Catholics surveyed say election issues, not candidates, mentioned at Mass

| August 9, 2016 | 3 Comments

Catholics, by and large, haven’t heard endorsements for one presidential candidate over the other while in the pews this presidential election season.

But they reported they have heard about religious liberty, abortion, immigration and the environment as among the topics coming from the pulpit, according to a survey released Aug. 8 by the Pew Research Center in Washington.

Just one out of 10 or fewer Catholics “say their clergy have publicly supported or opposed particular candidates,” reported the Pew center in its survey conducted online and by mail June 5-July 7 among a national sample of 4,602 adults who say they attended religious services at least once or twice in the few months before the poll was conducted.

Catholics reported that clergy spoke mostly in favor of and against certain issues. About 38 percent of Catholics surveyed said clergy addressed religious liberty from the pulpit, with 32 percent reporting that they heard a defense of it. Two percent reported hearing from their religious leaders that they don’t believe religious liberty is “under attack.” Another 5 percent said they heard both points of views.

Abortion is another topic Catholics said they heard about from the pulpit. About 3 in 10 Catholics said they “recently heard clergy speak out against abortion” during Mass, while 1 to 2 percent said they heard “clergy speak in support of abortion rights.”

Two other topics reportedly heard about during Mass included immigration and the environment.

About a third of Catholic churchgoers said they “have heard clergy speak out about the need to be welcoming and supportive of immigrants in recent months,” and about 3 percent reported hearing clergy talk “about a need for stricter immigration enforcement,” according to the survey.

The survey also questioned Protestants, evangelicals and other Christians about the same topics, and while some responses showed similarities, the environment and its defense by Catholic clergy seemed to stand out, perhaps in a nod to the pope’s encyclical on the environment released in 2015.

About 31 percent of Catholics said they heard the environment mentioned by clergy at Mass, the highest percentage of any other group surveyed, with 24 percent reporting that they heard leaders speak of “the need to protect the environment” and less than 1 percent said they heard clergy speak “against environmental regulations.”

Of the Catholics who said they heard a leader speak in favor of or against particular candidates for president, 5 percent said they heard leaders support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and less than 1 percent heard support for Republican Donald Trump. Those who say they heard leaders speak against a presidential candidate said they heard 2 percent of clergy speak against Clinton and 7 percent speak against Trump.

Other issues surveyed included homosexuality and economic inequality. About 8 percent of Catholics said they heard clergy speak against homosexuality from the pulpit and 13 percent said they heard clergy encourage acceptance of gays and lesbians.

On the issue of economic inequality, 14 percent said they heard religious leaders speak of “the problem of economic inequality,” while 4 percent said they heard clergy speak in defense of capitalism or free markets.

The margin of error for the entire sample was plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. For church-going Catholic respondents, it was plus or minus 6.8 percentage points.

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  • Charles C.

    Interesting poll and results. If you’re interested, you can search as I did for “Pew poll issues pulpit,” and you’ll be taken to the entire report. The people responding were divided into “Catholic” or “Protestant.” The Protestants were divided further into “Black Protestants,” ” White Evangelicals” (which I take to be Conservative Protestants), and “White Mainline Protestants” (which I take to be Liberal Protestants).

    Only six social or political issues were identified as being addressed to members of congregations in any significant numbers. Respondents were given the choice between two positions on each issues and a third option saying they had heard both positions. I’ll count “Both” twice, once for each position.

    More Protestants than Catholics (39-37 percent) heard about threats to religious liberty, and Conservative (or Evangelical) Protestants reported hearing about it more often than Catholics (50-43).

    Each of the three Protestant groups heard criticism of homosexuality more often than Catholics. 32% of Protestants as a whole heard such criticism, and 18% of Catholics did.

    Catholic priests supported abortion rights before 8% of those responding. That message went to 5% of the Protestants. The 5% number would have been reduced to 2-3% except that 8% of the Black Protestants received the message of abortion rights.

    Those issues are strongly rooted in faith, theology, and religious tradition, but there were three identified issues which are more “faddish” and social.

    Twice as many Catholics heard about the need to welcome immigrants than any other group, (38-16 over Protestants in general), and more Catholics heard about the need to protect the environment than Protestants in general (31% – 17%), and any individual group of Protestants.

    Finally, economic inequality. 16% of Catholics heard that it is a problem, versus 12% of Protestants. Perhaps not surprisingly, 24% of Black Protestants were told that economic inequality is a problem.

    So, based on the idea that preachers talk about what they believe is important, we can arrange Catholic priorities as follows:

    1.) Welcoming and supporting immigrants. 38%
    2.) Religious liberty. 37%
    3.) Opposition to abortion. 34%
    4.) Protect the environment. 31%
    5.) Encourage acceptance of Gays and Lesbians. 21%
    6.) Opposition to homosexuality. 18%
    7.) The problem of economic inequality. 16%
    8.) Stricter immigration enforcement. 9%
    9.) Abortion rights. 8%
    10.) Against environmental regulations. 7%
    11.) Religious liberty isn’t under attack. 7%
    12.) In defense of free markets. 6%

    Perhaps it isn’t surprising that 5% of Catholics have heard their priests support Hillary Clinton and less than 1% have heard support for Trump. 2% have heard the priest condemn Clinton and 7% have heard them condemn Trump.

    The majority of Catholics have voted pro-abortion, pro-Gay marriage, and anti-religious liberty in the last two Presidential elections. I suspect it will happen again.

    • tschraad

      Charles C – thanks for your comment.

      I would rather see the same questions and answers from Catholics that follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. CINO distorts the answers when they are included. No Catholic can support Hilliary who wants to kill human beings at any time even at the point of birth and selling these same baby parts.

      Any Priest supporting the killing of these human beings need to be excommunicated from the Church. Any Catholic parishioner hearing a Priest supporting this killing needs to contact their Bishop.

      • Charles C.

        Dear Tschradd, a stray thought popped into my mind (that happens a lot, I have a warehouse full of them). Is the Archdiocese, indeed, the country, full of Catholics who happen to be American, or Americans who happen to be Catholic?

        I tend to think that the most generally correct answer is that our Catholicism is too often just an add-on, an afterthought. (Yes, I know that individual mileage may vary, but still . . .) We’re basically supportive of American opinions (largely liberal), with Catholicism added on.

        American Catholics voted the way the rest of America did in the last two Presidential elections, a majority went for Obama. But more telling is a 2015 Pew poll which looked at Catholic beliefs about sin. The poll looked at those who believed in the general concept of sin, an action offending God. 89% of Catholics believe in the existence of sin, so do 91% of Protestants. (Only 47% of those “Unaffiliated” believe in sin.)

        But what is sinful? The Catholic opinion is remarkably similar to the opinion of America in general. 23% of Catholics say that abortion isn’t sinful, 22% of all Americans agreed. 44% of Catholics say homosexual behavior is sinful, 45% of America agreed. 42% of Catholics say that it isn’t sinful to buy luxuries without giving to the poor, 38% of America agreed. Sex outside of marriage (“live with a romantic partner”) is sinful for 33% of Catholics and 36% of the general public.
        And for a strictly Catholic question, 49% of Catholics don’t think it is sinful to remarry after divorce without an annulment.

        In response to your good point about CINOs, the poll spoke with 1,016 Catholics, 431 of those attended Mass daily or weekly. 433 said they attended Mass monthly or yearly, the remaining 151 attended seldom or never.

        For those who attend Mass at least weekly, 73% say that abortion is sinful (What???? Who is in the 27%?), 59% believe in the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, and 31% believe contraceptive use is sinful.

        Regular Mass goers split 46% – 45% on whether “Live with a romantic partner outside of marriage” is sinful. Believers in the sinfulness of remarriage without an annulment edge non-believers 46% – 42%.

        The Archdiocese claims to have about 825,000 Catholics. I suppose that number depends on how you define “Catholic.” About 20% of Catholics attend Mass at least once each week. Using that number as a refined definition of “Catholic,” we have about 165,000 “Catholics” in the Archdiocese.

        Now, if only 46% of regularly attending Catholics say that living with a romantic partner is sinful, we can take the other 54% out of the definition of “Catholic.” That leaves the Archdiocese with 75,900 “Catholics.”

        Perhaps some of those 75,900 disagree with the Church on other fundamental teachings, reducing the number still further. All of that assumes that our Archdiocese is no more liberal or permissive than the average. I don’t think that’s true. Do other dioceses have priests publicly, and in writing, calling for the resignation of their Archbishop? What’s my guess, then? 50,000.

        So what’s the true number of solid Catholics in St. Paul and Minneapolis? Only God knows, and I hope it’s greater than the numbers above indicate. Still, Jesus was able to create the Church from only a dozen fiercely faithful men. It may very well be that the Catholic Church in America will have to be re-created, but that will be done by following and working with the few faithful, not by listening to the masses of CINOs.