US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Scientific Sister study

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And this study does have to do with the investigation into women religious, not brains. Researchers were inspired by our survey of ordinary Catholics about the Apostolic Visitation and conducted their own, scientific poll, according to National Catholic Reporter.

Regular readers may remember the big to-do over whether our poll was "attacked" by so-called traditional Catholics (labels never fit exactly but that's the best I can come up with). The quick poll and survey attracted more participants (2,300 and 1,700 respectively) than any other survey up to that point--it's been since dwarfed by the survey about the new translations, coming out in July. It's important to note that we have never claimed our surveys to be scientific. Surveys are a way to generate conversation, and it's quite interesting to see how our subscribers' opinions differ from the opinions of those who just linked to the survey on these big topics.

But our survey did leave me wondering who really was in the minority, so I'm thankful for the scientific study conducted by Knowledge Networks. There are definitely some differences between their results and ours (I wish the questions were more similar).

No matter their opinion, those who visit a Catholic website and take the time to fill out a survey obviously care about the issue. On the quick poll, 82 percent said the apostolic visitation was necessary or reasonable and justified. Of our subscribers, 64 percent said it was either insulting and unjustified or unnecessary.

Almost half of those responding to Knowledge Networks' questions, however, said they had no opinion about the visitation. They just don't care either way. It's hard to tell from the other choices whether respondents were for or against the visitation: unconcerned (26 percent); "probably meant to quiet the nuns who are seen as critical of some Vatican teachings" (7 percent); "take pressure off the sexual abuse scandal" (7 percent), or "warranted for reasons that may escape ordinary Catholics" (7 percent). (Exact numbers thanks to USA Todays Faith and Reason blog.)

That said, the randomly selected survey participants have the same perception of women religious and their ministries as our subscribers--Sisters generally do good for others. Interesting sidenote: the 4 percent of people who thought women religious don't do much are all men. More than half (53 percent) say women religious should speak out on issues based on their consciences, but again, a full 23 percent don't have an opinion.

It's easy to get caught up in the ideological fights over church issues, but it's also good to remind ourselves that many Catholics simply don't care about these issues. No matter where you stand, the real question might be how to get that large minority of Catholics to care. I doubt that more inner-church fighting does the trick.  

See our special section on the investigation into women religious