The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Poll: about half of Catholics support Notre Dame invitation to Obama

It was only a matter of time before someone commissioned a poll on the Obama/Notre Dame controversy — and now the good people at Pew have done it.

Take a look:

Most Catholics who have heard about the issue support the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak and receive an honorary degree at its May 17 commencement, even though he supports abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. But a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life also finds a deep division on this issue between the most-observant Catholics and those who are less observant, as defined by frequency of worship service attendance.


These findings are consistent with Catholic’s overall views of Obama: a majority voted for him in the 2008 presidential election and express approval of his performance in office thus far. The new findings are also consistent with Catholics’ views on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, with pluralities in the poll expressing support for each. But a division between the most-observant Catholics and less-observant Catholics also is apparent on these issues.

In both their awareness and views of the Notre Dame controversy, Catholics look very much like the public overall. Only about half of Catholics have heard about the controversy and fewer than one-in-five (19%) have heard a lot about it. Among the general population, 48% have heard of the controversy and 16% have heard a lot about it. Overall, about half of Catholics support the decision to invite Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree in spite of his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. Far fewer (28%) say Notre Dame was wrong to have invited Obama and more than one-in-five Catholics (22%) express no opinion on the matter. Among the population overall, 48% say Notre Dame made the right decision to invite Obama, 25% say it was the wrong decision and 27% express no opinion.

There’s much more at the Pew Forum link.

Comments read comments(15)
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Deacon Dean

posted April 30, 2009 at 6:01 pm

The poll is interesting in its predictability. A more relevant poll might be one which questions those charged with holding and teaching the Catholic faith. I’d like to see how THOSE numbers would fall out.

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posted April 30, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Deacon Dean, It sort of did if you look at the breakdown by whether people attend Mass weekly or not. Among those who said they attend weekly, the prevalent view was against the invitation.

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posted April 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

These results show (once again) that American Catholics simply mirror the American population as a whole in their outlook and their values. In other words, the indelible mark baptism left on their souls didn’t necessarily penetrate to their hearts and minds.However, the results also show that when the baptized avail themselves of the sacraments of the Church on an ongoing basis, their hearts and minds are affected–and changed for the better. How important it is, then, that our Catholic institutions (think: Notre Dame) actually uphold the moral values of our faith instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator who would sooner show up for a football game than for the Eucharist.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted April 30, 2009 at 8:29 pm

The only use polls are is to show how uneducated in the Faith so many American Catholics are. Being strongly against abortion and for the sacredness of human life has been a hallmark of Christianity for 2,000 years. And it is gross compromises in the currying of state power and loot–as well as toadying for prestige–by supposedly Catholic institutions like Notre Dame that does immense damage to the Faith. To see how basically useless polling is with regard to religion–one need only look at the Episcopal experience. That church is doing everything right according to all the polls, but is the fastest shrinking Protestant church. And, of course, pro-abortion activists are ecstatic at how Notre Dame has done such wonderfully satanic work to help undermine the pro-life teachings of the Church.

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posted April 30, 2009 at 10:43 pm

‘… deep division on this issue between the most-observant Catholics and those who are less observant, as defined by frequency of worship service attendance.’In other words, those who are observant, who cling to the sacraments and understand the tenets of the Church, are in full knowledge of what is sin and what is not sin simply by their exposure to frequent confession and weekly teaching.Those who are CINO, who do not understand they are living in the state of sin, albeit mortal, are blinded by their lack of responsibility to acknowledge that they have sinned by simply not being observant to Sunday worship.Which can tell the difference between right and wrong and sin and grace? Those who stick their fingers in their ears and cry, “I can’t hear you, I do what I want.” Or those who are tried and true members of Holy Mother Church and love her discipline and outpouring of grace?Sin blinds, Mortal Sin blinds absolutely.

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Mhari Dubh

posted April 30, 2009 at 11:11 pm

uhm…..can you be in a state of mortal sin unknowingly?from In order for a sin to be mortal, it must meet three conditions: Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner

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posted May 1, 2009 at 1:13 am

You can try to lie to yourself about sin and it is still sin in the end. Even if you dumb down your conscience, in the end it is still sin for you chose to do what you knew to be wrong by tring to come up with some wiggle room exceptions. That is the problem many church leaders, friends, or family have in trying to remain loved by the left instead of worrying about the souls they are putting in jepordy. A good example of this is the idiotic group “Catholic for Choice” when the rest of the question has to by what choice and that is to murder babies. I laughed when I saw their magazine, “The news journal of cathollic Opinion, CONSCIENCE” Now that shows that they actually seem to understand what a conscience is I guess, but certainly they do not understand how to follow a well formed one. Another goup with this issue could well be Democrat Catholics for the same reason. When a party has the history of that party in slavery, black lynching, deny blacks civil rights, and supporting and enabling the murder of 50 million babies, someone is not quite being honest with their conscience. However, the conscience has a strange way of keeping us honest on that last day when we know that Jesus and those 50 million babies are waiting around the corner to judge us. I know this from the recent death of a very good friend of mine and a life long democrat going back to FDR. Over the years we had talked about political issues. As I look back, it was usually her that brought them up. She was about 30 years older than me and had her troubles so I did not want to add to them. However, as we talked, she seemed amazed to hear a lot of things she did not know about her party and she always checked things out. She never stopped being a Democrat, but I notice she stopped voting. On her death bed recently, she told me about her decision to stop voting and how our talks had influenced her. She asked me to pray for her and all the times she had sinned in voting for a party she did not even study enough to inform her conscience which now she well knew put her soul in serious trouble. I told her the simple fact was when she knew, she stopped and that really mattered for it showed that she did respond to a well formed conscience. Many today do not and that is tragic. To put ones soul in jepordy for a kingdom of evil with its leader the greatest advocate for choice we have ever seen and that choice is to allow babies to be butchered in the womb and even out if he had his way. That is a sorry fact and it shows how we can let our conscience be dulled with our silly arguments that anything has moral equivalent to 50 million dead babies.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 1:32 am

Mhari good question but I don’t think (looking back at myself as an example), it’s a lack of “not knowing” as much as it rationalization. While only God knows souls, of which we all know, some things are SO ingrained in American Culture, I would be shocked if in God’s judgement, any lukewarm catholic would “get by on the ignorance defense” for things like abortion, divorce and remarriage outside the church, birth control, and perhaps a few other hot button issues that even our anti-Catholic MSM knows are “mortal.”In fact, I suspect that’s maybe t why Jesus had the most harsh things to say about lukewarm souls , more than even murderers. St. Faustina said it was his worst “agony in the garden”, the reason he sweated blood. And of course, Scripture is more than clear on it.Having been lukewarm for 2 decades, I can tell you I knew, but I just didn’t care, and did it anyway. And THAT is why, IMO, lukewarmness is so deadly. The lukewarms almost always, if not always, know.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 5:30 am

All, please refrain from saying that all who are support the award being given to Obama are in a state of mortal sin. I am steadfastly opposed to the invitation, yet alone the award. I take my faith very seriously and I struggle every day to live it. But a big part of that faith is charity, and in the cause of charity we should be firm but kind with those who do not understand the nature of this issue. Yes, a person cannot be in the state of sin unknowingly, so most likely the real sin going on here is sloth. We also should separate out those whose faith is weak but true from those who are committed and deliberately in dissent. The latter should be rooted out of the Church unless they repent. The former need our prayers, support, education, love and most of all, our ears to listen to their concerns. Many of them are victims of a poor education in the faith. Also, instead of complaining – DO SOMETHING! Pray the rosary for the Church, but also join the Legion of Mary to evangelize or teach CCD or RCIA, or just speak up to your friends and neighbors or family. If you won’t, who will?

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Ron King

posted May 1, 2009 at 8:41 am

Isn’t it slanderous and, therefore, sinful to state that you know the condition of another’s soul? Are you who judge so harshly limiting God’s presence in all of this by your prejudice and as a consequence living faith in a relativistic manner based on what fits your perception?Look at the blog below and see how beautiful God works through those who are united to him.

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Making Sense?

posted May 1, 2009 at 9:06 am

While it is troubling to me to see the poll results, it is comforting to know that truth and right are not determined by the polls as we are tempted think.

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RP Burke

posted May 1, 2009 at 9:15 am

What the poll results speak to is the complete failure of the arguments and the strategy, especially the political strategy, of the pro-life movement.Among other things, our church leadership speaks with forked tongue, arguing on the one hand that we are not a one-issue church while on the other hand saying that unless you agree on the morality of and strategy toward the One Issue That Really Matters, you are anathema.There is nothing said to counter the arguments of the pro-abortion-rights movement, which says that the oppression of women is the One Issue That Really Matters and without “reproductive freedom” (i.e., the ability to have sex and simultaneously be able to walk scandal-free away from pregnancy just like a man can) women are oppressed, and so there are dowry deaths, honor killings, and all the rest. Further, opposition to abortion must be a religious point of view, since it’s the Catholics, especially their bishops, who are all upset about it, and religious dogma has no place in the law since we have freedom of religion. How dare the bishops — all men, by the way — try to draw the boundary between what’s religious and what isn’t for those who aren’t Catholic? Instead of trying to convert those who hold those views, we instead get increasingly authoritarian acts directed at Catholics. Doing the same thing we’ve been doing for 30+ years, only more loudly and angrily — what makes you think the result will be any different?

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Deacon Dean

posted May 1, 2009 at 9:33 am

David, thanks for pointing that out. What I was hinting at (with WAY too much cleverness, apparently) was that I’d like to see a poll of all the American bishops. That might be interesting.And, while I think choosing Obama was at the least ill-advised, it saddens me to see what should be a celebration of the achievements of the graduating class of the University of Notre Dame become such a lightening rod that seems to be bringing about further division, rather than reconciliation within our Church.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Mhari Dhub asked: “Can you be in a state of mortal sin unknowingly?” and then cites the three conditions, grave matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent. While I would never presume to judge an individual, I remind you of the poll results, not adequately discussed in the original post, that Catholics who go to Mass weekly oppose the invitation, while those who do not favor it. I would also remind all of us that the Church teaches clearly that missing Sunday Mass without a good reason is a mortal sin and finally refer everyone to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1984 speech, published by Ignatius Press as the book “On Conscience”, in which he reminds us that, even without the Church, “Man can see the truth of God from the fact of his creaturehood. Not to see it is guilt. It is not seen because man does not want to see it. The ‘no’ of the will that hinders recognition is guilt. The fact that the signal lamp does not shine is the consequence of a deliberate looking away from that which we do not wish to see” (p. 20). Ratzinger discusses the Pharisees of Jesus’s time and the Nazis of the twentieth century, whose acts were presumably in accord with their consciences, asks whether they were not guilty for that reason, and concludes, “Firm, subjective conviction and the lack of doubts and scruples that follow from it do not justify man” (p.17). In sum, according to Ratzinger, “Certainly one must follow an erroneous conscience. But the departure from truth that took place beforehand and now takes its revenge is the actual guilt, which first lulls man into false security and then abandons him in the trackless waste.” In other words, a person (and especially a Catholic person) is guilty when he deliberately chooses not to avail himself of the Church’s invaluable help in seeing and obeying the natural law

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posted May 2, 2009 at 12:58 am

“please refrain from saying that all who are support the award being given to Obama are in a state of mortal sin”As another comment said, it is clear teaching of the church that to not attend Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin unless there are serious reasons such as illness. If you point this out to a Catholic who may not know, it is not a sin, but an act of kindness. If your child started to hang around someone that was a drug dealer, would you think it was an act of love to be silent? What if your child was now 21, would it matter? You would not want your child to head down the road of drug use because they very well could be condemning themself to a lifetime of hell. To me it is a key role of the bishops to point out the error of the flock when they are heading toward eternity in hell. It is also the role of the layity to try and help others avoid this path. As to the comment that the bishops and Catholics should shut up about abortion or that reproductive rights are so essential to one human that they must kill another is frankly just stupid. I want to have sex and if God places a baby in my body, I have the right to kill it. Why do they have to use fuzzy words instead of just saying the full truth. Why pro choice unless one says that the choice involves killing a baby? Just complete the sentence. Did those who opposed the freedom of blacks also scream out that the chruches should shut up about it? yes they did. It was Christian and Jewish leadership that played a role in the ending that evil. Does anyone notice that the democratic party is starting to become the party of censorship insisting that others do not have the right to speak and that churches need to have no voice in this country? When did that start? This was the party that took to the streets to scream out about the Vietnam war and that also had a lot of Church leaders. Where was the left when the Catholic Pope came out opposed to the Iraq war yelling for him to shut up. I also find it interesting that so many Catholics who support Obama seem to know so little about how the teaching of the Church actually works and the differences between laws that you have to follow and that lead to mortal sin and those that you can differ on. everything the Pope says does not have to be followed. If he says he is for a green society, that does not mean that everyone has to believe that what one party preaches about it becomes Church law. The two parties have different methods and thought on green and how to get there in a way that looks at things like the economy as well. Same with social issues. Both parties have tried different things and both have failed in different ways. There cannot be a bigger failure or more expensive one that the LBJ great society and the cost and negative impact it had on poor families. The republicans failed to stop spending when they had power and I will not try to make excuses for that. They could also have done some positive things about healthcare. But the debt that is now being piled up and the babies being killed are also a legacy that will come from this administration. Being in healthcare my entire life, I also fear the impact of the upcoming healthcare reform which will lead to everyone have a lower quality care and our costs going through the roof.

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