Tuesday, March 14, 2006

508 Boston Catholics to Sean: Congrats, With Reservations

Ten days before the elevation of Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley to the College of Cardinals, a poll of local Catholics indicates that, while the cardinal-designate's record remains a work in progress in their mind, their confidence in the church's future is less than firm -- and, in the process, a significant number have made themselves less present in its life.

Of the 508 Boston Catholics contacted for the survey, the respondents split evenly among those who saw O'Malley's tenure to date as "excellent" or "good" and those who saw it as "fair" or "poor" (49 vs. 50%, respectively).

Significant discontent was registered, however, over the cardinal-designate's handling of the 2004 archdiocesan reconfiguration, which closed or merged 62 parishes and a significant number of Boston's parochial schools. Of those polled, 62% said that the parish closings had been handled in the "wrong way"; that figure rose to 64% when the question of the school closings was raised. When asked if they were confident of the archdiocese of Boston, a combined 48% replied "not very" or "not at all."

Two-fifths (40%) of the representative sampling saw O'Malley's impending creation as a cardinal as a "good thing" for the Boston church; 20% saw it as a "bad thing" and 39% said it would have no effect on the archdiocese. Almost half (49%) of those polled said that they were going to church less frequently than they were five years ago; 38% were participating in liturgy about the same. Of the group, a solid 60% said that Catholic teaching on "social positions" should be "more liberal"; 23% saying that the church's stances are just about right.

For some bizarre reason, two questions at the end of the survey were devoted to the Da Vinci Code. (Which encited nausea in one ranking Vatican expert on seeing their presence.) Of the group queried, 70% said they were familiar with the novel, which has (bizarrely) captured the popular imagination and will be released as a film in early summer. "Based on what [they] know," 57% of those who claimed familiarity with the book said they didn't think that "the Da Vinci Code creates anti Catholic bias in the way it portrays teachings of the church."

The poll was taken for WBZ, the CBS television outlet in Boston, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.