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August 14, 1998     The Message
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August 14, 1998

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14. 1998 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 up checks the pulse of Catholic America PRINCETON, N.J. (CNS) -- Pollster George Gallup Jr. may but he may rican Catholics bet- ter than they know themselves. Special Report By MARK PATTISON Catholic News Service is suggested he sandwiches a "that's around two hearty of laughter -- but he deny it. ) has been toiling in the of public opinion for 35 now. His dad, George was one of the many in his day whose sur- led to the infamous r Defeats Truman" head- of 50 years ago. i:!But, more than polling the on which way the winds are blow- e "younger" Gallup, now devoted an extensive of his time to surveying about their American life," he said. "It real- ly tells us more about what actions we take, how we feel about the future, even how we feel about certain issues, too." And it's personal to Gallup, who once considered entering the Episcopal priesthood. "I think my whole career is increasingly driven by wanting to serve the Lord,,' he said. "I think that's why we're all here -- that the Lord has a plan for every single one of us, and that failure to realize that has played havoc in our society and in many other societies. I just want to be available to the Lord." Gallup has taken his interest in such matters to the point of joining the national board of advisers of Marriage Savers, an emerging nationwide organi- zation dedicated to prepar- ing, restoring and strength- - ening marriages. If his involvement means that people answer Gallup Poll questions differently somewhere down the road, then all the better in his view. "Six out of every 10 new mar- riages will break up in this country. Sometimes, sadly, it's necessary, divorce," Gallup said. But what that "level of breakup of marriages" has "rained on society is unbeliev- able," he added. "The dysfunction for instance, is incredible in society. I would venture to say that the typical divorce in America affects 50 people. Even aunts and uncles and cousins and everything are drawn into it psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and eco- nomically." . Gallup said, "Living together has backfired because marriages don't last when people are liv- ing together before marriage, as much as those who prepare." Through the efforts of Mar- riage Savers, which among other things stresses church involvement in marriage prepa- ration, "divorce rates in some cities have been cut by as much as 40 percent," said the pollster. In the interview Gallup also advanced his theories as to why Catholics have sided with the winner in every presidential election since at least 1960, when John F. Kennedy, himself a Catholic, was voted into office. "Maybe it's because they are more sensitive to the changing issues from one presidential race to another," Gallup said. "In terms of how Catholics have changed in American society, the ways that we listed were in Gallup said. Twenty-three percent say they're very strong Catholics, while 31 percent say they're moderately strong, and 45 per- cent say they're not strong Catholics. Only 1 percent say thev're not sure. And even with- in (his question, those numbers can change depending on the age of the respondent. The numbers are also reflect- ed in church attendance. Gallup polling, he said, shows that "these figures have dropped precipitously among Catholics since the '50s." On attending church at least once a week, 35 percent of Catholics say they do, com- pared to 32 percent of Protes- tants and 30 percent of all Americans. When it comes to would venture to say that the typical M divorce in America affects 50 people. terms of tolerance, women's rights, a communal dimension to society  that is, helping each other, government maybe being involved with helping. In presidential politics we now add peace, too. "So I would suggest that Catholics would vote for the bloc but they also think they are very responsive to the man and his positions, that's how they reflect in things here." The pollster tracks what Catholics believe not only on temporal matters but on spiri- tual matters. "We ask Catholics them- selves, those who say their pref- erence is Catholic, how are they described  are they very strong Catholics and so forth," single question we asked in the Gallup Poll at as 'Protestants' ,"' Gallup said in interview near his organiza- headquarters in Prince- grew up. one of the first research was "The Catholic People," a Gallup co-authored with Jim Castelli. merely a tool ake more money or attract Gallup said his turns down on five nationwide sur- a week. "we felt that there enough attention being the faith dynamic in world peace, let's just to use our turn signals Honor your mother and father (spouse and children) by putting on a seat belt. Recognize that the journey is often far more important than the destination. prayers, I have lowered from "world peace" learning to use my turn As a practicing Catholic hoping that God aaSwer my prayers. learn to drive?" These comments from the back seat of my vehicle directed towards the traffic have given me an insight into my own driving style. Developing a spiritual dri- ving style is just the place to begin "world peace." Because of this, I would like to propose a spirituality of driving: Ora et non Labora (prayer and no work): I would like to pray more while I am driving and to stop "working"  cell phone calls, reading memos, or thinking about work. Wave at the kids: I want to let the children on my street know that I see them and that they are important to me while I am driving. Smile and wave at the school bus driver. Leave 10 minutes earlier. Honor my neighbor by let- ting him or her into traffic. ' Respond to someone flip- ping me the "bird" with a smile and a wave. . ,Drivedefensively, ....... Commentary EPPLER and YOung Adult Formation llust declare my sinfulness. too often, l am running to corn- lost time by dri- fast or by committing rage." For this I am truly : As a licensed driver and a adult, I have had the to practice my faith 'spirituality while on the I am presented with who drive too slow, too crazy, and too drunk. chance encomters to reflL upon my own My young been giving me feed- , "Get out of the way, ,and "Wlutre did. you_. those who never attend, 7 per- cent of Catholics and Protestant fall in that category, compared to 10 percent nationally. "The Sixties began to change everything, of course. And basi- cally what happened, if you had to pin it to one event, it was probably the pope's edict on birth control that caused young Catholics to leave the church in great numbers, thinking they couldn't be a good Catholic and practice birth control at the same time," Gallup said. "Then, what seems to have happened is that, in the late '60s and early '70s, Catholics felt that they could stay in the church, and still be good Catholics, and still practice birth control. They realized, 'Dissent is OK, we can still be Catholics, but dissent's OK,"' he speculated. Gallup's polling reveals the split between "believing and belonging," as he puts it. "You find most Catholics say (they're) approving of the pope's job, the way he's han- dling his job as pope -- which is our presidential question but saying that they rely on themselves rather than the pope to tell them what's right and wrong on issues of morality," GaUup said. "So they diverge very sharply on issues of divorce, priests mar- rying, women being ordained, 00many00oS0000 on annulment, remarrying, being a good Catholic and being divorced and so forth, they diverge very sharply from the church, the offidal Vatican posi- tion." Gallup gives "total credence" to the view that the baby-boom generation will return to church as they get older. "That's the inexorable histor- ical pattern," he added. "l think I am sure that you could add a few of your own. These are just my "starter" list items. For me, the prayer now goes, "I confess to Almighty God, and to you my driving brothers and sisters, that I have sinned in our state of no-fault. In my thoughts ("Get out of the way!") and in my words ("Did you get that license in a "blue light special' at K-Mart?! !"), in what I have done (driving too fas0 and in what I have failed to do (let someone into traffic on a hot Friday after- noon at 5:15 p.m.). And I ask the blessed Mary, ever virgin, all angels and saints (especially those who have let me into traffic on a busy road), and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God, (so that we can all make it safely home to our family and friends). Amen." the baby boomers are important because they're a big bulge, not that they're radically different than other age groups in the population." He also thinks Generation X will follow the same church-going habits of their baby-boom parents, who in turn will follow their own parents' habits. "It's a question of having to do with style, an outlook on life, but the basic thing is that as you get older and get married, and that has a profound impact on you spiritually, and you have children  which is a huge pro- found impact on you  and then you start thinking about the traumas of life," explained Gallup. "Losing parents. Sickness of the kids. Losing kids. Divorce. And it's those deep periods of pain and sorrow that bring peo- ple back to church," he said. "The raw material of life, you know, it confronts people as they get older. And I have to believe that most people won't come to faith until they've had some horrible trauma in their life," he added. "Something emotional, psychological, phys- ical, or spiritual. Some moment of despair, uncertainty, appre- hension, pain, that's what brings people to an awareness of God, that they have to depend upon God." When Gallup started doing religion-based questioning it was "almost virgin territory," he said. ..... "Churches in the "50s weren't really worried. There was a lot of money coming in, people were going to church and all that sort of thing. But then with the acute problems that came among Catholics in the '60s, and with all groups, the whole pic- tures changed now," he said. "There's furious activity exploring the spiritual life. I think that this next century will be devoted to an exploration of inner space. This century's been devoted to outer space. I think the next will be inner space. And it's a whole new voyage of discovery, really, the inner life." Given Gallup's 68 years, he wonders about the next phase of his spiritual journey. He recalled a book written by Texas entrepreur Robert Buford that said life was like a football game and the second half is more important than the first half. -l'm 68 now  what'U I do? Should I be going off to the jun- gles of Bolivia as a missionary and be doing something dra- matic and different?" Gallup asked. "And (Buford's) book was pointing "out: No, the Lord has put you in a place where he is preparing you to build on what you are doing. And the game, you are working toward the final 10 minutes," he said. ..... ,llt .,Jl i i J , i The Bishop's Forum will return 00pt..4 Bishop Getteifinger is on vacation, and has additional travel commitments as the U.S. bishops' national liason with Catholic scouting. f , : . .f i