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.

12.30.2020

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.



The End of 2020

Time is up! We are all moving on and 2020 does not get to come along with us… Some final observations:

The Year Without a Church Easter and Christmas
CARA uses its polling data and Mass related search terms to estimate Catholic Mass attendance each week. The figure below shows these estimates from January 2019 to the Christmas weekend in 2020. The 2019 data looks like many past years with spikes in attendance around Ash Wednesday, Easter, and Christmas as well as other days of obligation. Christmas tends to have the highest attendance of the year. 



In 2020, the year started off with the typical pattern we’d expect with 48% attending Ash Wednesday services on February 26. Yet, in the first weeks of March restrictions and lockdowns began to take effect to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Only a slight spike up to 15% appeared at Easter. From there it has been a long stretch of very low Mass attendance. Christmas 2020 represented the highest level of Mass attendance since Ash Wednesday at 20%. That is similar to attendance in a typical non-holiday week in 2019.

Nearly Final Counts on the Catholic Vote
CARA averages the major polling estimates for the vote of Catholics in presidential elections. The figure below shows the trends since 1952. Currently, president-elect Joe Biden has a two-point edge over President Trump. We use “currently” because there are still two academic surveys that have yet to report that we have included in past averages. On three occasions since 2000, the vote of Catholics has been evenly divided with a 1 percentage point or less difference, which we tally as a tie. It is possible, as with 2016 that the academic post-election surveys may move 2020 into this column.


 


12.09.2020

Ministry Finances in the Midst of Pandemic: A Survey of U.S. Catholic Priests

This is the third in a series of posts CARA has prepared on the effects of the pandemic on the Catholic Church in the United States. The first post provided estimates on how the pandemic is affecting the amount of individual giving to parishes. The second post summarized U.S. Catholic Bishops’ views on how the Church is faring during the pandemic. This, third, post describes how the pandemic is affecting ministry finances from Catholic priests’ perspectives. The following is a summary of selected findings from a national survey conducted by CARA this summer (full report can be found here).

Financial Concerns Related to Covid-19 Pandemic
When asked about their biggest concern regarding the financial health of their parish, school, or other primary ministry, about 16% of responding priests indicated that they are doing fine financially and/or they are optimistic about the financial future of their ministries. Some of them attribute this good financial situation to the continued generous support of their parishioners, successful transition to electronic giving, receiving funds from the Paycheck Protection Plan, as well as financial and strategic support from their dioceses. A few priests stated that they are not concerned about finances, because they are putting their trust in God. A few of these comments are presented below.

  • Electronic giving is helping, but people are very generous and continue sending checks by regular mail.
  • The support of the parishioners has been nothing short of phenomenal. The parish will close the financial year (June 30) significantly ahead of last year.
  • Honestly, I don't have big concerns. I trust in God.

However, the majority of priests expressed various apprehensions about the financial well-being of their ministries. Priests were often worried about declining revenue streams (in particular, collections and donations from parishioners). Among those most worried were priests overseeing Catholic schools who were uncertain about future tuition revenue. A few priests noted that they had to cancel fundraising events and, in some cases, suspend fundraising campaigns. Pastors in parishes getting a lot of visitors (e.g., tourists, students, or seasonal visitors) had to further adjust their revenue expectations. Some of these comments appear below.

  • Many people only give when they attend Mass (especially those who give cash). So, that income is not materializing, until we have larger Masses again.
  • (…) I have a concern that people do not understand that Church is not a pay as you go situation, but a real stewardship opportunity to show gratitude for what God has given us even in this time of refinement (maybe even especially during this time).
  • My biggest concern in how many students, and how much tuition, we will lose if e-learning is what we are still doing (…).
  • The largest fundraiser of the year is put on hold during a crucial time.

In consequence of declining revenue streams, priests were worried about their ability to continue on with their ministries. One of the chief concerns regarded the need to lower salaries/benefits and/or terminate/furlough staff. Many of the priests reported that they already had to take those steps while others anticipated that they will need to do so soon. Additionally, some priests expressed concerns about their ability to pay for expenses related to ongoing construction and maintenance. To some of the priests, the main concern was the ability to administer the Sacraments, to support the poor, and to keep schools open. Some examples are below.

  • The biggest concern is to find ways, alternatives to support new ministries, pertinent to the “new situation” (pastorally) emerging from this pandemic.
  • Although the financial health of the parish is of significant concern in as far as the physical plant and its maintenance depend on it, it is not, however, the most important part for the administering of the Sacraments, which is ultimately, the reason of being for a parish and the service of God's people.
  • Our elementary / middle school has done a herculean lift of offering distance learning to all students. However, the poorest students (though provided w Chromebooks), they lack internet connectivity. How do we keep the school running for the next year without a guaranteed enrollment?

Instead of focusing on the financial challenges to their ministries, some of the priests focused on the financial and other problems of their parishioners. They were worried about the effect of the pandemic on the growing unemployment and/or lower financial health of parishioners. A few of them noted that their parish’s declining finances has affected their ability to support parishioners in need (in particular, families with children, old people). Some were worried about the effects of the pandemic on the long-term engagement of their parishioners.

  • The fall out of unemployment, domestic abuse/ violence, alcoholism, suicide as a result of the lockdown.
  • Biggest concern is the financial health of our parishioners and their ability to support the parish.
  • Ability to continue meeting needs of families, especially those with children in school.

Actions Taken to Address the Financial Problems of the Parish
Catholic priests described how their parishes considered and/or acted upon various means of addressing the financial health concerns described above. Specifically, priests were asked to indicate in regard to seven specific actions whether they “considered doing so,” they “considered doing so, but decided against it,” they “are currently deciding whether to do so,” or they “have done so as a result of the pandemic.” Responding priests could also opt to leave the question unanswered, if they have not considered a particular option, or if this option was not applicable to them. The chart below shows the seven actions, ordered from those most likely to have been done to those least likely.


In terms of parishes’ efforts to mitigate the financial consequences of the pandemic, at the time of taking the survey in the summer of 2020, seven in ten priests reported that they have been encouraging parishioners to consider electronic giving for parish collections (72%) and that they applied to Federal or State assistance programs (Paycheck Protection Program, etc.) (70%). One in five priests furloughed some staff (22%) and eliminated one or more pastoral programs where they serve (21%). One in six priests reported that they decided to close their Catholic elementary school (17%) and to close the parish or ministry where they serve as a result of the pandemic (16%). And, one in ten priests (11%) laid off some staff as a result of the pandemic.

10.21.2020

Catholic Vote 2020

An election poll that focuses on Catholics has been hard to come by in 2020. That is until this week. A Real Clear Opinion Research poll, conducted in October of 1,490 Catholics who are likely to vote, provides some interesting insights. The study, commissioned by EWTN, indicates a swing towards Democrat Joe Biden. The vote in 2016 was so close among Catholics it was hard to discern which way they had voted. Polls didn’t agree.


In the current poll, which has a margin of error of ±2.8 percentage points, 48% of likely Catholic voters recall voting for Donald Trump in 2016 and 46% recall voting for Hillary Clinton. In the upcoming 2020 contest, 52% of these likely voters plan on voting for Joe Biden and 40% for Donald Trump. Forty-five percent of respondents self-identify as Democrats and 36% as Republicans. Forty percent of respondents say they are conservatives, 36% liberals, and 24% moderates.

If accurate, these results could be a bad sign for the Trump campaign. The winner of the Catholic vote typically wins a majority of the popular vote, although the Electoral College may result in the candidate with fewer votes nationally winning the presidency. State-level results for the Catholic vote did play an important role in 2016. Trump won the vote of Catholics in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Florida. Trump’s lead among Catholics was a necessity for winning Michigan and Florida—two states he needed to be elected. Both were 1 percentage point races overall and Trump won Catholics in Michigan by 18 percentage points and by 10 percentage points in Florida. According to the Pew Religious Landscape study, 18% of Michigan’s adults are Catholic as are 21% of Florida’s adults. Thus, Trump would not have had the Electoral College votes to win the presidency without the votes of Catholics in Michigan and Florida.

In predicting the 2020 outcome, state polls may be more important than national surveys. There is also the possibility of social desirability bias affecting the polling. Some who may end up voting for Trump may not accurately share this intention with pollsters because they feel like this is socially undesirable in the current political climate. This happens most often when the poll is conducted with a interviewer over the phone or in person. Self-administered surveys tend to minimize social desirability bias. The Real Clear Opinion Research/EWTN study does show some social desirability effects but this is only observable in Mass attendance reports. Thirty-eight percent of respondents report weekly Mass attendance prior to the pandemic. Surveys conducted without interviewers find only about 22% of adult Catholics attends this frequently.

Biden's 12 percentage point lead is large and well outside the margin of error. It appears the Catholic vote may not be as close in 2020 as it has been in other recent presidential elections. 

Some of the other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • When ranking items that are “very important” to them when considering who to vote for President this year, Catholics said the most important is their economic status (47% “very important”) followed by their political party (44%), their community (44%), their race and ethnicity (33%) and then their Catholic faith (32%).
  • Forty-seven percent of Catholics approve of Donald Trump as president and 53% disapprove.
  • Catholics are more approving of Democrats in Congress than Republicans (51% compared to 49%).
  • Catholics top concerns in thinking about their presidential vote include: economy and jobs (73% “a major concern”), coronavirus (68%), healthcare (67%), and civil unrest (53%).
  • More support than oppose the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court (46% compared to 28%).
  • A majority say that Senator Dianne Feinstein’s remark “the dogma lives loudly in you” at Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing is “not appropriate” (51%) compared to 26% who felt this was “appropriate” and 23% who said they were “not sure.”
  • More believe practicing Catholic politicians should follow the teachings of  the Catholic Church and oppose abortion than those who believe they shouldn’t (43% compared to 29%). Fifty-nine percent personally believe abortion is morally wrong.
  • Eleven percent believe abortion should never be permitted. Eleven percent believe it should be allowed to save the life of the mother. Thirty-seven percent believe it should be allowed in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Eighteen percent believe it should be allowed in the first three months of pregnancy. Seven percent believe it should be allowed in the first six months of pregnancy. Fifteen percent believe it should be allowed at anytime during a pregnancy if a mother wants this.
  • Catholics are supportive of non-violent protests (61% saying these do more good than harm) and are not supportive of protests that turn violent (82% saying these do more harm than good).

Note: If you are a regular reader of this blog you already know that I (CARA researcher Mark Gray) am a political scientist and pollster who is profoundly apolitical. CARA is also an independent non-partisan research center. I am not registered to vote nor will I be. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. In political analysis and forecasting I always try to stick solely to the data.

8.06.2020

Some of the Highest COVID-19 Death Rates Are in Majority Catholic Countries

Looking globally at the most recent COVID-19 death rates per 100,000 population in countries with available data, it becomes apparent that some Catholic countries have been hit harder than others. As of yesterday, 17 countries had more than 30 deaths per 100,000 people. More than three in four of these countries have Catholic majority populations (as measured by the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae and Pew Research Center estimates).

The only countries that are not majority Catholic in the 17 hardest hit are the United States (47.93 deaths per 100,000), the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The latter two countries have not embraced masks and lockdowns as other countries have. The US and UK have reportedly lagged behind other countries that more quickly adopted tracking and tracing. Many other factors are certainly important.  

So what about the cluster of majority Catholic countries with comparatively higher numbers of deaths per 100,000 of their populations? There is one outlier. San Marino, a micro-state surrounded by Italy, has a population of only about 33,785. With 42 deaths its deaths per 100,000 calculates out to 124.32 (the principality of Andorra also has only 77,006 residents). Among the rest of the Catholic countries are states in Europe and Latin America where COVID-19 infections have been among the most widespread.

There is too much to untangle to know why this cluster of Catholic countries has been heavily affected. One would need to control for many other aspects. How old is the population? Are there underlying health conditions like obesity that might factor? Were enough hospitals available and prepared? What are the policies for lock-downs, testing, tracing, and use of masks? How well are people cooperating with these policies?

In the tradition of Max Weber or Émile Durkheim one might hypothesize that some aspect(s) of faith may be involved as well. While I really doubt this, it is the case that Catholic Masses involve a lot of interaction between parishioners and the distribution of Communion involves others touching something people consume (attending large religious services is considered a high risk environment). At the same time, these factors would be present in many non-Catholic religious gatherings. Did something about Catholic culture and the response to the sick or people in need factor in? We just don't know enough to even really generate good hypotheses yet.

It is also far too early to dive deeply into these questions. The pandemic is ongoing and it could just be a coincidence in how the virus has spread around the globe that deaths per 100,000 of a country's population are higher in some Catholic countries than many others. Once sufficient time has passed and we have a better understanding of how the pandemic spread and ended we can control for many of the factors discussed above to more closely examine the impact on majority Catholic countries. Note that nearly three fourths of majority Catholic countries are not in the cluster with more than 30 deaths per 100,000.

Another way to look at the impact is also to analyze case fatality rates, or the percentage of confirmed cases that result in death. However, this is tricky because there are too many differences between countries in testing for good comparable data on confirmed cases to be reliable. Also with so many asymptomatic cases the actual "fatality rate" (this would be measured by the infection fatality ratio, or the proportion of deaths among all infected individuals) is difficult to establish. However, in the data that are available, some of the highest case fatality rates are in majority Catholic countries. These include: Italy (14.1% confirmed cases resulting in fatality), Belgium (13.9%), France (13.3%), Hungary (13.1%), Mexico (10.9%), and Spain (9.3%). The only other countries with similar or higher rates are: Yemen (28.8%), the United Kingdom (15.1%), and the Netherlands (10.9%). The confirmed case fatality rate in the United States is currently 3.3%. The best estimate for the infection fatality ratio in the United States is 0.65%. 

While COVID-19 is something that one might say should be left to doctors and virologists, without an effective vaccine or therapeutic treatment, social scientists become important. The virus is easily transmissible when people are involved in behaviors that bring them into contact with many others indoors. Creating new ways to work, vote, learn, and just live with this reality will also involve the work of economists, political scientists, sociologists, and psychologists. Here at CARA we continue to research how the pandemic is affecting the Catholic Church and how it can best provide what people need to continue to worship and live out their faith.  

7.30.2020

Ministry in the Midst of Pandemic: A Survey of Lesotho Bishops


Click for: Full Report of Findings

Just how badly has the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Lesotho Catholic Church? And after taking such a hard hit financially, how can Lesotho bishops help parishes be “field hospitals” for the sick during a time of so much need?

According to a 2020 CARA survey, Lesotho’s four bishops report that their arch/dioceses, parishes, and Catholic schools have been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the areas of the celebration of Baptisms, the morale of the lay ecclesial ministers, the ability of Catholic Charities to serve people in need, sacramental preparation, the celebration of First Communions, the celebration of Holy Thursday services, their own morale as the bishops, and the morale of the deacons. A lesser but still substantial proportion of dioceses report being greatly affected in the areas of the morale of the bishops’ staff at the LCBC, the morale of the priests, the morale of the staff at the diocese office, the celebration of Confirmations, the celebration of Marriages, and the celebration of Funerals in their dioceses.

To address these challenges, dioceses have enacted/issued guidelines for pastors and parishes encouraging parishioners to celebrate Mass by listening to radio broadcasts, have temporarily closed one or more Catholic elementary/high schools, and/or have temporarily closed one or more parishes temporarily. Moreover, parishes have been instructed to follow the ordinances of and guidance from the government concerning regulations for the pandemic, adapted the assessments parishes pay to their dioceses, and eliminated or curbed some diocesan programs,

How large of an impact has the pandemic had on Lesotho Catholic dioceses, parishes, and charitable organizations?

In Summer 2020, CARA visiting scholar, Sister Aloysia Makoae and CARA conducted a survey concerning how the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted Lesotho’s four arch/dioceses and their many parishes (Note: a survey of Lesotho parishes is also currently in the process of being conducted). This report provides the findings for the diocesan survey. The four bishops of Lesotho arch/dioceses responded, for an overall response rate of 100%.

Bishops were asked how significantly their dioceses were affected in a number of areas, with their responses summarized in Figures 1 and 2. The orange-portion of the bars below show the percentage of dioceses saying an area was “very affected,” with the blue-portion of the same bars showing those areas “somewhat affected.”

All of the areas displayed in Figure 1 have 75% to 100% of dioceses saying they were “very affected” by the pandemic; each also has more than three in four dioceses saying that area was “somewhat affected” and “very affected” combined. These areas shown in Figure 1 can best be characterized as parish sacramental celebrations, rites, preparation programs, morale at the parish and diocesan levels, and the church’s ability to minister to the needy.



Figure 2 shows those areas relatively less likely to be affected, which include the morale of staff at the LCBC, the morale of priests, the morale of the staff at the dioceses, the celebration of Confirmations, the celebration of Marriages and the celebration of Funerals. Note, however, that even among these areas, three-quarters or more are “somewhat affected” and “very affected” combined.



Examining just the “very affected” percentages in Figure 2, half of the bishops report that the morale of staff at LCBC, the morale of the staff at diocese, and the morale of priests have been strongly affected, with one-fourth saying the celebration of Confirmation, celebration of Marriages and celebration of Funerals have been “very affected.”

How have dioceses responded to the sacramental and financial difficulties posed by the pandemic?

In open-ended questions, bishops were asked to write in how their dioceses have been managing sacramental and financial difficulties. Concerning the sacramental issues facing parishes, bishops are most likely to mention issuing guidelines for pastors and parishes and having granted dispensations to parishioners from their obligation to attend weekly Mass. Most bishops also report having instructed their parishes to follow the ordinances of and guidance from the government and local officials in terms of gatherings (Note: This question was not directly asked on the survey, but was mentioned by many bishops in an open-ended response).

Concerning the financial health of both the diocese and its parishes, bishops wrote in that they are most worried about parishes not having their regular offertory collections, the financial health of parishioner households, paying parish and diocese staff members in the short- and long-run, and whether to cut back or eliminate existing diocesan programs.

Figure 3 below shows the findings for whether dioceses have either taken an action or are in process of deciding whether to take an action.



Four major ways that dioceses have been helping their parishes counter these financial difficulties are temporarily closing one or more Catholic elementary schools, temporarily closing one or more Catholic high schools, encouraging parishioners to celebrate Mass by listening to a radio broadcast, and closing one or more parishes. 

In addition, in a separate open-ended question, half of dioceses wrote in that they have adjusted the percentages that parishes pay to their dioceses in annual assessment fees. The other two dioceses say they have not modified the assessments.

What dioceses have been relatively less likely to consider is also of consequence: reducing the salary of some diocesan staff, eliminating one or more diocesan programs, suspending one or more diocesan programs, and laying off some diocesan staff (50%, 50%, 50%, and 25% respectively, have done so).

What does the future hold?
The pandemic is, of course, an ongoing phenomenon. As Lesotho dioceses take other actions as circumstances change, Sister Makoae and CARA hopes to provide summaries of those challenges and actions as well.

Click for: Full Report of Findings

Written by CARA Visiting Scholar Sr. Aloysia Sebueng Makoae, SNJM, and Jonathon L. Wiggins. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moore.

7.09.2020

Ministry in the Midst of Pandemic: A Survey of U.S. Catholic Bishops


Click for: Full Report of Findings

Just how badly has the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States Catholic Church? And after taking such a hard hit financially, how can U.S. bishops help parishes be “field hospitals” for the sick during a time of so much need? 

According to a 2020 CARA survey, U.S. bishops report that many arch/dioceses, eparchies, parishes, and Catholic schools have been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the areas of sacramental celebrations, rites, and preparation; and financially (as estimated in our previous post). A lesser but still substantial proportion of dioceses report being greatly affected in the areas of the morale of parish and diocesan/eparchial personnel and in their Catholic Charities organizations’ abilities to serve those in need. 

To address these challenges, dioceses and eparchies have enacted/issued and/or are considering a wide variety of remedies including: pastoral guidance from bishops about how to provide for sacramental needs while adhering to local and state guidelines and ordinances, helping parishes apply for governmental aid, encouraging parishioners to consider giving to their parishes electronically, offering Catholic schools help with providing distance learning to students, helping parishes host online Masses, adapting the assessments parishes pay to their dioceses, eliminating or curbing diocesan programs, and closing some Catholic schools or parishes. 

How large of an impact has the pandemic had on U.S. Catholic dioceses, eparchies, parishes, and charitable organizations?

In Spring and Summer 2020, CARA conducted a survey concerning how the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted U.S. arch/dioceses, eparchies and parishes.[1] Some 116 bishops of U.S. arch/dioceses and eparchies responded, for an overall response rate of 59%.[2]

Bishops were asked how significantly their dioceses and eparchies were affected in a number of areas, with their responses summarized in Figures 1 and 2. The dark green-portion of the bars below show the percentage of dioceses or eparchies saying an area was “very affected,” with the light green-portion of the same bars showing those areas “somewhat affected.”

 

All of the areas displayed in Figure 1 have at least half of dioceses and eparchies saying they were “very affected” by the pandemic; each also has more than nine in ten dioceses and eparchies saying that area was “somewhat affected” and “very affected” combined. These areas shown in Figure 1 can best be characterized as parish sacramental celebrations, rites, and preparation programs. 

Figure 2 shows those areas relatively less likely to be affected, which include the morale of various chancery and parish personnel as well as the effectiveness of the services of dioceses’ or eparchies’ Catholic Charities organizations. Note, however, that even among these areas more than half are “somewhat affected” and “very affected” combined. 

Examining just the “very affected” percentages in Figure 2, nearly half of bishops report that the morale of deacons and priests have been strongly affected, with about one-fifth saying the morale of lay ecclesial ministers, the bishops themselves, and the chancery staff have been “very affected.” Finally, about a quarter of bishops indicate that their dioceses’ eparchies’ Catholic Charities’ ability to serve those in need have been “very affected.”

How have dioceses and eparchies responded to the sacramental and financial difficulties posed by the pandemic? 

In open-ended questions, bishops were asked to write in how their dioceses and eparchies have been managing sacramental and financial difficulties. Concerning the sacramental issues facing parishes, bishops are most likely to mention issuing guidelines for pastors and parishes and having granted dispensations to parishioners from their obligation to attend weekly Mass. Most bishops also report having instructed their parishes to follow the ordinances of and guidance from federal, state and local officials in terms of gatherings.[3]
 
Concerning the financial health of both the diocese/eparchy and its parishes, bishops wrote in that they are most worried about parishes not having their regular offertory collections, the financial health of parishioner households, paying parish and chancery staff members in the short- and long-run, and whether to cut back or eliminate existing parish and diocesan programs.

Figure 3 below shows the findings for whether dioceses and eparchies have either taken an action or are in process of deciding whether to take an action.


Two major ways that dioceses and eparchies have been helping their parishes counter these financial difficulties are by helping parishes apply to federal and state programs (such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program) and encouraging parishioners to consider electronic giving for their parishes’ offertory collections. In addition, in a separate open-ended question, a majority of dioceses wrote in that they have either adjusted the percentages that parishes pay to their dioceses in annual assessment fees or are in the process of figuring out what kinds of adjustments should be made.

What dioceses and eparchies have been relatively less likely to consider is also of consequence: closing some Catholic elementary schools, high schools, or parishes (45%, 26%, and 26%, respectively, have either done so or are considering doing so).

Finally, bishops were asked how much they have helped parishes and Catholic schools with the technological difficulties they have encountered during the pandemic. Nine in ten say their dioceses or eparchies have “somewhat” (12%) or “very much” (79%) helped their Catholic schools provide distance learning to their students, and more than eight in ten have “somewhat” (22%) or “very much” (62%) helped their parishes provide online Masses for their parishioners.

What does the future hold? 

The pandemic is, of course, an ongoing phenomenon. As dioceses and eparchies take other actions as circumstances change, CARA hopes to provide summaries of those challenges and actions as well. 

Click for: Full Report of Findings

Written by Jonathon L. Wiggins and CARA Visiting Scholar Sr. Aloysia Sebueng Makoae, SNJM. Photo courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Page: MCAS New River Chapel prepares for religious services in Jacksonville, N.C. on June 5, 2020. 


[1] A survey of parishes is also currently in the process of being conducted. CARA is also surveying Catholic young adults nationally about how they have been practicing their faith during the pandemic and how they see themselves practicing in the future once the pandemic is over.
[2] Please note: a complicating factor for these data is that some dioceses responded early on during the pandemic (May 2020) while a few others responded as late as early July 2020. Also, some coastal U.S. dioceses experienced the pandemic before many others in other parts of the country did.
[3] This question was not directly asked on the survey, but was mentioned by many bishops in an open-ended response.

4.23.2020

Parish Giving During the Pandemic

Image courtesy of Dan Keck

The CARA Catholic Poll (CCP) estimates that, overall, 45% of self-identified Catholics in the United States reside in a household that regularly gives to their parish weekly offertory collection. However, this varies by frequency of Mass attendance. Among weekly attenders 92% regularly give. Among those attending less than weekly, but at least once a month, 78% give regularly. Only 20% of those attending Mass a few times a year or less give regularly.

So what is happening now that no one is attending due to the COVID-19 pandemic? No one knows for sure. Based on what we have found in previous polls, many may still give electronically or by mail. Prior to the pandemic, 48% of self-identified Catholics said they most preferred to give in person. Others preferred to give by traditional mail, to donate online, or electronically debit payments. Data from CARA’s National Survey of Catholic Parishes revealed that about half of the responding parishes provided their parishioners with the opportunity to contribute online. Some, stuck at home may now use a method that is not their most preferred. We just can’t know how many.

The other complication is in what the stay at home orders have done to the economy. Many have lost jobs and income. Others may be uncertain about the future and are spending more conservatively. It is a certainty that giving has declined.

To understand what this means it is important to know just how much Catholics gave prior to the pandemic. For two decades Catholics have reported giving about $10 per household per week. Our most recent measure puts this figure at an average of $9.43 per household per week.

As of January 2020, there were 329.1 million residents in the United States. Among adults in 2019, Gallup estimated that 22% self-identify as Catholic. Extrapolating that to the total Catholic population we can assume there are 72.4 million self-identified Catholics in the United States. With an average household size in the U.S. of 2.52 we can estimate there are approximately 28,734,015 Catholic households. Using CARA’s survey data we know that 45% of these include an individual making a household donation to a parish that averages $9.43 per week.

Calculating all of that out we can estimate that Catholic parishes nationally collect $121.9 million per week. Over 52 weeks this results in an annual estimate of giving of $6.340 billion. There are 16,914 parishes in the U.S. so that results in a budget line for average annual giving per parish of $374,867. On an annual basis that is $7,209 per week for the typical parish. This nearly matches responses to a recent CARA national survey where the median total for weekly collections reported by pastors was $7,625.

The first Sunday affected by lockdowns was March 22. As of this upcoming Sunday that will account for six weeks of affected giving. If the pandemic had never occurred the typical parish would have collected an average of $43,254 during those weeks. Perhaps a bit higher as it included Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday that have higher attendance than a typical week. Multiplying out nationally that would have been $731,596,763 for the Catholic Church in the United States as a whole for this period of the year.

Clearly some are still giving. Again, using CARA’s survey data, we know 48% of those who regularly contribute prefer to give in person. Let’s assume none of those people have sought out a new way to donate. That leaves 52% of households still able to give. Yet many have lost jobs. Estimates currently place potential unemployment rates at 13%. Others may still be working but have lost income. It is possible this is being offset by others with resources who know donations are down and are giving more. If we assume that 20% of the 52% who donate by mail or electronically can no longer do so because they have lost jobs and/or income then the number of households who might still be giving would be 5,379,008 (or 318 per parish, on average, compared to 765 in normal times). In many ways this is still a very optimistic estimate as it is also likely some of those with unaffected incomes and employment may still be acting more conservatively given economic uncertainties—even with stimulus money adding a temporary boost.

Multiplying out again that means the typical parish may be receiving $2,999 in giving per week in this very optimistic scenario. Across six weeks that totals $17,994. That is $25,260 less than they would have expected had the pandemic not occurred. That means collections may only be about 42% of what they would have been without a pandemic.

These estimates likely still paint far too rosy of a portrait. Some may not be giving because they assume their parish is closed and doesn’t need the money. But the typical parish must still maintain the facility, pay bills, and likely wishes to pay staff for as long as possible. In normal times a parish with difficulties may need to rely on a diocesan subsidy. But giving to annual appeals, depending on their timing, may also be affected by the conditions created by the pandemic.

CARA research estimates that there are 5.8 paid ministry staff persons per parish that means there are about 98,101 of these employees nationally (Note that this total includes some double counting of individuals as some clergy and lay people are on paid staffs in more than one parish). We’ve previously covered how much these employees are paid in another post. It is the case that Catholic institutions have been able to receive some loans from the Small Business Administration-administered Paycheck Protection Program. This may help fill the gap in lost giving due to stay at home orders.

CARA is currently fielding multiple surveys about how the Church and its members are affected by and dealing with the pandemic. Stay tuned for more soon…

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