01: Bishops are a determining factor in the vitality of Catholic dioceses, according to a diocese-by-diocese study of American Catholicism. The study, presented in Crisis magazine (February/March), rates the vitality of dioceses according to the criteria of increases in the number of active priests, ordinations, and adults received into the church. There is a clear geographical pattern among those found to be more or less vital on these measures.
The Northeast, especially New England, shows the weakest rates on these measures while the South, the region traditionally the most hostile to Catholicism, shows the highest (the diocese of Knoxville, Tenn. ranked first). Researchers Rodger Hunter-Hall and Steven Wagner found that size does matter–“there is an inverse relationship between the size of the diocese and the health of the diocese. As size increases, vitality decreases.”
The bishop was found to have a “great deal” of influence on the dioceses’ ranking. Those with bishops stressing evangelization and the role of the Holy Spirit in their work and are personally involved in in trying to draw new vocations to the priesthood and increasing the morale of priests ranked the highest. Bishops and dioceses at the top of the ranking also tend to use their web sites to provide positive information (rather than asking for money or highlighting the sex abuse crisis) on Catholicism and about finding one’s religious vocation.
(Crisis, 18141/2 N St., NW, Washington, DC 20036)
02: American Catholics have been uniquely mobile in moving upward in the wealth distribution, according to a recent study. The study, based on the 1979-2000 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, found that non-Hispanic Catholics between early and later adulthood were significantly more likely than the average respondent to move up in the wealth distribution, despite being raised in comparatively disadvantaged families. The CARA Report (Winter) cites the study, conducted by Lisa Keister of Duke University, as showing that 9.2 percent of Catholics and 13.7 percent of mainline Protestants had a fathers with a B.A., yet Catholics had a higher rate of wealth ownership (of about $180,000) than the Protestants ($159,000).
But when it comes to the direct influence of religious institutions and leadership on making financial decisions, the Catholics are relatively secular. The same issue of the CARA Report cites a Timemagazine poll showing that while 18 percent of Protestants say their pastor or religious leader has influence on their financial decisions, only 12 percent of Catholics make the same claim. Forty seven percent of Protestants say the Bible is a source of financial decision-making,, compared to 18 percent of Catholics.
03: Alumni of Catholic colleges and universities ranked their education and the values they learned from these institutions more highly than public university alumni, according to a recent survey. The survey was conducted by education researcher Jim Day among 2,000 alumni of Catholic, public, and other church-affiliated universities and colleges.
America magazine (February 19) cites the survey as showing that alumni of Catholic schools were considerably more likely than their public university counterparts to say they benefited from opportunities for spiritual development during their college years, experienced an integration of values and ethics in classroom discussions, and were helped to develop moral principles that can guide their actions. (America, 106 W. 56th St., New York, NY 10019-3803)
04: One-third of American Protestant church attenders are uncertain that they will be attending the same church in the near future, according to a survey by Ellison Research. The survey of 1,184 adult Protestant churchgoers (attending at least once a month) found that two-thirds said they will definitely continue to attend the same church in the near future. Twenty-five percent said they “will probably” attend the same church, while seven percent said they may or may not do so; one percent were already making plans to leave their current church.
The average length of time adults have been attending church is 13.7 years, but that average is probably skewed due to a small number of people citing very high numbers–those attending for many years. Therefore, the more accurate of attendance may be the median figure of 6.6 years, which means that half of all churchgoers have been attending the same church for less time than this, and half for a greater length of time.
Among the denominations, Lutherans were more likely to have been attending their church for many years (12.5 years) compared to other churches (charismatics the least likely). But for Lutherans participation is also far less frequent than in other denominational groups. Among all Protestant churchgoers, 30 percent attend less than every week. But among Lutherans, 46 percent attend less than weekly.