Lack of faith among Catholics noted in France, US and Ireland

A warning from Pope Benedict XVI about lack of faith among Catholics in France has coincided with new research revealing a decline in fervour among Catholics in the United States and a weakening of belief among Catholics in Ireland.

Speaking to visiting French bishops, the Pope described ignorance of religion, even “among the Catholic faithful”, as “one of the gravest problems of our time”.

In the United States, research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln identified the Catholic Church as having the lowest proportion of “strongly affiliated” followers among major religious denominations.

In the 1970s there was only a five-point difference between how strongly Catholics and evangelicals felt about their religion, sociologist Philip Schwadel reported.

By 2010 that gap had grown to around 20 points, with about 56 per cent of evangelicals describing themselves as “strongly affiliated” with their religion compared with only 35 per cent of Catholics.

“The tremendous decline in Catholics’ strength of affiliation . . . was somewhat surprising,” Schwadel said.

He noted that the decline in religious enthusiasm among Catholics began in the mid-1980s — coinciding with the first revelations about the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

Moreover, Latino Catholics are less likely to report a strong religious affiliation compared with other Catholics, and the number of Latino Catholics in the US has been growing steadily in past decades.

In Ireland, an Ipsos MRBI poll has revealed that more than one in five Catholics do not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus or that God created the universe.

Of those who described themselves as Catholic, 45 per cent do not believe in Hell, 18 per cent do not believe that God created mankind, and 7 per cent do not even believe in God.

When making serious moral decisions, 78 per cent said they follow their own consciences rather than Church teaching.

When it comes to Mass attendance, the poll found 34 per cent of Irish Catholics said they attended weekly, with 16 per cent “rarely/never” attending.

Those attending Mass weekly have declined from 55 per cent in 1998 to 34 per cent in 2012, a drop of more than a third in 14 years.


Vatican Information Service

Washington Post

Irish Times

Image: The Guardian

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