PHILADELPHIA — What do practicing Catholics believe? A new U.S. survey has answered this question by breaking down the similarities and differences these Catholics have with non-practicing Catholics and with Americans as a whole.
“It should come as no surprise that Catholics who regularly attend Mass support the Church’s position in the greatest numbers,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said Aug. 26. “But to measure accurately what Catholics really believe, this survey highlights the importance of looking at the level of Catholic practice in this country when discussing Catholics’ opinions on issues.”
The survey of 1,027 U.S. adults and 222 U.S. Catholics was taken Aug. 4-17. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the overall result and 6.6 percentage points for the Catholic results, specifically.
The results also draw on an April 2015 survey of 3,002 U.S. adults and 702 U.S. Catholics.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization with almost 1.9 million members worldwide.
Pope Francis is popular with the American public ahead of his September visit. About 60% of Americans approve of Pope Francis, as do 70% of Catholics and 83% of practicing Catholics, the Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll said.
About 90% or more of practicing Catholics said it is important to pray daily, to follow the teachings of the Church, to receive the sacraments and to attend Mass regularly.
By comparison, only 42% of non-practicing Catholics said regular Mass attendance is important, while 61% said receiving the sacraments is important. About 79% of non-practicing Catholics said daily prayer is important, while only 70% said the same of following Church teaching.
More than 90% of Catholics saw practicing charity as important, regardless of whether they practiced the faith.
But respondents’ stated religious practice showed differences in Catholics’ views of other aspects of faith and morals.
About 65% of practicing Catholics said the Eucharist is “the true presence of Jesus Christ,” but a similar number of non-practicing Catholics said it is “a symbol.”
Another 72% of practicing Catholics said it is important to go to confession at least once a year, compared to about 40% of non-practicing Catholics. About 83% of practicing Catholics said it is important to belong to a parish, compared to 48% of non-practicing Catholics.
Around 81% of practicing Catholics said abortion is morally wrong, compared to 60% of Americans and 51% of non-practicing Catholics. Asked about substantial restrictions on abortion, 91% of practicing Catholics supported restrictions, while 84% of Americans as a whole did.
About 54% of practicing Catholics and 49% of all Americans said that same-sex “marriage” is morally wrong. However, only 27% of non-practicing Catholics said the same.
On religious freedom, 73% of practicing Catholics supported religious-liberty protections even when these conflict with laws. About 67% of Americans overall agreed, as did 60% of non-practicing Catholics.