01: The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the U.S. caused little decline Mass attendance and contributions to parishes, according to a study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). The study, based on 10 polls of self-identified Catholics from 2001 to 2005, and found minimal downturns in attendance and giving at the parish level. But the survey did find that contributions to annual diocesan fundraising campaigns have suffered significantly. An overwhelming majority of Catholics also said the crisis has hurt the church’s credibility on political and social issues.
02: Atheists continue to be the least accepted social group in the U.S., according to a national survey by researchers at the University of Minnesota. The study, published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review, is based on a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households. Researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.
She adds that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism. The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one’s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation—with more educated East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts.
03: The “Christian ministry is in crisis” in Canada, with the majority of Protestant pastors saying they feel “isolated, stressed out, and spiritually spent,” according to a new study. The study, conducted by the University of Toronto among Ontario clergy from the Anglican, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Baptist, and United churches, found that 77 percent of pastors say they felt more like a CEO than a pastor. Eighty percent said they felt guilty if they took time off, despite working 50 to 60- hour work weeks, and eighteen percent said they didn’t have a close friend in their church or community.
04: A survey of Spanish young people finds for the first time that fewer than half consider themselves Catholics. The study, titled Spanish Youth 2005 and sponsored by the Santa Maria Foundation, found identification with Catholicism declined from over three-quarters just 10 years ago. The survey also found that only one in ten consider themselves committed Catholics. Touchstone magazine (June) cites the foundation as commenting that “young people do not find attractive models of religiosity,” and react to the church’s excessive wealth, its interference in politics and its conservatism in sexual matters.” Spanish youth are said to show a “pluralism in their appreciation of what today constitutes a family…”