Can Catholics Think for Themselves?

Does anti-Catholicism persist in American society, not as violent perhaps as when convents were being torched in the nineteenth century, but still there, lurking just beneath the surface? Is it America’s ugly little secret, an unacknowledged bias that still permeates our society?

Alan Wolfe of Boston College tells us anti-Catholicism has virtually disappeared since the election of John F. Kennedy. William Donohue of the Catholic League, on the other hand-and in high dudgeon-sees it everywhere.

Two years ago, as part of Commonweal’s Catholics in the Public Square Project (Wolfe and Donohue were also on the program), I was asked to present a paper summarizing the empirical data on the subject (see American Catholics, American Culture, Sheed & Ward, edited by Margaret O’Brien Steinfels). Since there weren’t any hard data, I commissioned a “pretest in force” study, supplying questionnaire items that might be used in a larger national study. I was especially interested in items that might uncover the continuation of anti-Catholic bigotry. I found three items which I then commissioned for inclusion in the 2004 General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center. Using a Strongly agree/agree/neither agree nor disagree/disagree/strongly disagree scale, respondents were asked to assess the following statements: 1) The statues and images in Catholic churches are idols. 2) Catholic rosaries and holy...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Rev. Andrew M. Greeley is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the author of The Catholic Revolution: New Wine in Old Wineskins (University of California Press), Priests: A Calling in Crisis (University of Chicago Press), and The Truth about Conservative Christians (University of Chicago Press), with Michael Hout.