The Catholic Weakness

Last week I wrote about one piece of data that jumped out from the Austin Institute’s fascinating new study, Relationships in America: the Mormon advantage in transmitting traditional Christian practice and views on many things, from life after death to sex and marriage.

Judging from the comments, many people have a hard time separating a sociological analysis from a theological one. Even many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understandably believe that their particular strain of theology is the key to their relative success. Maybe so. Certainly there is an obvious reciprocal relationship between orthopraxy and orthodoxy (right action and right belief).

But until quite recently, historically speaking, theologically diverse Christian denominations successfully transmitted a marriage culture to their next generations. And other groups in America, with quite different theological views than those of Mormons (for example Modern Orthodox Jews) are also relatively successful at sustaining a distinctive child-rich marriage culture. (The Austin Institute study did not break down Jews into subcategories because the sample size was not large enough to do so.)

Speaking as a Roman Catholic and as an intellectual observer, I want this week to point to another large and important insight that leaps out from the new study data: the relative Catholic weakness. In some sense this is not, of course, news. New York is merging and shutting down parishes to cope with population losses. Progressives are blaming “culture warrior” Cardinal George for a similar loss in the Catholic population of Chicago. Without an influx of Latino immigrants, the shrinking of the Catholic Church in America would be even starker.

The Catholic Church, unlike many other Christian communities, faced a postmodern sexual revolution while in the middle of absorbing massive new changes in church practices, as well as what a fair observer would call equally large disruption in authority structures, after Vatican II. Many Catholic institutions began to lose their distinctively Catholic identity markers: Nuns threw off their habits; Catholic colleges aspired to compete with and resemble their increasingly progressive secular counterparts; partnered gay men became Catholic-school teachers and principals. Cafeteria Catholicism was born and it flourished.

For the Relationships in America study, the Austin Institute interviewed a nationally representative sample of 15,783 people between the ages of 18 and 60; the study separates Catholics by whether they consider themselves “traditional,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or some other kind of Catholic. It also looks at each subgroup’s views and practices by church attendance.

The first thing that leaps out is how divided the Catholic Church in America is, two generations after Vatican II. Traditional Catholic are 5.7 percent of the population; liberal Catholics are slightly more numerous, at 5.8 percent; the plurality of Catholics — 7.5 percent of Americans —  dub themselves “moderate,” while 3.2 percent of Americans choose the label “other” Catholics. The wording of the question may not perfectly map orthodoxy (“traditionalist” Catholics in my world are those who support the Latin Mass, for example, which many perfectly orthodox Catholics are not especially interested in attending).

But the labels are clearly capturing something real, because by every measure in this study (and unsurprisingly), traditional Catholics are more supportive of Catholic teaching and practice than are liberal Catholics, with moderate Catholics falling in between and “other” Catholics generally less actively involved than liberal Catholics. Traditional Catholics are three times as likely as liberal Catholics to attend mass in a given week, for instance (58 percent to 21 percent). They are ten percentage points more likely to say they believe in one of the most basic Christian teachings: life after death (85 percent to 75 percent). Each week in Mass, Catholics like me recite the Creed, which includes our faith in the “resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come.” Traditional Catholics are twice as likely as liberal Catholics to say they believe in the resurrection of the body (51 percent to 24 percent). Thirty-five percent of liberal Catholic men consumed porn in the last week, compared with 21 percent of traditional Catholic men, to pick just one measure of self-reported behavior.

Read the Full Article Here

The Mormon Advantage

With even New York Times columnists and distinguished social scientists like Andrew J. Cherlin reinforcing the core truth that the retreat from marriage is causing core inequalities in the opportunities of millions of American children, it is worth asking: Who is doing a better job at sustaining a marriage culture?

A fascinating data dump by the Austin Institute sheds unique new light on this question.

Research on the relationship between religion and family has been complicated by the fact that, today, religious affiliation tells you relatively little about what people believe or how they behave. Many people are cultural, not religious, when it comes to their religious affiliation, which makes it harder to see what impact attendance and the teaching that takes place in houses of worship has on marriage and family behavior.

But the scholars who produced the Austin Institute’s newly released Relationships in America interviewed 15,000 people, and by most measures of belief and practice, the winner is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormons).

Read the Full Article Here

On the Middle Class, Schumer Was Right

Almost exactly one year ago, I and my colleagues at the American Principles Project released an election autopsy on the lessons of 2012. Countering the conventional wisdom that conservative social issues were distracting voters from the GOP’s winning economic message, we argued that social issues were neither hurting Republicans nor electing Democrats, and that the key problem was that both parties were failing to address the core concern of voters: declining standards of living brought on by prolonged wage stagnation combined with moderate inflation in the items that consume the bulk of middle-class families’ budgets.

Someone finally got the message. Who would have thought it would be New York’s Democratic senator Chuck Schumer?

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said in a speech before the National Press Club. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem: health-care reform.”

Democrats, energized by their power to pressure Republicans to back away from abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty, drew the wrong lesson and tried to win reelection with a “war on woman” meme fundamentally disconnected from women’s core concerns.

In a striking Washington Post column on November 26, political scientists John McTague and Melissa Deckman make clear that being pro-abortion is not the ticket to Democratic victory. “It wasn’t clear even in 2012 that this rhetoric worked,” they write, citing a recent study by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck “that found no link between news coverage on contraception and abortion and women’s attitudes about either Obama or Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, and little evidence that attitudes about abortion were central to moving women voters to Obama.”

Read the Full Article Here

No One Expects the Marquett Inquisition

With apologies to Robert Tracinski.

Cheryl Abbate, a grad student teaching “Theory of Ethics” at Marquette University, recently told a student that if he wants to speak against gay marriage, he should drop her class.  We do not know the student’s name but we do know that he secretly recorded the conversation, which took place after class, on his cell phone, and that the recording has been heard by Marquette political science professor Prof. John McAdams, and by a Fox News reporter among others.

The student says he approached Ms. Abbate after class because she had put up a discussion list of controversial topics, including gun control, death penalty, gay rights on the blackboard and when it came to gay rights, she just crossed it off saying “everybody agrees about that”.  Ms. Abbate later claimed to Inside Higher Ed that this was just a case of not enough time to discuss all topics.  But on tape she told the student after class than any opposition to gay marriage would offend gay students in her class and so should not happen. When the student complained to Marquette, he was referred to the Chair of the philosophy department, who blew off the complaint.

I am not surprised that this could in Midwest universities, because it has already happened to at least one Catholic student at a public high school in Michigan.

I wish I were surprised it is happening in an allegedly Catholic university, but two years ago I was invited to address a small group of students at Georgetown, and the employee who invited me to address them told me we were having a small, private meeting, because it was unacceptable at this allegedly Catholic university to publicly oppose gay marriage.

Read the Full Article Here

NRO: Why The Democrats Lost

Why did the Democrats lose?

It wasn’t Obamacare.

While 49 percent of voters said the health-care law “went too far,” just 25 percent of voters picked health care as their most important issue in this election, and they broke for the Democrats 59 percent to 39 percent, according to exit polls. Fears of Ebola and terrorism and a generalized feeling of insecurity were a factor, but 45 percent of voters said the economy was their most important issue.

And here is the biggest red flag for Republicans moving forward: After six years of Obama, these voters broke for the GOP by just 2 points, 48 percent to 50 percent.

After every election, whether Republicans win or lose, social issues get a disproportionate share of the “problem defining” blame.  But the GOP’s biggest branding problem, even in victory, is clearly the economy. GOP candidates are not yet naming the biggest problem voters are facing: wage stagnation and a pervasive decline in the average household’s standard of living.

Read the full article at the National Review Online

National Review: Losing the War for Women

Women today are not reliably liberal on social issues. 

It was a deft trick by the Left’s culture warriors over the last two election cycles: Persuade rich Republicans donors that social issues were the GOP’s core problem, especially with women.

Take high-end investor Mark Cuban’s word for it: “If I was going to give guidance to the Republican Party, . . . I’d say, ‘Stay completely out of social issues,’” Cuban said on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Elections are where political wisdom can be tested and, if you are paying attention, falsified. And if you pay close attention, this is the election cycle that is going to definitively falsify the idea that social issues are what hurts Republicans and elects Democrats.

The AP/GFK poll released last week shows a strong movement of women toward the GOP. Asked whether they favor a Democratic- or Republican-controlled Congress, female likely voters have moved in one month from favoring Democrats 47 percent to 40 percent to preferring Republicans 44 percent to 42 percent.

Take note: Democrats are massively shedding support by women, just as they have poured massive amounts of messaging on contraception and abortion to the front and center of their campaigns.

USA Today reported that “Democrats in this trio of states [Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa] have focused heavily on abortion rights, contraception access and other female-targeted wedge issues.” It’s not working.

Read the Full Article at the National Review Online

Your Incompetent Host

When I created a Disqus account I misspelled my own name.  Commenters asked me to verify that is me, it is.  I will now cease commenting until I”m competent enough to fix my Disqus. 

-Maggie