If you are intrigued by trends, care about the current state of the Church, and seek to understand where things might be headed, you should know about the Center for Applied Research of the Apostolate, popularly known as CARA.
For more than fifty years, CARA has conducted scientific research focused on the Catholic Church. Based at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and led by Father Thomas Gaunt, SJ, CARA issues a quarterly report that features intriguing articles and statistics from a variety of sources. I would encourage anyone interested in the pulse of the Catholic Church’s inner life or how the wider culture perceives the the Faith to subscribe to it.
The most recent edition of the CARA Report is excellent. It features two articles I will analyze and comment on in more detail in the weeks ahead:
“Catholic Parishes Compared to Other Congregations,” which, among other things compares the average age of members of other faiths to Catholics, as well as the giving habits of various denominations. Intriguing stuff for those of us who do Catholic work.
“Who is Entering Religious Life?” Among other facts, thirty-nine percent of those embarking on a religious vocation attended Catholic high school (as compared to twenty-two percent of the overall U.S. Catholic population). Daily Mass and personal prayer were “very important” to nearly all entrants. I think this article’s results will make for some interesting reflection and commentary.
The most recent CARA Report also includes a survey from Pew Research Center showing the changing beliefs of Catholics towards “acceptable arrangements for raising children.” The survey reported that, as of September 2015, forty-eight percent of U.S. Catholics surveyed consider unmarried cohabiting parents to be “acceptable and as good as any other arrangement” for raising children, while forty-three percent believe the same regarding gay and lesbian couples. This reveals a great pastoral challenge to how the Church makes its case for the Catholic vision of marriage to our modern culture.
At a family dinner a few nights ago, I discovered firsthand some of these challenges in an hour-long discussion with one adult and one young adult. In short, our discussion concerned the issues of gender-free bathrooms, the origins of homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. As has occurred to me before, the level of understanding that is required for embracing Catholic teaching in these areas is very high. In a sound-bite culture, fueled by entrenched political correctness and a limited understanding of the Catholic Faith, it is going to be a serious uphill battle to make the case for traditional marriage. Yet battle we must. I don’t think it is melodramatic to say that the very soul of our nation is at stake on this particular issue because of its theological and sociological ramifications.
To get a copy of the newest report, call 202-687-8080, and look for my upcoming commentaries on these issues above and more from this most recent CARA Report.