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Boston College to Host Symposium on
2011 Survey of American Catholics

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (November 2011) – Boston College will host a day-long symposium Nov. 2 that will analyze and discuss the results of a new survey of American Catholics that point to trends that are shaping American Catholic life across generations and gender and ethnic lines. The survey of more than 1,400 self-identified Catholic adults, led by a researcher at Catholic University of America, is the fifth in a series of surveys of American Catholics that has been conducted every six years since 1987. Taken together, they make up one of the deepest and most consistent portraits ever compiled of the membership of the country's largest religious denomination.

The symposium will take place at Boston College in Gasson Hall, Room 100 on Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. [Symposium Program]

The survey series reveals that during the last quarter century, Catholics have maintained a steady conviction about certain core beliefs while also becoming more autonomous when making decisions about important moral issues; less reliant on official teaching in reaching those decisions; and less deferential to the authority of the Vatican and individual bishops.

Among the significant findings of the 2011 survey:

  • For 73% of respondents, belief in the Resurrection is very important
  • 67% percent rate "helping the poor" as very important, ranking it nearly as essential to their beliefs as the Resurrection.
  • Mass attendance rates remain fairly steady but many Catholics surveyed say that weekly Mass attendance isn't necessary to be considered a good Catholic.
  • One of the distinctive characteristics of Millennials, or those coming of age in the 21st century, is that 45% are currently of Hispanic background and that number is expected to grow over the next two decades.
  • Hispanics also are more traditional in their views of the necessity to agree with church teachings on a range of issues, including remarrying after a divorce and abortion, than non-Hispanics.
  • Most Catholics say the sex abuse crisis has damaged the political credibility of church leaders and impaired the ability of priests "to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of their parishioners."

The speakers at the BC symposium will be the survey team: lead researcher William V. D'Antonio, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, and Michele Dillon, professor and chair of sociology at the University of New Hampshire;  Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan, S.J. Professor of the Theology at Boston College and a leading authority on ethics and the US Catholic Church; Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Assistant Professor Hosffman Ospino, who directs STM’s Hispanic ministry programs, and Tom Roberts, editor-at-large of The National Catholic Reporter. Gregory A. Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public life, specializing in religion and public opinion, religion and American politics and Catholic politics, will moderate. [More on the speakers.]

The “Catholics in America” survey was released the National Catholic Reporter and was sponsored by an anonymous donor whose contribution was matched by donations from The Rotondaro Family Foundation, the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, the Rudolf Family Foundation, the Donegal Foundation and the Luger Family Foundation.

The Nov. 2 event has been organized by the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College with co-sponsorship from the University’s Theology Department and School of Theology and Ministry.