- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BALTIMORE | Whether fervent believers or occasional worshipers, Catholics want to know the “whys” of their faith and worry about the church walking a fine line between politics and advocacy, a new survey shows.

The survey, conducted over the last 3 1/2 years, was presented Tuesday by a working group on the life and dignity of the human person during the 2014 General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We realized we had to better understand the people in our pews,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The research included the opinions of diocesan directors, parish priests, Hispanics, young singles and young parents, as well as fervent Catholics and “engaged parishioners.”

“At first, our communications research concentrated on our challenges to pro-life and social justice,” said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “Our findings shows broader [concern] for religious liberty … even evangelization.”

Among the findings:

⦁ Engaged parishioners feel being Catholic is a part of their identity, and are concerned about the church “getting into politics.”

⦁ Fervent Catholics want to be challenged and trained in evangelization.

⦁ Diocesan directors feel that becoming involved in politics “contaminates the mission” and that pro-life and social justice issues can be divisive.

⦁ Hispanic parishioners and young single Catholics are concerned the priest sex abuse scandal has not been properly addressed.

⦁ Young singles feel “completely Catholic even when they disagreed with the Church” and that the idea of “hate the sin, love the sinner” translates to “hate the sinner.”

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, acknowledged that the response on clergy abuse is “something we need to take pause and consider.”

Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, called the research “both enlightening and sobering.”

“The Church needs every one of her members, she is called to see the face of Christ in every person,” said Bishop Malone, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

The results and ongoing evaluation of the research are set to be a part of the July 2017 convocation of Catholic leaders, Bishop Malone announced. The meeting, which will bring thousands of catholic leaders to Orlando, Florida, will address “what it means to be a Catholic.”

The convocation also will address the mission of evangelization, the vision of the human person, focus on the poor and marginalized.

“The convocation should not be a stand-alone event,” Bishop Malone said. “We believe the work that goes into preparing for the event … is all part of the larger strategy for encouraging our current leaders.”

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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