Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


U.S. Catholics Adapting to New Realities

At CARA, we utilize our surveys and Google search term trends to estimate weekly Mass attendance. Mass attendance fell to below 10 percent during Lent in 2020 with the emergence of the pandemic. Did former weekly attenders begin to watch Mass weekly online or on TV? Has Mass attendance begun to increase now as vaccines are administered and lockdowns eased?

A CARA survey conducted during the summer of 2020 of young adult Catholics (ages 18-35) indicated 11% were watching Mass "very often" and 14% were viewing "somewhat often." According to our tracking of Google search trends, this matches what we might call "Mass participation." The figure below shows how Mass attendance changed with the green bars approximating attendance and the orange bars estimating viewing. 

While in-person attendance has been difficult, Mass participation or engagement has been more consistent. Prior to the pandemic about 27% of Catholics were attending or viewing Mass per week. This would rise significantly on days of obligation and Ash Wednesday. During the pandemic engagement has averaged 22% per week. Yet, this does not rise as much on days of obligation and Ash Wednesday (for more on Mass attendance trends see our previous post). 

In the aforementioned survey of young adults, 30% said they lived in a household that contributed financially to their parish's weekly offertory collection, giving, on average, $10 per week prior to the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, only 13% say their household has been contributing. However, among these households, the average given per week has been $20 per week (for more on financial giving see our previous post).

According to Gallup, affiliation with Catholicism in 2020 was 22% and this was unchanged from what it was in 2019 or 2018. 



Ponderings on mortality…

This post is from CARA's Executive Director Thomas Gaunt, S.J.

This coming year I will mark 50 years as a Jesuit having entered the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1971 at a time when the Province infirmary was located at the novitiate in Wernersville, PA.  The brothers and priests in the infirmary seemed ancient of age – they were in their 70s and 80s at a time when most American men lived only into their late 60s, and Jesuits even less.  A remarkable achievement over the past 50 years has been the extension of life expectancy – particularly for men, and for Jesuits, in the United States.

The life expectancy for white American males in 1970 was 68.0 years and it would steadily increase year after year to 76.4 years by 2017 (the most recent data).  An 8.4 year increase in longevity over a period of 47 years.  An examination of the necrology of the Maryland Province Jesuits (a listing of all the deceased Maryland Province Jesuits that is maintained so that we might remember them in prayer on the anniversary of their death) shows that the average age of death between 1961 to 1970 was 66.2 years.  In 1970 the Jesuits had an average life span of about 1.8 years less than other men.

If we fast forward to 2017 the average age of death for Maryland Jesuits had increased to 83.7 years, or 7.3 years more than other men.  What is happening here?  The following graphs show the number of Jesuits who died in each decade and their average age at death.  The Center for Disease Control calculates the life expectancy for men and women by ethnicity each year - the life expectancy at the end of each decade is presented in the table below.  An actuarialist will note that these are not exactly comparable calculations, but they are close.


In 1970 the Maryland Jesuits were living 1.8 years less than other American males and this increases to 2.5 fewer years by 1980.  Jesuit longevity then reverses itself by 1990 when Jesuits are now living just over a year longer (1.2 years) and begins to steadily increase to 2.1 years in 2000, 5.9 years in 2010, and 7.3 years in 2017. While the life expectancy for American men increased by about 8 ½ years between 1970 to 2017, the Maryland Jesuits increased their longevity 17 ½ years, double the average gain of American men over the same 47 years.

In recent years there were major studies on the relationship of one’s marital status to longevity, in 2006 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health there was an article “Marital Status and Longevity in the United States Population” by Robert Kaplan and Richard Kronick.  They investigated the relation between marital status and longevity.  They summarize their research findings saying, “controlling for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, the death rate for people who were unmarried was significantly higher than it was for those who were married and living with their spouses. Although the effect was significant for all categories of unmarried, it was strongest for those who had never married. The never married effect was seen for both sexes, and was significantly stronger for men than for women.”  Concluding that “current marriage is associated with longer survival. Among the not married categories, having never been married was the strongest predictor of premature mortality.”

So, what might be going on here?  Jesuits (who are never married) are living considerably longer that other U.S. males (married and single), and even longer in comparison to single never married men. Kaplan and Kronick pay particular attention to the social isolation that may occur with those who are never married.  They write:

Accumulated evidence suggests that social isolation increases the risk of premature death. Marriage is a rough proxy for social connectedness. Among categories on being unmarried, we suggest that having never married may be associated with more severe isolation because it is associated with greater isolation from children and other family. The data seem to support the hypothesis that the greater level of social isolation associated with having never married is associated with larger health consequences….

Our study raises a series of new questions. Firstly, we found that having never been married is a better predictor of poor health outcomes than either divorce or widowhood. Secondly, the impact of social isolation is not constrained to the elderly. In fact, it is comparatively stronger early in life. This phenomenon may have been overlooked in previous studies because early death is uncommon…. Finally, our findings challenge the belief that the effect of social isolation is upon diseases of the heart. Our findings underscore the impact on all cause mortality. Furthermore, the predominant cause of death associated with social isolation differs at different stages of the life cycle.

Kaplan and Kronick’s conclusion that having never been married impacts the longevity of men fits the Jesuit data in the 1960s and 70s when Jesuit longevity was 1.8 to 2.5 years less than other men.  But, from the 1980s on the reverse has occurred as the never married Jesuits increase their longevity over other men by more than 7 years by 2017. 

For the Jesuits of the Maryland Province, and the Jesuits throughout the world, there was a renewed focus on the importance and value of community life in the late 1960s and 70s.  A change of customs and habits in the day to day living of Jesuit life together did not come quickly or without turmoil, but greater attention to how we share life together, both in prayer and in conversation, along with support for one another has evolved over the decades.  Greater attention was also given to the use of tobacco and alcohol (important factors for healthy living).

In 2016 at the Jesuit General Congregation this renewed focus on community life was stated as: “The Jesuit community is a concrete space in which we live as friends in the Lord. This life together is always at the service of mission, but because these fraternal bonds proclaim the Gospel, it is itself a mission.” (GC36, D. 1, No. 9) To be “friends in the Lord” is a renewed part of the mission of Jesuits in recent decades – quite the opposite of social isolation.

Community life in the Jesuits, or just about any Religious Institute, not only counteracts the harmful impact of social isolation for those who never marry, but may well enhance the benefits of social connectedness for longevity.   


Kaplan, R. M., & Kronick, R. G. (2006). Marital status and longevity in the United States population. Journal of epidemiology and community health, 60(9), 760–765.

National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2018. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2019.  Table 4. Life expectancy at birth, at age 65, and at age 75, by sex, race, and Hispanic origin: United States, selected years 1900–2017.

Documents of General Congregation 36 of the Society of Jesus.    Decree 1, No. 9.  ht


U.S. Catholics on Military Service: World Day of Peace, January 1st, 2021

A note of introduction: we, at CARA, are not theologians but pracademics and social scientists specializing in preparing applied research about the Catholic Church. This blogpost was authored by Michal Kramarek with guidance from Fr. Drew Christiansen, SJ, of Georgetown University, Fr. Thomas Gaunt, SJ, of CARA, and Maria Santelli of the Center on Conscience and War. Any errors are the sole responsibility of the author.

In 2018, the Catholic Church revised its teaching on capital punishment from conditionally permissive to a strict one that deems death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2018, §2267). Some commentators believe that the Church may be heading similar direction on the issue of war. In his 2020 Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis came “as far as one can go toward critiquing [Church’s doctrine on war] without rejecting it wholesale” (Christiansen 2020).

The purpose of this blogpost is to briefly present selected statistics about the views of Catholics in the United States on supporting (and objecting to) service in the Armed Forces. In order to provide some background, the first few paragraphs offer a quick overview of Church’s teaching on war starting with the Bible.

What is Church’s Teaching on War?
The Old Testament begins with observations about human propensity towards conflict (as explored in the story about Caine and Abel, in Genesis 4) and the commandment about the unconditional value of human life: “[y]ou shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).  It chronicles many military conflicts and praises wartime heroes of the chosen people (e.g., David who killed Goliath, 1 Samuel 17, or Judith who beheaded Holofernes, Judith 10-13). The Old Testament also criticizes those calling for peace “when there is no peace” for being careless (Jeremiah 6:14). While describing turbulent history of the chosen people, the Old Testament hopefully looks to the future when people “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4).
As described in the New Testament, the coming of Jesus did not bring peace in a military or political sense. Jesus Himself said: “[d]o not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Jesus Himself drove out money-changers from the temple with a whip (John 2:15). Yet, in the Sermon on the Mountain, He exalted the meek (Matthew 5:5), the merciful (Matthew 5:7), and the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). He spoke against not only murder but also insult and anger towards others (Matthew 5:21-22). He commanded to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-45), and to “not resist an evildoer” (Matthew 5:38-42). He rebuked the person who defended Him with a sword (Mathew 26:51-54) and the person who struck Him (John 18:23).

St. Paul built on Christ’s teachings saying “[d]o not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God (…) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21). However, he also said that “[i]t is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). Like Jesus, St. Paul rebuked those who struck him (Acts 23:3).

Early Church was generally pacifist including prohibition on serving in the military and renunciation of military service in the case of adult baptism. In the third century, Saint Maximilian of Tebessa was martyred for refusing military service and is known as the earliest recorded conscientious objector. While the pacifism of the Church in the first three centuries of Christ Era is a subject of some debate,  some of the later stances of the Church are clearly not peaceful as exemplified in Her role in the crusades, wars with Protestant denominations, and colonialism. In 2000, Saint Pope John Paul II asked God for forgiveness for the wrongs committed by members of the Church including sins against peace and unity of mankind (see here and here).

Throughout Church’s history, the magisterium continued to clarify Biblical teachings and eventually formulated the “just war” doctrine (with notable contributions from Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine in fourth-fifth century and Saint Thomas Aquinas in thirteenth century). The Catechism of the Catholic Church continues to teach “just war” doctrine to this day allowing war by outlining “strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force,” which state that: the damage inflicted by the aggressor must be lasting, grave, and certain; alternatives to war are impractical or ineffective; there are serious prospects of success; and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (§2309). The Catechism stresses that “[b]ecause of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it” (§2327).

What is the Magisterium on War in the Nuclear Age?
In the age of nuclear weapons, the Church increasingly emphasizes the need for peace and warns about the dangers of war. For instance, in 1965, Council Fathers of the Vatican II condemned total war and the use of weapons that “can inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes 1965, §80). They also proclaimed that “[i]t is our clear duty (…) to strain every muscle as we work for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent” (§82) and that “[t]he courage of those who fearlessly and openly resist those who issue [military commands violating universal natural law] merits supreme commendation” (§79).

The same year, Saint Pope Paul VI said at the United Nations General Assembly “[n]o more war, war never again.” And, two decades later, U.S. Bishops made similar appeals stating that “[p]eacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. We are called to be peacemakers” (USCCB 1983, §333).

A decade later, Saint Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1991), expressed hope that “people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing (…) war in international [disputes]” (§23) and exclaimed: “[n]o, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war” (§52). Two years later, in 1993, the Pope named Emil Kapaun, United States Army chaplain who died as prisoner of war in the Korean War, as Servant of God clearing first step toward possible canonization. Thus, despite the growing emphasis on peace, the Church continues to teach that people in military service can exemplify heroic virtue during war.

The successor of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI said that “we must begin asking ourselves whether as things stand, with new weapons that cause destruction that goes well beyond the groups involved in the fight, it is still licit to allow that a ‘just war’ might exist” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger 2003). Four years later, in 2007, he beatified Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian executed for refusing to fight for the Third Reich during World War II, as a patron of conscientious objectors.

Current pope, Francis, stated that “[t]he name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!” (Pope Francis 2016). He also wrote, in his Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship (2020), “[w]e can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war’” (§258).

How do Catholics View the Military?
Overall, the Catholic Church continues to teach “just war” doctrine that allows war under strict conditions. However, in the age of nuclear weapons, the Holy See appears to be leaning towards increasingly restrictive teaching where, in practice, meeting the criteria of “just war” is unlikely. Notably, Church documents acknowledge that there is a “range of strongly held opinion in the Catholic community on questions of fact and judgment concerning issues of war and peace” (USCCB 1983, p.1). To develop a better understanding of those opinions, CARA and other institutions conducted a number of different surveys of Catholics. Current research offers only fragmentary insights. A few of the most relevant findings are described below.

According to the General Social Survey, between 1973 and 2018, on average, two in five (36%) of U.S. adults who were raised Catholic felt that the United States is spending too much on the military, armaments, and defense. By comparison, two in five (41%) felt the amount is about right, and one in five (22%) felt that it is too little. In each of the past five decades, those raised Catholic were 4 to 7 percentage points more likely than those who were not raised Catholic to feel that United States is spending too much on the military, armaments, and defense (see the chart below).

How Do Catholics View Military Service?
The Catholic Church recognizes and even venerates (as in the case of blessed Emil Kapaun) individual Catholics who serve in the military. The Church declares that “[t]hose who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1992, §2310).

The motivations for serving in the military are complex and include both ideological and practical factors, thus the available statistics should be interpreted with caution. Having said that, according to the General Social Survey, U.S. adults who were raised Catholic were about as likely as all the others to have served in the military in 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. However, in 2010s the difference was statistically significant as those raised Catholic were 2 percentage points less likely than those who were not raised Catholic to be military veterans (see the chart below).  

How Do Catholics View Conscientious Objection?
The Catholic Church recognizes and even venerates (as in the case of blessed Franz Jägerstätter) individual Catholics who object to unjust war. The Church also esteems Catholics who object to any war. Vatican II Council Fathers “express [their] admiration for all who forego the use of violence to vindicate their rights and resort to other means of defense which are available to weaker parties, provided it can be done without harm to the rights and duties of others and of the community” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes 1965, §78).

In terms of practical implications for the faithful, the U.S. Bishops teach that “[t]he overriding principal that binds Catholics-and all human beings-is that we must follow our conscience. (…) If an individual Catholic objects to all war (…) the Church and our Nation have recognized this as an exception that must be honored, if it is rooted in authentic conscientious objection and not lesser motives. (…) The short answer to the question: If a Catholic is utterly convinced in conscience that a war is unjust and his own role constitutes direct participation in the effort, he has the right and obligation to object and even refuse to participate, regardless of the consequences to person and career” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, statement on conscientious objection).

Notably, the practice of Catholic teaching on selective conscientious objection is not allowed under U.S. law. The Congress has not legislated it and the Supreme Court declined to recognize it (Gillette v. United States 1971). According to the United States Department of Defense, “[t]he individual’s objections must be to all wars rather than a specific war” (Instruction 1300.06 from July 2017). In practice, however, the military has adapted to what are essentially selective conscientious objections with routine procedures of reassignment and separation.

According to General Social Survey data, U.S. adults who were raised Catholic were 7 percentage points more likely than all other U.S. adults to believe that conscientious objectors should be exempted from a military draft (if the United States reinstated it). Nonetheless, the majority (57%) of those raised Catholic were against accommodating conscientious objectors (see the chart below). Notably, the underlying survey was conducted in 1982, when the tensions between USA and USSR were on the rise. Both Catholics’ and general public’s views are likely to be different today. 

Overall, the diversity of views of Catholics in the United States may be reflective of the current nuanced teachings of the Church. However, presently available data is relatively fragmented and, in some cases, out of date. More research could prove very valuable in this area.

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