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Rewriting history--again

Revisionist historian, columnist, and know-it-all Ross Douthat is instructing the readers of the NYTimes again (so too, Maureen D; but that will just give you dyspepsia).Douthat tried to resuscitate the "Catholic Moment" a few weeks ago.Today: how Cardinal Ratzinger saved the Catholic Church, especially in the United States. A gold star to anyone who finds the most mistakes.UPDATE: Winner so far: Bill de Haas. Rita Ferrone coming in second!!UPDATE2: The NYT's isn't all bad. Also in Sunday's Sports Section, "A Final and a Beginning." "Fifty years ago, as the 25th N.C.A.A. mens final began at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky., basketball fans saw for the first time something they take for granted today. As the two top mens teams in the country, Loyola of Chicago and Cincinnati, prepared for the opening tip, most of the players on the floor, 7 of 10, were black...."In the final, Loyola staged one of the most surprising comebacks in tournament history. Trailing by 15 points with less than 12 minutes to go a deep hole in the days before the shot clock and the 3-point line the Ramblers clawed their way back and tied the game in the last seconds of regulation. They won, 60-58, with a buzzer-beater at the end of overtime."

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The biggest mistake I could find is the notion that inviting people to read an article to find as many mistakes as possible could lead to meaningful discussion.I found much to agree with in Douthats piece, though I think referring to Cardinal Ratzinger as a doctrinal policeman is a bit tired and uninspired. I would have preferred doctrinal guidepost.

Is it that culturally conserevative Catholic sensibilities are beyond comprehension, or is it just Douthat's rendering of them? If the latter, is there a better source?Is it possible to glean insight from messages like the one he delivers today *and* Commonweal's fare?

Actually fact-checking, not sensibilities, was the proposed discussion. What's Douthat right about? And wrong about?

Douthat says the US Catholic Church attendence is stable and vocations are increasing. I'll chip in to send him to Ireland where he can do street interviews in Dublin.

I once read in a conservative source that vocations of nuns in England in one year had increased 300 percent -- they had gone from 7 new members to 19. For some people that's a reversal. Not for me, but such figures might be encouraging to Douthat.

Ms. Steinfels - I will take your bait:a) French Revolution or Reformation - what about the Franco-Prussian War and the loss of the papal states?b) mass attendance - well, per CARA, drop of 30% at most and trend lines indicate that the first significant drop began with Humanae Vitae (papal minority proclamation - conservative; not progressive); the 1970's trendline actually held steady; the next significant drop was in the late 1980's - ten years after JPII was elected and corresponding to any number of conservative, if not reactionary, papal decisions. He says that mass attendance has leveled off - really, guess he missed the CARA studies and the impact of the new translation; the 20-30 year old age group; etc.c) usual demonizing of secularism as profane; loss of religious liberty/influence - well, one must make a distinction between faith and denominational/institutional church practices. One can argue that today is just as *spiritual* as 1848 or 1985 - depends on what your criteria and judgments are based upon. Can't one suggest that *secularism* is neutral - a cultural phrase that describes a myriad of styles/decisions/attitudes. It is the response to secularism - do we engage or do we fear it and thus demonize it? Vatican II engaged secularism as a fact of life in today's world. Would suggest that too often (esp. in the US hierarchy) we have seen positions that equate more closely to Protestant Evangilism than to traditional catholicism - individualism, rights over common good, desire for church over state or state controlled by church positions. Yet, there are more catholics in responsible positions in all three levels of government than in history. Is this a result of secularism?d) abdication - he did not abdicate - he resigned an Officee) 1970's - mass departure by clerics/nuns - would suggest that the largest numbers where in the 1960s and experts suggest that a combination of reasons impacted this - no change in celibacy rules; VII aggiornamento of religious communities that changed their ministries and lifestyles; significant changes in terms of the laity and thus participation in the life of the churchf) Third Vatican Council - and this would be a sign of sclerosis?g) Sexual Abuse rates - even using the self-reports of the John Jay Studies, indicates that public allegations which emerged in the late 1980s-1990s indicate by years that abuse peaked starting in the mid-1960s through the 1970s. Why - multiple reasons but from just arithmetic - highest number of priests historically from 1950 until the late 1970s - thus, percentage of abuse may be the same but the numbers of abusers would be higher; again, will never know the actual numbers given the nature of reporting abuse; elapse of time; etc. In fact, rates of abuse as a percentage in some ordination classes would be above 15% from some archdioceses prior to Vatican II.h) the usual, *moral laxity* - was this the church or society in the Western World?i) rebellion of latin mass traditionalists- had been going on since end of council; grew stronger with JP's initial permissions and then started a ROTR movement with Benedict's Summorum Pontificum and outreach to save SSPX (over spoken objections of his largest episcopal conferencesj) dispensing with meatless Fridays and Latin Mass created revolution - really, folks overwhelmingly welcomed these updating decisions. If anything, they instilled enthusiasm among the faithfulk) Percy novel - again, only in Douthat's imaginationl) re-establish Catholicism - sounds like he is borrowiing from and channelling John Allen"s *smaller, purer church* or affirmative orthodoxy or whatever. What we have seen is that B16's focus on internal identity has created confusion, alienation, and divisions - not unity and not a purer church. It functions best when you can *name* an enemy to fight against. And, as a result, he is correct to say that Benedict failed to solve the broad cultural challenges facing the church.m) he says that it did *stabilize* catholicism in the US - really, he must not live in the same church I live in. From massive parish/school closings; financial irregularities; sexual abuse cases that only continue to cry out for justice; so-called war against the US government on religious liberty (using contraception which 98% of all catholics accept and use); watching the church split over liturgy wars (new translation resulted in even less attendance); gender issues; gay issues (Rome's intrinsic evil and intrinsically disordered line of thinking which refutes reason, science, etc.; catholic universities and issues around orthodoxy/oaths/mandates; movements away from traditional stances supporting poor, better economy; unions; immigration; healthcare. And all of this *destabilizations issues* started, peaked, or occured over the last 40 years.n) vocations have risen - again, unnuanced opinion - some conservative dioceses and communities have seen more candidates entering - but actual ordination rates (with the odd exception) remain the same.o) more Americans are favorably disposed to the pope emeritus - really, again, he must be drinking a special kind of koolaid - just like Congress, the papacy's popularity is not high on anyone's radar. Something to do with respect for institutions in today's world - not a popular trend.p) other denominations without a Ratzinger fared worse - actually, CARA or Pew Study data indicates that this allegation is false......2nd or 3rd largest group of defined folks are inactive or departed catholics. Only reason the overall numbers are stable is because of the hige Hispanic immigrant populations. Pentecostalism is growing by leaps and bounds.q) He concludes by stating that Ratzinger steered a course to save Christian Catholicism.....given the list above,would suggest that his efforts (or lack thereof) came close to sinking the barque of Christ and left him the only course of action - resignation.

Well, at least this part seems right on the money:"Indeed, it is difficult to pick out a major religious body where the progressive course urged by so many of Ratzingers critics has increased vitality and growth."Regardless of whether you think the "Commonweal-Catholic" wish list is right or wrong, does anyone seriously think that the granting of those wishes will result in some Renaissance (or even modest gains) of Catholicism in the West? The status quo doesn't need a chaplain.

Bill gets the gold star! I'd add a couple of other mistakes:a) He was unpopular because he was "a traitor to his class" by disciplining other theologians. The issue hasn't been lack of loyalty to his class, it's disagreements over content and method. b) "Still the one true faith" -- this slogan is completely without nuance, and thus actually false because it flattens and misrepresents the teaching of the church on ecumenism. c) "Wholesale collapse" of the 1970s, that he supposedly turned around. RD would have to account for the fact that youth born during that period (GenX) were brought up to be the most active Catholics (doesn't look like collapse from that vantage point), but then dropped off dramatically as the Ratzinger policy priorities took hold. http://archives.religionnews.com/blogs/mark-silk/gen-x-catholic-debacle

Edward: Indeed, it is difficult to pick out a major religious body where the progressive course urged by so many of Ratzingers critics has increased vitality and growth.What about the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches that so many Catholics have joined?

Douthat indeed needs a fact-checker. But I would take him over Dowd any day. She is just plain old nasty, insinuating and vile. She is lucky that our God is a merciful God

@ Peggy. here is a question. I wonder in regard to the Catholics who have left for Protestant denominations. If they took their children with them, have they remained practicing in that denomination in sizable numbers? Me thinks not.

I cannot improve on Bill DeHaas fact-checking of Ross Douhats opinion article in the NYT. I can, however, add that much of my problem with the data in the article is that it presents facts without the nuance and context that is necessary in evaluating the Church and society since Vatican II.When I read Ross Douhats opinion article in the NYT this morning I thought: There you go again another convert who entered the Church in the post-Vatican II reactionary phase under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who did not stabilize things in the church but seem to have contributed to divisiveness. Then I remembered my Lenten penance to be nice.Seriously, I am fed up with those Catholics who think that the church is going down the tubes and in need of drastic reform, which I interpret as a return to the Way We Were before Vatican II. They simply have no idea how liberating Vatican II was to those of us who took the council and the changes seriously. For example, look at the number of laity, myself included, who were motivated to pursue degrees in theology and work in Church affiliated ministries. Look at the changes in the liturgy that brought us so much more exposure to the Scriptures. (Thank God, we no longer have to listen to the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins every year.) Look at the number of permanent deacons who work in the Church. Look at the openness to dialogue with those of other religions and Christian affiliations. Look at the creative way that our sisters, examining the charisms of their religious communities have pursued new and effective ministries to the poor and marginalized in our society. I could go on but I am out of breath.

Anthony: How many? I don't know. There may be anecdotal evidence available from commenters here who have said they go to another Christian church: (Do you know where your kids are?).

Nice job by Bill and Rita, But it appears that Bill H is wrong in disputing that American Catholics view Benedict Xvi favorably. They do. http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/As the 1964 Blog points out the approval of a president is different in substance from that of a pope.Very few Catholics have taken the effort that many of us have in finding out what is going on in the church. In general Catholics respond to the Pope at the window giving blessings and how can a man dressed in white be responsible for all the shenanigans going on? I appreciate the way Ross outlines his essay. He gives us a lot to consider citing meaningful sources while his interpretations indicate that he has hardly read them. But the biggest mistake Douthat makes is equating Spong with Ratzinger's Catholic critics. These Catholic critics are people with strong moral values who want to see a gospel Catholicism as opposed to an inquisitional one. Such people as Elizabeth Johnson, John O Malley, Thomas Reese, Hans Kung, Bernard Haring, Charles Curran, Tissa Balasuriva, Paul Collins, Joan Chittister, and a host of others, are hardly people who are laissez faire Catholics. Douthat further shows his certified ignorance with the following statement. "This doesnt mean there isnt some further version of reform, some unexpected synthesis of tradition and innovation, that would serve Catholicism well." If he had seriously read the above authors (and other Catholic scholars) he would have found solid avenues for renewal. While he is clever and outlines the problems of the church he continues to show a stubborness for superficial analysis. As far as Ratzinger is concerned it seems to me that he has come full circle and even like a man without a country, as it were. The young progressive theologian bolted to the right when radical students took over his podium which made him choose a different path. That fifty year turn to the right has had the same result with his own traditionalists making him irrelevant where he could not even control them.

To Peggy's list @ 4:44, I would add United Church of Christ (particularly with women seeking ordained ministry) and ... surprisingly (but I can't really understand why) Unitarian Universalists. Anecdotally, the UCC Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley seems to have more than its fair share of former RCs as seminarians, particularly in the female ranks.Does anyone have a good source of information on the independent Catholic groups that exist in the US? I realize that most of their congregations are small and scattered (and overloaded with bishops!) but am wondering about any trends in them.

Re: Independent Catholic communities. Jimmy, here is one list that I just found through a quick search on the internet:http://www.alternativecatholicexperience.org/This website offers a directory of communities ministered to by women priests:http://romancatholicwomenpriests.org/worshippingcommunity.htmNow, one might say they are excommunicated thus no longer Catholic, but I offer this because they self-identify as Roman Catholics despite this.There are some other types of communities too. I don't know how one finds them, but I've run into people who belong to them. I wonder if they were all counted up, would it amount to a lot of people? Not sure. The largest I've run into has about 400 members.

"a good source of information on the independent Catholic groups'How about the 1000 convents.?

Thanks to all for the feedback - actually, thought that Rita's earlier post on dotCommonweal was excellent and provided a better analysis....my remarks are just shooting from the hip.Helen - agree and it is always helpful to start with the writer's context....have had the same experience with recent and not so recent converts....they seem to be in search for some type of *identity* via institutional religion and are more focused on what I call the rules, authority, having someone tell you like it is...not very good on symbol, analogy, or even sacramentality.The other columnist who reflects Douthat's thoughts is Rod Dreher - he is on his 3rd or 4th church in his endless search for something. He used to write for the Dallas Morning News at the height of the Rudy Kos sexual abuse trial - caused him to knee jerk to a south Texas monastery which quickly revealed both an abusive and financial shenanigans; only adding to Dreher's angst.Rita - thought about the theologian comment...for me, pick up on VII and the three legged stool in which one leg are theologians. Thus, the role of theology is to seek understanding; test limits; clarify/analyze - not produce policy/dogma, etc. Douthart has this image of theologians as threats - as not part of the magisterium (thus, pre-VII understanding). If anything, think we have seen the *unintended consequences* of electing a pope who sees himself as *the* theologian of the church and acts/implements his theological thinking. Unfortunately, his theology since 1974 took a turn backwards and reflects a minority opinion. It also is dangerous to conflate theology and papal authority..esp. if that pope's style is not one of consultation; listening; discussing; debating. (per second hand reports about Benedict). He acted in such a way that over-centralized papal authority at the expense of VII concept that the pope is *first among equals* (not a monarch). And another obstacle for ecumenism - the key goal of Vatican II.Finally, Bill - agree with your link but, like all surveys, what does it really tell us. What I did not get into since Douthart focused on the US experience of the church, is to put some of his comments into a world church context (doubt he knows much about the church in the southern hemisphere or even the challenges in Africa, South America, or individual European nations). What do you think the popularity of the pope is in: Austria? Germany? Ireland? Poland's catholic attendance has spiraled down; vocations are dwindling. So, if a survey reflects the *voluntarism* of Fr. Z or EWTN (the will of the pope/superior is the law); then the standard response will be that the pope is popular.

I fear that any attention to Douthat would only encourage him. Douthat has long been dreaming the George-Weigel-dream-of-Catholic-life. He is seriously deluded.

Bill deHass,The fact that inactive or departed Catholics are the second or third largest group in those studies does not by itself indicate that the rate of attrition in the Catholic Church has been higher than in mainline Protestant churches. The number of active Roman Catholics was much bigger to begin with (they are still the largest group in those studies); so the proportion of Catholics who have left the church might be lower than the proportion of, says, Presbyterians who have left their church and still amount to a larger number of people. Is there anything else in the studies you cite that would support your claim that Douthat is wrong about mainline Protestantism having dwindled much faster than the U.S. Catholic Church?You say the only thing keeping the church's numbers up in this country is immigration from Latin America. And what of it? One could as well observe that all those immigrants from Italy and Ireland are the only reason Catholics became the largest religious group in the United States. How far back do we have to control for immigration in our measurements?"The status quo does not need a chaplain." A good line.

Mr. Boudway - allow me to to repeat what I said above - my comments were quickly made and in response to what *seemed* to me to be randomn and unsubstantiated generalizations by Mr. Douthart.There are two separate categories:- attendance- denominational decreases (Douthart inserted that Ratzinger helped stabilize this in the US)So, to the first I was remembering stats from both Pew and CARA studies. Would stand by those.To the second - here is a link to the Pew Studies on denominations, comparisons, etc.http://www.pewforum.org/About-One-in-Six-Americans-Are-Baptist.aspxIn broad terms, it would probably be more correct to say that all mainline Protestant/Catholic denominations have suffered decreases. Again, my response was to the way that Douthart made his comment (*Ratzinger stablilized). Sorry, given the continue migration, decreases that the 2nd/3rd largest group are unaffiliated Catholics (not unspiritual just unaffiliated), will stand by what I said.Not sure where you are going with your immigrant supposition. Catholic populations continue to increase because of immigration (Hispanic, Vietnamese, other)...yes, guess you could drill down and draw a line in the statistical sand that you can't keep counting immigrants in 2nd or 3rd generation. But, would posit that my quick review is closer to the reality than whatever point Mr. Douthart was trying to make.

Bill deHass,I'm not sure what point you think that link is supposed to illustrate. You write, "In broad terms, it would probably be more correct to say that all mainline Prostestant/Catholic denominations have suffered decreases." That's a nice dodge, but mainline "Prostestant/Catholic denominations" is not a very useful categorysociologically or ecclesiologically. Douthat makes the familiar claim that mainline Protestant churches that made changes many liberal Catholics would like to see the Catholic Church make have shrunken faster than the Catholic Church. Do you think this is false? And if so, what is your evidence? The finding that "ex-Catholics" are now the second or third largest religious category in the country is not by itself sufficient evidence. It is one thing to answer Douthat's analysis with a rival analysis, another to argue he's getting a fact wrong by simply introducing another fact that does not really contradict his claim.

Matthew,I am interested in the question you raise, which I think relates to Bill's "p" item. As you say, Douthat's claim is a standard talking point. Perhaps I have misunderstood this, but I wonder a little about that talking point. It seems like sleight of hand to compare "other denominations" as having shrunk more dramatically than Catholicism but to leave out out those Protestant denominations that are experiencing growth: evangelicals, megachurches, Pentecostals, and the like. In other words, why is it appropriate to compare growth/decline rates of Catholicism with the so-called mainline denominations, but not with megachurches (which likewise have a married clergy, which is an example of a change desired by some Catholics)? Some Protestant denominations have been ordaining women for more than 100 years, and only started to experience a decline in membership after the 1960s. If one wants to lay decline at the door of women in ministry, one would have to account for the decades in which this decline did not happen. I think this is a complex phenomenon, in short, and although the decline in numbers of churchgoing Episcopalians or Lutherans or Presbyterians in America is an important fact, this doesn't by itself prove that Catholicism has done better because it has held its positions on celibacy or the exclusion of women from ordination.

Thanks, Rita....Will repeat what I stated above - Douthart made *standard* claim. I responded with another *claim*.You do not find my link to the Pew Study data to be illustrative. Well, that is your issue; not mine. Search around on this link and you will find denominational % and numbers compared to other years and other denominations.You have also skipped over my main point above .....Douthart couched his *claim* by adding that Ratzinger has stabilized. My counter claim was basically to name his use of a generalization; and to counter his claim that Ratzinger stabilized.....by what measure, data, criteria did he arrive at that conclusion? Since this post was about Ratzinger - that is where my focus was.Really not into scoring points - Rita says well that how you count, who you count, and who is reporting these numbers are all over the place. would agree and this connects again to Douthart's claim. Do I doubt his claim that mainline Protestant denominations have decreased more than RC - yes, I do doubt this because I am looking from a much broader standpoint that the one I suggest you are using. And to go even further on this claim and add descripters such as celibacy or women's ordination - are there any reliable numbers to show that? It would be survey and self-report information which is not exactly reliable.So, since this was about a whole series of Douthart claims - why are you hung up on this one?

I know that one of Robert Putnam's theses is that major changes in social attitudes and practices often are generational in nature. This is seen, for example, in attitudes toward gay marriage, where a majority (albeit a shrinking one) of elderly Americans opposes it but a strong majority of 20-somethings supports it. I wonder if Catholicsm's ability, at least until recently, to shore up its numbers of adherents in comparison to mainline denominations is due in part to its intergenerational faith transmission structures - especially Catholic schools - which may have inoculated succeeding generations from the depredating effects of the larger culture on religious practice. Perhaps the decline in Catholic school enrollment has reached a critical mass where it's no longer a difference-maker?

Mainline Protestants have pretty much always been ready and willing to move from denomination to denomination with impunity.A very large number of Roman Catholics, however, were raised to believe that their church is something very special, the source of salvation, the One True Church, etc.The fact that so many of these Catholics have felt the need and subsequent willingness to leave for other shores makes the rate and/or numbers doing so much more meaningful.Ditto for Protestant ministers vs Catholic priests. Anyone who looks at the number of female Episcopal priests and UCC ministers who came from an RC background should be appalled and shocked by the fact that theses women had no other choice to fill out their call to ordained ministry.

Let's not overlook reports that Hispanic/Latino Catholic newcomers to the USA are not necessarily staying in the Church of Rome. Many are joining other ecclesial communities, and still others are leaving organized religion altogether. I suspect that as their younger generations assimilate into mainstream American culture, we can expect still more departures.The Vatican II bishops, all products of the "old school", were convinced of the need for renewal, the main theme of this council. Then we get JPII and B16 with their autocratic rule and retro attraction, and all hell breaks loose.RE: John XXIII's "signs of the times", our last two pontiffs *reacted*; they did not *respond*.

Rita,I agree: the phenomenon is complex. All generalizations will leave out something important. But I do think it's fair to say that in this country most of the recent growth in Christianity has been among conservative denominations and movements, and most of the shrinkage among denominations that became more liberal during that same period. Yes, "conservative" and "liberal" are fairly crude terms in this context, but if they are not entirely adequate, neither are they useless. Yes, as you point out, many "conservative" Evangelicals would fall on the liberal side of important ad intra Catholic disagreements (they allow women to be ministers and ministers to marry; they do not consider contraception intrinsically evil). Yes, the numbers don't tell the whole story. Or rather, they tell only one story. Once you have determined which Christian communities have been most successful at retaining their old adherents and gaining new ones, there are other, arguably more important questions to answer. As the old Albanian woman used to say, God does not call us to be successful; he calls us to be faithful. Justice and fidelity may require us to do things that will make the church less appealing, either to some of its members or to potential converts. If one wants to argue, for example, that many of the church's teachings about sexuality are primitive, unjust, or just plain un-Christian, one should not too quickly assume that updating those teachings so that they conform better with prevailing secular mores will fill up the pews or keep them from emptying: there just isn't any evidence for this. Bill deHass: That I don't find the link you provided very helpful in our discussion is neither your "issue" nor mine. Perhaps you could cite a statistic from the Pew study that speaks directly to the claim Douthat made. You haven't so far. You write, "Do I doubt [Douthat's] claim that mainline Protestant denominations have decreased more than RC yes, I do doubt this because I am looking from a much broader standpoint that the one I suggest you are using." So, again, what exactly is that standpoint? An intuition? A suspicion? Really, this seems to me to be a quantatative question: Either mainline Protestant churches have shrunk more than the Catholic Church or they haven't. Go ahead, control for immigration, and I still think you'll find trouble finding any evidence that the Catholic Church is shrinking as fast as the Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, etc. Finally, I am "hung up" on this point because (a) I think it's interesting and important and (b) I think you're wrong. Am I not allowed to take up one of your points unless I address all seventeen?

Standpoint: nope, not an intuition nor a suspicion.Quantatative response: http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/08/ARIS_Report_2008.pdfNote Table Three - it gets to Rita's point and how you count. If you limit Douthart's comment to the old mainline Protestant denominations, then his claim may be correct. But, if you take all Christians and compare to Catholics, his claim is way off. orhttp://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-09-american-religio... http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-09-ARIS-faith-surve... http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/2001-12-24-religion.htmor I again don't think I am wrong - in fact, my claim is just as correct, or more so, than Mr. Douthart's.High Points:Among the key findings in the 2008 survey: So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, "the challenge to Christianity does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion," the report concludes. Catholic strongholds in New England and the Midwest have faded as immigrants, retirees and young job-seekers have moved to the Sun Belt. While bishops from the Midwest to Massachusetts close down or consolidate historic parishes, those in the South are scrambling to serve increasing numbers of worshipers. Baptists, 15.8% of those surveyed, are down from 19.3% in 1990. Mainline Protestant denominations, once socially dominant, have seen sharp declines: The percentage of Methodists, for example, dropped from 8% to 5%. The percentage of those who choose a generic label, calling themselves simply Christian, Protestant, non-denominational, evangelical or "born again," was 14.2%, about the same as in 1990. Jewish numbers showed a steady decline, from 1.8% in 1990 to 1.2% today. The percentage of Muslims, while still slim, has doubled, from 0.3% to 0.6%. Analysts within both groups suggest those numbers understate the groups' populations.Note - this data is based upon 2008 surveys. Note that the first bullet suggests that the unaffiliated catholic group has increased 8% compared to the third bullet that ends with Methodists who have decreased 3%.

Margaret: here you go, albeit there doesn't seem to be any sound. Which of those cheerleaders in the opening shot is you? Or perhaps you were in the press box that day?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz76E9O4BWALoyola had a commemoration earlier this year of another anniversary: a landmark 1963 game in which Mississippi State's all-white team had to literally be smuggled out of the state to play Loyola, which had five black starters in 1963. I believe the governor had deployed sheriff's deputies to prevent the Mississippi State team from leaving the state to play the game. Story here: http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/8741183/game-chang... two schools played a game this year, which my wife and I attended. It was very moving, and Loyola's gym, still a bit of a bandbox even though it's a significant upgrade from the old Alumni Gym, was small enough that I was able to rub elbows with former players. I'm very proud of Loyola.

Jim P: Thanks so much. But not me or anyone I recognize. The game was in Louiseville! I don't think there were mass migrations following college teams in those days. You will not be surprised to learn that I was not a cheerleader; not even a sports writer!Four '63 grads have been bunting the NYTimes story back and forth: two in NYC, one in DC, and one in Seattle. The four of us all Loyola News troublemakers were probably working on the scheme to get Mrs. Lewis (of Lewis Tower fame) to permit our fellow student, Mickey Leaner, to swim in the white ladies only swimming pool on the 12th floor. No go, followed by the famous picketing by students, then by adults, and then (hold onto your hat) Nuns in Habits!!! Now that was a Catholic Moment!Also: those LU guys were so thin! compared to the behemoths that play today (look at the Times picture or the you tube video; they look almost anorexic. By coincidence, I was on a plane today, and several of my fellow passengers were from the St. John's (NYC) basketball team. They are BIG. Is it the food? steroids? weights? Gee, I wonder if they were going to Chicago to play LU.

JP: I forwarded your video link; so more on the historic event from the '63 grads and what we were doing that evening:"Wow - this is an amazing bit of video!"And as I recall, we were all together, plus a few more (Mary, Ed, Tom, a few more whose names I'm forgetting), studying for the big Senior Year exams, with the game on the radio, in the background."I didn't even know the team was making history (but there were probably all sorts of things I didn't get). Tho if the Cubs win the World Series this year - I'll KNOW. Progress."AND: "Right.. Here's what I remember. I don't recall the studying part but that's surely likely. I do remember going back to the little tv alcove we had in the basement to watch the end of the game. The tv feed was on slight delay and my sister who must have been listening upstairs on the radio came down and said she knew the result and was smiling. She then told us So we knew the results before was saw it."Collective memory at work.

JP: Another piece of news from the bunting 4, or maybe I should say the dribbling 4."No studying that I recall. We were watching the game. After all, we would soon have a paper to put out and this would be page one. X's right about the TV feed on slight delay. Except that the sister did not simply come downstairs with a smile. She came with a shout, whether in those incredible last seconds of the regular game or at the end of the overtime. So we knew Loyola had one (or tied) but couldn't quite believe how it was going to happen. "It was some years later that I really learned that for the players the Mississippi game was at least as big a deal as the Cincinnatti game because of the race issue. "And here's a factoid for us. I stuck it into a talk I gave in 2009 at Duke, twisting the knife a little. (As I recall, Duke had been eliminated in March Madness.) The talk was on Catholic Social Thought. I began by recalling the REQUIRED course I had to take on Catholic social encyclicals, a class that happened to include most of the starting basketball team. I noted that they seemed pretty confident of getting a decent grade from the professor, who was a doctrinaire liberal to the point of exasperation. It was, however, ..." ... in a good cause. On March 23, 1963, that team won the NCAA national basketball championship. And in fairness to them, the five starting players not only all graduated but eventually earned no less than 6 postgraduate degrees, including one law degree and one Ph.D., almost certainly an academic record for a national championship team, even by Duke standards."

Margaret - that is great stuff.I was recently graduated from Loyola and still living in the Rogers Park neighborhood in 1984-85, working for a commodities trading firm and trying to decide whether or not to start graduate work in English (ultimately I decided not to). That was the last time Loyola's basketball program was really respectable - that season, we had a monster basketball player by the name of Alfredrick Hughes, and the Ramblers made it to the Sweet Sixteen before being eliminated by, if I recall correctly, Patrick Ewing's Georgetown team. I don't know that I ever had a player in any of my courses during my years there (I lived on Lake Shore campus but most of my courses were downtown in Lewis Towers, whose swimming pool by that time was open to both men and women, whether white, black or anything else), but quite a few of my friends had players in their classes. But there were also tutors attached to the basketball program to keep some of the players eligible - I had a friend who did this.

Perhaps Matthew and Bill can duke it out over this story in today's Times:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/us/in-poll-us-catholics-mixed-on-bened...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.