New survey of Chicago Catholics

On Wednesday, a new comprehensive report on Chicago Catholics will be released. The report is based on data from “524 Catholics in Cook and Lake counties” and the project was headed up by sociologist Andrew Greeley. Here are a few of the findings:

In addition, 78 percent of the respondents said Catholicism is either “extremely important” or “very important” in their lives.

Greeley wrote that the survey suggests “two separate Catholic identities — an imaginative, story-telling identity and a rules identity,” commonly referred to as “Cafeteria Catholics.” Those Catholics revere the sacraments and run in primarily Catholic circles, but they make their own choices on moral, religious and political issues.

“The only safe prediction seems to be that … there will be, whether the leadership likes it or not, varied forms of affiliation with a Church most of them still love,” Greeley wrote. “Not Cafeteria Catholics so much as Smorgasbord Catholics, a rich and diverse collection of ways to affirm one’s Catholicism.”

These findings about Catholics don’t seem too different than findings from other studies of American religion that show people of faith don’t follow all of the doctrines or practices of their faith traditions. Overall, people have some basic Christian beliefs or notions about spirituality but then a wide range of opinions on moral and practical issues.

A few questions about the methodology: 524 as a total N seems a little small plus I wonder why they went for Catholics in Cook and Lake Counties and not some of the other collar counties. This reminds me that on maps that show the religious plurality in each American county, DuPage County is coded Catholic. I’d also be curious to know whether Latino Catholics, of which there are a large number in the Chicago region, have different views than other Catholics.

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