Thursday, September 30, 2010

Catholics Rank Poorly in Religious Knowledge Survey

Some of you may have seen in the news the results of the latest survey from the Pew Forum which tested the religious knowledge of average Americans. Catholics ranked behind Atheists, Jews, Mormons, and Protestants in the number of questions correctly answered. This survey asked 32 questions on the beliefs of many various religions, so it's not surprising that people would have difficulty answering questions about beliefs other than their own. What I found most disturbing was that according to this survey 45% of Catholics did not know that the Eucharist is not symbolic but the real body and blood of Christ. Fr. Steve Grunow from Word on Fire Ministries had some strong comments about this sad fact on his blog:
The recent Pew Forum survey confirms data published years ago that indicated that Catholics understanding of the Eucharist is deplorably inadequate. More than four in ten Catholics (45%) do not know that the Church teaches that presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not merely symbolic. Whatever efforts the Church took years ago to correct this deficiency has proved to be woefully inadequate. The Second Vatican Council declared the Eucharist to be the source and summit of the Christian life. If the Pew survey is to be believed, this declaration has fallen mostly on deaf or indifferent ears.
Based on these results, it's easy to see why so many Catholics either fall away from their faith or become just lukewarm. If 45% percent of Catholics don't know the Church teaching on the Eurcharist, then one can only imagine what else in regards to their faith that they don't know. This is a big reason why so many Catholics support politicians and groups that advocate pro-abortion and anti-family policies. These Catholics don't know their faith well enough to defend Church teaching and are easily convinced to vote otherwise. While I agree with Fr. Grunow that religious education has been "woefully inadequate", I also feel that some of that  responsibility falls on us as lay Catholics. We have to take that initiative and continually strive to learn more about our faith as well as educate our children on it.  Unfortunately, many of us have followed the secular world's example and have chosen to fill our days with our careers, sports, and other material pleasures, leaving no room for religion.

Fr. Grunow's article also quoted these passionate words from Archbishop Charles Chaput which should serve as a warning for us all:
“The people of Israel forgot their God because they weren’t taught. And if American Catholics no longer know their faith, or its obligations of discipleship, or its call to mission- then we leaders, parents and teachers have no one to blame but ourselves.” Also this: “The role of Catholics is exactly the opposite of what we’ve been doing for a half century or more- compromising too cheaply, assimilating, fitting in, fleeing from who we really are as believers; and in the process, being bleached out and digested by the culture we were sent to make holy.” 
These are awesome words by the Archbishop. We are at risk of forgetting our God and being swallowed whole by a culture we should be evangelizing. I want to end here with a statement from Fr. John Corapi. I subscribe to the periodic emails from his website. This message I received a couple of weeks ago is very fitting in light of these survey results. Fr. Corapi discusses the importance of knowing the Catechism of the Church and how this can effect not only us personally but politics in this country:
An excerpt from Letters, a Collection of Short Letters by Father John Corapi
Education, Faith & America
  In speaking with faithful Catholics all over the world for the past twenty years there is a consensus among them that the average Catholic doesn't know much about their faith. Likewise there is an overwhelming consensus that if we did, the world would be a very different place. In the United Sates of America we have over sixty million Catholics. If these Catholic citizens knew their faith and then voted and lived their faith, this country would be incalculably better off. In turn, so would the entire world.
As Bishop Robert Vasa pointed out, clarifying the teaching of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops in their excellent pastoral letter "Faithful Citizenship," a candidate or office holder is disqualified from receiving the vote of a Catholic in good conscience if they hold a pro-abortion position. In other words pro-choice candidates under the current set of circumstances are disqualified because of their pro-death political positions. We cannot vote for them. As the Bishops of Kansas asserted in their voter's guide, "Catholics would 'commit moral evil' by voting for a candidate who supports abortion and other intrinsically evil things. Voting is a moral act, and voting for pro-chice candidates is evil in itself. One becomes a collaborator in evil by so doing. No amount of rationalization can escape this logical and moral conclusion."
There was some confusion over this, based on a statement made some time ago by Pope Benedict, who was speaking in general terms, saying that for a "proportionate reason" it would be possible to vote for such candidates. However, in the concrete situation we face, with the candidate who is pro-life, this would not be possible. No amount of "other reasons" would excuse voting for a pro-choice candidate. The Church clearly teaches that life begins at conception. As Pope John Paul II state many times, "abortion is murder." Following logically from this, if a single abortion is murder, then 48,000,000 (the approximate number of abortions in this country since Roe v. Wade) of them is genocide. What would be the "proportionate reason" supporting such an outrage? There is none.
Lack of understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches is grossly harmful to the individual Catholic and to society in general. It is for this reason that I have always tried to promote and teach the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a sure norm for teaching the faith, as Pope John Paul II asserted in promulgating the Catechism. "Guarding the Deposit of Faith is the mission which the Lord entrusted to His Church," are the first words of the Apostolic Constitution " "Fidei Depositum." These are the worlds the Holy Father used to introduce us to the Catechism.  
Ignorance of the Faith can prove fatal - for individuals and for nations. Learning our faith is the best investment we can make. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the very best way to do this.
Fr. John Corapi

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