.- A new poll shows that American Catholics are generally optimistic about the future of their Church, with self-described “Orthodox” Catholics tending to be more hopeful and more churchgoing than self-described “Progressive” Catholics. The results come from the Spring 2009 Le Moyne-Zogby Contemporary Catholic Trends (CCT) survey, which polled 3,812 randomly sampled members of the Zogby Interactive Panel between Feb. 23 and 25. Respondents included 767 Catholics, who described themselves in a variety of ways.
Twenty percent of Catholic respondents described themselves as Progressive, while 11 percent chose Orthodox as a descriptor. Seven percent said they were Evangelical, four percent said they were Fundamentalist, and three percent said they were Born-Again.
Among all Catholic respondents, 36 percent said they were very optimistic and 37 percent said they were somewhat optimistic about the Church’s future. Eighteen percent were somewhat pessimistic, with only five percent being very pessimistic.
According to Zogby, “Progressive” Catholic respondents were the most likely to be pessimistic, with 36 percent being somewhat pessimistic and four percent being very pessimistic about the future of the Church.
Among the “Orthodox” Catholics, six percent were somewhat pessimistic, while only one percent was very pessimistic.
Concerning Mass attendance, 63 percent of “Progressive” Catholics attend less than once per month, while 79 percent of the “Orthodox” attend Mass at least once a month. Nineteen percent of “Progressives” attend Mass weekly or more often, while 65 percent of the “Orthodox” attend that frequently.
About 64 percent of all Catholic respondents said the Sacraments were very important to their faith, while 23 percent said they were somewhat important. Another 61 percent said the Church’s concern for the poor was very important, with another 29 percent saying it was somewhat important.
Around 81 percent of all Catholics said teachings about Mary as the Mother of God are somewhat or very important to their faith.
Concerning the priesthood, only 36 percent of respondents said it is somewhat or very important to their faith that the priesthood should be all male, while 32 percent said it is somewhat or very important that the priesthood remain celibate.
Sixty nine percent of the “Orthodox” Catholics believed an all-male priesthood is somewhat or very important, while only six percent of “Progressives” felt it is important to their faith.
Dr. Matthew Loveland, principal investigator of the CCT project, commented on the poll results in an April 9 Zogby press release:
"These numbers remind us that news headlines are only part of the Catholic religious experience. When asked to reflect on the Church, I expect that most people think of their personal religious lives, not the national headlines. Religion is experienced, most vividly, in the parish and the family. In fact, 76% of respondents said that family connections are an important aspect of their faith. So, to me, these numbers suggest that most Catholics are satisfied with their personal religious lives."