America magazine has an article on the results of studies of the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate. (CARA). The typical Catholic is
is a 48-year-old, non-Hispanic white, married woman with a Catholic spouse. She is of the post-Vatican II generation (born between 1961 and 1981).
Her attachment to the Catholic Church is part of her identity, but not the most important part:
Currently, she attends Mass at least once a month and always on Ash Wednesday, Easter and Christmas. She keeps up with her parish community by reading the parish bulletin. Her household gives about $10 at the offertory collection. Mary does not use much Catholic media other than the bulletin and is not very active in their parish outside of attending Mass. She will probably never see this article. Her faith is important to her, but there are other things in her life that are equally important.
This type of person represents
about 45 percent of Catholics. Another 4 percent of Catholics are “the core” of the Catholic community. These are the individuals who do not just attend Mass weekly; they are part of the small community that makes Masses and other activities happen in parishes. They are avid Catholic media consumers and are involved in a variety of devotional practices. They say the rosary and attend to every detail of Lent and Advent. If you are reading this article, you are probably one of them. They are knowledgeable and active in their faith in almost every way. In many ways, they come closest to living the faith life that the church envisions for Catholics.
The majority of those who call themselves Catholic have extremely weak links to the Church:
That still leaves the majority of self-identified Catholics out there on the periphery, some 51 percent, with much more distant stories. Among this majority there are distinct sub-groups as well. Some attend Mass at Christmas and Easter only. Some have not attended Mass in years, but nonetheless consider themselves as Catholic as anyone else who has been baptized Catholic.
Religious education has failed to transmit knowledge of what Catholic believe:
fewer than two-thirds of Catholics, for example, believe that the bread and wine used for Communion really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. How can so many disagree with this central teaching of the faith? Surprisingly, it is because many are unaware that this is what the church teaches! Only 46 percent of Catholics are aware of what the church teaches about the real presence and agree with that teaching. An additional 17 percent agree, but do not know this is what the church teaches. A third do not agree with the teaching but are unaware of the teaching. Finally, only 4 percent of Catholics know what the church teaches about the real presence and do not believe it.
This edition of America also has a companion article about the leadership of women in the church:
In the United States, Catholic women are deeply engaged at nearly all levels of Catholic life, starting in their home parishes. Women are not only more likely to show up in the pews in any given week, but a 2012 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that at the local level, a majority (57 percent) of responding pastoral leaders were female, including lay and women religious serving on staff, pastoral councils, social ministries and other parish duties.
This in fact understates the presence of women: more like 80% of staff, paid and volunteer, are women, Interaction with a paid or volunteer staff member of the Catholic Church is almost always interaction with a woman. The same is true in Germany and France.
America sees nothing anomalous or troubling, and in fact wants to increase the leadership roles of women, and presumably the presence of women in the Church.
But of course, the predominance of women in the pews means the absence of men from the pews.
The absence of men does not bother the writers for America. They seem content to have the Church be a women’s club: the only question now is to get the officers to look like the members.