Answer one easy question: So did you go to Mass yesterday?
Umm, are you telling the truth?
According to Philip Brenner, a University of Michigan research fellow with the Institute for Social Research, there’s a decent chance you lied — especially if you’re American.
USA Today’s Faith & Reason blog reports that Brenner found that about 23 percent of Americans actually attend church regularly, but, if you ask them on surveys, 35 to 45 will say they do. Americans lie more about their church attendance than any other of the 13 nations studied.
(Maybe if more Americans actually went to church, they’d recall that God condemned lying in the 10 Commandments.)
But, Brenner gets those fibbers off the hook by blaming their perception of their own self-image and not an intentional lie. Faith & Reason quotes him:
“When you ask people if they attended church, they hear that question pragmatically. They reflect on their identity as a religious person and they want to honestly report their identity as a religious person.”
So I think they are being honest with how they understand the question: “Are you the sort of person who attends religious services?” is what they think they hear and they say yes. But apparently they’re not really every-Sunday Catholics, and the church sees this as a problem.
In the 1990s, 50 percent of Catholics reported going to church regularly, but studies revealed it was more like 24 to 28 percent. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in Georgetown puts weekly Mass goers at 33 percent.
That figure holds close today, and American bishops have taken notice. On his first evening as Bishop of Trenton, N.J., on Dec. 1, 2010, David O’Connell greeted his diocese, where he had been serving as coadjutor, and got down to business. As Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia put it, this is his “money-graf”:
“My greatest concern is the fact that only 25 percent of our Catholic faithful in the diocese go to Mass on Sunday. Why is that? What can we do to bring them back and welcome them, truly welcome them home not just for an occasional visit but to stay? We all need to work toward that goal with every ounce of strength within us.
“There must be an answer. We have to find it.”
According to CARA stats used by CatholicsComeHome.org, about 42.7 million U.S. Catholics are not practicing Catholics, and CCH is trying to reach them. The organization has seen an increase in church attendance where they’ve run their TV ads inviting Catholics to “rediscover” their Catholic faith and go home to the Church, including Phoenix, Ariz., and Corpus Christi, Texas.
So, CatholicMatchers, what do you think the church should do to bolster church attendance? If you returned to the church after being away, what drew you back? If you only go to Mass sometimes, what would it take to get you there each Sunday?
And do you ever fib about how often you go to Mass — like, ahem, on your CatholicMatch profile?