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American Catholics in Transition

William V. D'Antonio; Michele Dillon and Mary L. Gautier

American Catholics in Transition reports on five surveys carried out at six year intervals over a period of 25 years, from 1987 to 2011. The surveys are national probability samples of American Catholics, age 18 and older, now including four generations of Catholics. Over these twenty five years, the authors have found significant changes in Catholics’ attitudes and behavior as well as many enduring trends in the explanation of Catholic identity. Generational change helps explain many of the differences. Many millennial Catholics continue to remain committed to and active in the Church, but there are some interesting patterns of difference within this generation. Hispanic Catholics are more likely than their non-Hispanic peers to emphasize social justice issues such as immigration reform and concern for the poor; and while Hispanic millennial women are the most committed to the Church, non-Hispanic millennial women are the least committed to Catholicism.

In this fifth book in the series, the authors expand on the topics that were introduced in the first four editions. The authors are able to point to dramatic changes in and across generations and gender, especially regarding Catholic identity, commitment, parish life, and church authority. William V. D’Antonio, Michele Dillon, and Mary L. Gautier provide timely information pertaining to Catholics’ views regarding current pressing issues in the Church, such as the priest shortage and alternative liturgical arrangements and same-sex marriage. The authors, also, provides the first full portrayal of how the growing numbers of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S. are changing the Church.

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 192Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-1991-5 • Hardback • May 2013 • $88.00 • (£60.00)
978-1-4422-1992-2 • Paperback • May 2013 • $31.00 • (£21.95)
978-1-4422-1993-9 • eBook • May 2013 • $29.99 • (£19.95)
William V. D’Antonio is research professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America and a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. He is the co-author or co-editor of fifteen books, includingAmerican Catholics Today.

Michele Dillon is professor and chair in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. She is the author of a number of books including Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power, and In the Course of a Lifetime: Tracing Religious Belief, Practice, and Change (co-author Paul Wink). In 2012, she was the JE and Lillian Byrne Tipton Distinguished Visiting Professor in Catholic Studies, at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Mary L. Gautier is senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. She is coauthor of a number of books, most recently Same Call, Different Men: The Evolution of the Priesthood Since Vatican II.

Introduction: 25 Years of Observing Catholic Life
Chapter 1: The legacy of Pre-Vatican II Catholics
Chapter 2: Catholics in the United States: A Quarter Century of Change
Chapter 3: Catholic Identity and Commitment
Chapter 4: American Catholics and Church Authority
Chapter 5: Catholic Women: Commitment and Change
Chapter 6: Generational Changes in Catholic Practice
Chapter 7: Religion and Party Politics
Chapter 8: Millennial Catholics
Chapter 9: Conclusions: Continuities and changes in American Catholicism
Appendix:2011 Survey
About the Authors
D'Antonio, Dillon, and Gautier have written a report on the fifth survey (administered in 2010) in a series of opinion polls of the American Catholic laity that started in 1987. Responses were analyzed by generation, gender, and ethnicity, with attention to the increasing impact of Hispanic Catholics. Many trends established in the earlier studies have stayed on the same trajectory, with a few changes. Core beliefs remain strong, the magisterium carries relatively little weight with the laity, and certain areas (the importance of the sacraments, Mary the Mother of God, and helping the poor) continue to differentiate Catholics from others. On the other hand, a decreasing commitment on the part of American women to the church is evident. Hispanics often are more traditional in their responses, but the authors do not discuss whether this will change with economic and cultural assimilation. The study is clear and readable. The authors clearly have a bias toward what one might call the 'progressive' direction in American Catholicism. At times one can see that a different grouping of the data would present a different picture. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty.

This report on a fifth national survey of American Catholic opinion shows both continuity and change. Internal church matters and public policy issues are considered. A decided preference for individual conscience over church authority and a continued decline in weekly church attendance are notable.
Voice of Reason

American Catholics in Transition, the fifth in a series of books on the American Catholic laity, is the continuation of a tradition of excellent scholarly work on a pertinent and timely topic. The book is a concise, nontechnical but rigorous portrait of the American Catholic laity . . . the book provides a historical arc, and sets the generations within a cultural and historical context.
Catholic Books Review

Catholic leaders and rank-and-file members alike could learn much from this book about the internal life of the church. Readers who are not Catholic but wish to know more about the makeup and trajectory of the largest religious denomination in the country will also find the discussion accessible. . . . The authors are careful to emphasize which beliefs have remained largely consistent throughout this time of major generational and demographic change. Although most Catholics in the United States do not see a commitment to priestly celibacy or opposition to same-sex marriage and birth control as very important aspects of their religious faith, there is widespread agreement on certain core tenets of theological belief: the Resurrection, the special status of Mary as the mother of God and the obligation to aid the poor. In an era of growing divisiveness over policy issues and church governance, this finding will no doubt be reassuring to American Catholics of all generations and ethnic backgrounds.
America: The National Catholic Review

American Catholics in Transition presents findings from the most recent Catholics performed by sociologist William V. D'Antonio and collaborators. . . . The results of this latest survey, couples with those from previous surveys, provide a rich database that allows the reader to follow the faith experience of U.S. Catholics. . . . D'Antonio's work provides a great service to Catholics in the United States, for he not only reminds the reader of the strong doctrinal support for lay leadership, but more importantly documents the committed faith, and the social and political capital, to be found within the laity. . . . American Catholics in Transition is a strong body of work that reflects both the expertise and the love D'Antonio and his collaborators have for the church. With both affection and skill, they have captured the promise and challenges of the contemporary Catholic church. The book also clearly reflects that we are a community in transition, whose future will be significantly different than our past.

The fifth monograph-length installment of survey-based research on American Catholics reaching back a quarter of a century, this book offers readers much by way of nuanced, clearly explained data. . . . Three strengths—and accompanying 'growing edges'—are particularly on display here. First, narratively speaking, while based on survey data and thus reflective of a single moment in time, the authors adeptly situate their findings within a broader framework. . . . Analytically speaking, the authors overcome the tendency to treat 'American Catholicism' in monolithic terms by effectively employing various 'in-group' comparisons. . . . Finally, methodologically speaking, the authors attain a 'best of both worlds' scenario by maximizing the benefits of their survey method while minimizing its potential liabilities.
Theological Studies

American Catholics in Transition is an important and timely monograph for scholars of religion and social change; a useful tool for ministers in understanding the complexities of their congregations; and a model for the presentation and analysis of survey research. D’Antonio, Dillon, and Gautier not only review the trends of change and continuity among American Catholics, they also make sense of them and boldly point out critical issues related to the infrastructure and mission of the U.S. Catholic Church in the years to come.
Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review

This book is a much-anticipated piece in the growing sociological literature on Catholicism in the United States. It is a book that is accessible for undergraduates in courses in sociology and religious studies, while also providing avenues for further research for students in graduate courses in the social sciences, religion and theology. This book is essential for college libraries so that scholars can avail themselves of the findings captured.
American Catholic Studies

American Catholics in Transition is a valuable resource for those working within the Catholic Church as well informed citizens asking: what is the state of the Catholic Church in the United States today? The book is most appropriate for college, university, and public libraries.

Catholic Library World

American Catholics in Transition addresses what it means to identify as a Catholic in the United States in the contemporary period in a very engaging and thorough manner. The book is well written and filled with great detail based on findings and interpretations from survey data collected in 2011. . . . Publication of American Catholics in Transition could not have been more timely. If the authors continue their research in this area and present their findings in light of the Pope's challenge to the Church, one would expect an intriguing set of new data and interesting findings pertaining to perceptions, identity, commitment, and behavior of American Catholics. A very good database is developing that enables scholars to examine questions about religious life in America. The research and studies by D'Antonio, Dillon, and Gautier have made a significant contribution to the field, this book being the latest. American Catholics in Transition is as much about trends and the changing face of America as it is about Catholics. Sociologists, scholars in American Studies, gender studies, and ethnic studies will find this book loaded with rich detail and the analysis and interpretation to be compelling.
Contemporary Sociology

Those who study American Catholics know that the diversity within the tradition requires more careful consideration than what is typically found in general sociology. As the number of Catholics who fit the 'pay, pray, and obey' model becomes ever smaller and Catholic identity becomes increasingly complex, analysis of current, high-quality survey data about American Catholics is always welcome. Like the other titles in the well-regarded series of studies of American Catholics, American Catholics in Transition is a concise and thoughtful presentation of a wealth of such data. Arranging the book around themes that will be familiar to those who have read the earlier studies, William V. D’Antonio, Michele Dillon, and Mary L. Gautier provide wide coverage of American Catholic demographics, attitudes, and practices.
Social Forces

In American Catholics in Transition survey and analysis confirms that Catholics remain consistently committed to core doctrinal teachings but increasingly distance themselves from moral teachings and institutional structures. The two most disturbing trends are women’s decreasing identification with the Church and the millennial generation’s independence from Catholicism in particular and organized religion in general.
Chester Gillis, Georgetown University; author of Roman Catholicism in America

The topography of American Catholicism is variegated, ever-winding and rife with often unexpected vistas of both persistence and change. For those wanting to explore it, American Catholics in Transition—marked by impressive detail, analytical nuance and plain good sense—is without doubt the indispensable guide.
Jerome P. Baggett, author of Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Live Their Faith

Vatican II, in method and message, called us to pay attention to the particular—the local church, the worshipping community, the griefs and joys of our time. American Catholics in Transition helps pastoral leaders to more fully understand those to whom they minister in their concrete particularity. The differences of commitment and belief based on gender, generation and ethnicity which the authors describe call for diverse pastoral responses. Ministry with young adults and Hispanics, two groups with whom creative initiatives are especially needed, would be enriched by the understanding provided here.
Zeni Fox, Seton Hall University

Assumptions and assertions about 'Catholics' or 'the Church' or 'the Catholic vote' need to be—but often are not—backed by the facts. Facts are what American Catholics in Transition supplies in abundance, with sometimes surprising results. The authors' clearly stated and provocative interpretations of data yield an invaluable window onto U.S. Catholicism, past, present, and to come. This is an engrossing as well as important book for scholars, people working in or on Catholic institutions and culture, and for anyone who wants to follow the role of Roman Catholicism in U.S. society and politics.
Lisa Cahill, professor of theology, Boston College

Catholics in the United States welcomed the twenty-first century amidst major cultural and demographic transitions that are profoundly redefining the American Catholic Experience. For three decades the surveys of American Catholics have offered the Church in this country a tremendous service in helping her to understand these important transitions. The New Evangelization demands that we understand the context in which we live and share our faith. American Catholics in Transition is an excellent resource for scholars of U.S. Catholicism and pastoral leaders to do precisely that.
Hosffman Ospino, PhD, Boston College

Professor D'Antonio and various collaborators have conducted the only regular series of national surveys that collectively illuminate changes and continuities among American Catholics over the past quarter century. I was especially pleased to see that this fifth volume in the series appropriately presents the most extensive treatment of Hispanic Catholics to date.
Timothy Matovina