Blog Post

Study Analyzes Catholic Women and the Faith

A new study has uncovered some interesting facts about the faith life of Catholic women, with majorities reporting that they believe in God and pray daily, but much smaller numbers say they are attending Mass and Confession.

The new study was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate and surveyed 1,508 self-identified Catholic women about their level of participation in the practice of the Catholic faith.

The findings are very enlightening.

For example, nearly a quarter of Catholic women in the U.S. attend Mass once a week or more with a nearly equal share (23%) attending Mass at least once a month. This amounts to 47 percent who are attending Mass at least monthly. However, 53 percent report attending Mass a few times a year (27%) or rarely if ever (26%).

Not surprisingly, millennial women (born 1982 or later) and the Post-Vatican II Generation (1961-81), who grew up in an increasingly secularized world, are less likely to attend Mass at least once a week than older Catholic women.

Mass attendance does not appear to be indicator of belief in God, however. The study found that 98 percent women say they believe in God, with 20 percent saying they have occasional or frequent doubts. Only a very small share, 0.4 percent, consider themselves to be atheists who do not believe in God (although they still identify as Catholic).

As for confession, the study found that three in 10 Catholic women go to confession at least once a year with only three percent reporting that they confess monthly or more often. About a third (32%) go to confession less than once a year and nearly four in ten (38%) say they “never” go to confession.

When are they most likely to pray? Eighty percent say during a time of crisis, 70 percent pray when they “feel blessed” and 66 percent pray when they’re feeling anxious or depressed. The majority pray before bedtime (58%) and during Lent (53%) with another 30 percent saying they pray before meals.

Those prayers appear to be paying off, at least for some.

“Of those who have had children, 73 percent report that all of their children are Catholic now. Fifteen percent say none of their children are Catholic. Twelve percent indicate some of their children remain Catholic and some are not,” the report found.

As for devotional practices, 13 percent of women participate in Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis. Twelve percent participate in prayer groups and another 12 percent attend retreats. The same percentage report participating in some kind of Bible study or Lectio Divina and only eight percent say they regularly go on pilgrimages. The majority (71%) say they do not participate in any form of group prayer outside of Mass.

A majority of women (60%) say they are in favor of women becoming permanent deacons with another 21 percent leaning in that direction.

Surprisingly, 90 percent of the women polled say they have never personally experienced sexism in the Church. Of the 10 percent who did so, their experiences  ranged from not being permitted to be ordained to the priesthood to imposing dress codes on girls in school.

The politics of Catholic women appears to be much more Democrat-leaning than Republican. When the study included women who are Democrat and/or leaning Democrat, the total came to 59 percent. This compares to just 38 percent who report being part of, or at least leaning toward, the Republican party. However, almost just as many (35%) say they are undecided about their party affiliation.

Although there are definitely some disappointments in these numbers, the overall takeaway is that women have not abandoned the faith. And those who are not practicing still report praying, which means their hearts are open to persuasion.

This means that for those of us who do believe, this is our time to shine!

“We must stand out as lights in the darkness, become signs of God’s love in a nation seduced by humanism and enchanted with lies,” writes Johnnette Benkovic in her landmark study, Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life.

“Bearing the life of God within us, we must offer love in the image of our Father to those who have not yet heard. This is our mission as woman. This is our call as spiritual mother. This is authentic femininity.”

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