catechetical efforts."
Perhaps they didn't include it in this tersest of communiques, but one of the most interesting things about the study was the significant levels of religious mobility of American adults, as well as the finding that vast numbers of Catholics do not practice their faith, or have left for other churches, or end up with no faith. Perhaps there is a more detailed document coming out? I would hope so: otherwise, to conclude that a) America is very religious and b) we need to increase our catechetical efforts didn't really require any study of the Study.

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