How often do you really attend church?

I haven’t blogged in a few days as, well, I’ve been busy with other things.

I’ve been playing some quick catch-up with things religious and enjoyed a post by my friend Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA TODAY.

She writes about a new study from a U of Michigan researcher about church attendance.

I always wonder about church (and other house of worship) attendance figures. They often seem awfully high, don’t they? (Although my perceptions could be skewed by living in an area where a lot of people don’t attend a house of worship…)

According to Cathy’s blog, Philip Brenner, a University of Michigan research fellow with the Institute for Social Research, has found that “Americans exaggerate their church attendance more than anyone else.”

Huh.

She then writes: “About 23% of Americans actually do attend church “regularly” (two or three times a month or more) according to time diaries (in which people account for 24 hours of recent activity). But 35% to 45% say they attend regularly when asked on surveys.”

Brenner doesn’t really think that people are lying about how often they go.

He tells Cathy: “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.”

If you want to know more — I do — Brenner’s research will be published in Public Opinion Quarterly.


Catching up after a week ‘away’

I’m back from my week-long furlough.

It’s always good to get some down time (but it’s better with a paycheck).

I’ve gone through my 1,088 new emails and am ready, I think, to refocus on religion news.

What did I miss?

Over in Connecticut, a bizarre bill that would have changed the structure of Catholic parishes apparently caused quite a stir before dying a quick death.

The idea was to force Catholic parishes to be financially accountable by forcing pastors to report to boards of directors.

The authors of the bill must have missed those lessons in grade school, high school and college about the Constitution. They might want to take a peek at the document at some point in their political careers, no?

Anyway, thousands of Connecticut Catholics rallied in Hartford to oppose the bill, which was quickly pulled. (ADD: A reader notes that the bill could be revived at some point.)

What else?

Cardinal Egan, in a radio interview, suggested that the Catholic Church might consider opening the priesthood to married men. “I think it has to be looked at,” he said.

Huh?

Apparently, Egan has been influenced by the lack of vocations to the priesthood in New York. Okay, but isn’t this a strange time to be bringing up such a weighty matter that has long been debated by lay Catholics?

Interesting that Egan noted that priests in the Eastern Catholic churches are allowed to be married. I’ve heard this argument made countless times by “progressive” Catholics. Now I can only wonder if Egan, in the waning days of his tenure, will follow up his radio interview with a more elaborate explanation of his position on this much-debated question (check out some of the comments on this David Gibson blog post).

What else?

The Pew Forum finds that church attendance has NOT increased during the recession.

And the recession continues. St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in White Plains has had to evict a food pantry after 27 years. The church is running a deficit and needs to find a tenant who can pay.

I wrote my last FaithBeat column about a ministry at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Yorktown Heights that has been helping job seekers for 20 years. I went to a meeting attended by some 50 people who are out of work.

On a happier note, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.

Cardinal Egan will get a send-off of sorts, as he waves to parade-goers from the steps of St. Patrick’s for the last time as archbishop.

And the parade will be dedicated to the Sisters of Charity, who are celebrating their 200th anniversary of serving New York’s poor.