That finding, which is contrary to the churchâ€™s fundamental doctrine, and others are both â€œdisturbingâ€ and â€œintriguingâ€ to Bishop Joseph Galante, who spoke about the study Thursday morning.
â€œThe number of Catholics who have a very flawed, a seriously flawed, understanding of who Jesus is, thatâ€™s troublesome,â€ Galante said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to re-focus on how we teach and inform people. Jesus is the foundation of who we are as Catholics.
â€œIf weâ€™re not getting that through to people, thatâ€™s part of the reason why weâ€™re having problems.â€
Those problems, Galante said, include low attendance at weekend Mass, the lack of an inviting and welcoming atmosphere in parishes, and the reasons why Catholics stay away from the church, are borne out in the faith survey.
The study, done for the diocese by the Barna Group, a California-based firm known for its work on U.S. religious attitudes, took an extensive look at the beliefs and practices of residents in the six South Jersey counties that form the diocese.
Telephone interviews with 621 people, 18 and older, were conducted by Barna in February. The study cost the diocese $25,000. â€œA worthwhile investment,â€ said Galante.
â€œToo often we work on anecdotal information from within the church. We wanted something more solid than that.â€
Results of the study indicated that four out of every five South Jerseyans identify themselves as Christian, with a third identifying themselves as Catholic.
Another third are Protestant, and the rest are not identified with a specific faith tradition.
Other findings from the study: The proportion of Catholics residing in the diocese (34 percent) exceeds the U.S. average of Catholics (23 percent) and among all residents in the area, 43 percent were raised Catholic. This compares to only 34 percent of adults who consider themselves Catholics today. [More]