Will Catholics return to Mass after the pandemic? Many want to go more often

Church pews Credit Goran Bogicevic Shutterstock CNA 1 Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the way many Catholics think about their faith, a new study has found, and just over half of Catholic likely voters say that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic.

Sixty-four percent of Catholics surveyed said the pandemic has made them think "a lot" differently about what is important in life, while an additional 27% said it has had "some" impact on their perspective. Only 9% said the pandemic has not affected how they think about what is important in life.

The poll, conducted Aug. 27 - Sept. 1 by RealClear Opinion Research in partnership with EWTN News, surveyed 1,212 likely voters who self-identify as Catholic.

Among poll participants, 36% said they attended Mass once or more per week before restrictions were placed on worship services due to the coronavirus. Another 42% said they attended Mass between once a month and once a year, and 22% said they attended Mass less than once per year.

Just over half of those surveyed said that once restrictions are lifted, they plan to attend Mass more frequently than they did before the pandemic. A little more than one-third said they will continue attending Mass with the same frequency, and about 1 in 8 said they will attend Mass less often than they did before.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said the coronavirus has made them think differently about their faith.

Hispanic respondents were most likely to say the pandemic has influenced how they view their faith, with 72% saying it has, compared to 54% of white non-Hispanics and 56% of Black non-Hispanics.

Of those who attended Mass at least once per week before virus restrictions were enacted, 73% said the pandemic has affected their view of their faith, compared to 58% of those who attended Mass monthly or yearly, and 48% who attended Mass less than once per year.

Overall, 44% said their faith has increased since the pandemic began, while 10% said their faith has decreased, and 46% said it has stayed about the same.

Nearly 1 in 5 young adults – those between 18 and 34 years old – said their faith has decreased during the pandemic, compared to fewer than 1 in 10 respondents age 35-54 and 1 in 25 over the age of 54.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they have found themselves closer to God during the pandemic, and 93% said they have grown closer to their family.

The inability to attend Mass due to restrictions put in place during the pandemic has been disturbing for the majority of Catholics surveyed. Overall, 71% said they found the experience distressing. Older respondents were more likely to be distressed by the inability to attend Mass than young adults were.

Frequency of Mass attendance before the pandemic was correlated with concern over having to miss Mass. However, even among those who said their Catholic faith has little to no influence in their life, the majority said they were distressed to be unable to attend Mass during the pandemic.

Fifty-eight percent of Catholics surveyed said they feel safe returning to Mass under the current conditions in their state. Comfort levels were highest in the Midwest and lowest in the Western region of the country.

Sixty-four percent of those who attended Mass at least once a week before the pandemic said they feel safe returning to church, compared to 45% of those who previously attended Mass monthly or yearly.

Two-thirds of white, non-Hispanic Catholics said they feel safe returning to Mass currently, while fewer than half of Black and Hispanic Catholics answered similarly.

Overall, 42% approve of how Donald Trump has responded to the pandemic, while 57% disapprove. Joe Biden's approval rating on the pandemic was 48% among poll participants, with 36% disapproving.

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The U.S. bishops' response to the pandemic met with a 38% approval rating, while 22% said they disapproved. Another 40% were unsure of how to rate the bishops' response.

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