A new studypinpoints how self-identified Catholics answer that question:
A Pew Research Center survey released Sept. 2 …asked 1,016 self-identified U.S. adult Catholics about what is “essential” to their personal sense of “being Catholic.” The answers reveal that for most Americans, Catholic identity is rooted more in how they live and believe than in whether they check off the boxes for official Catholic measures: * 68 percent cited “having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” as essential. * 67 percent: Belief in Jesus’ actual resurrection from the dead. * 62 percent: Working to help the poor and needy. * 54 percent: Devotion to Mary as the virgin Mother of God. * 54 percent: Receiving the sacraments. * 42 percent: Being part of a Catholic parish. * 41 percent: Being open to having children. * 34 percent: Celebrating feast days or festivals that are part of your national or ethnic heritage. * 33 percent: Opposing abortion. * 29 percent: Working to address climate change. The survey, conducted May 5 to June 7, 2015, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Wrap in many more who consider these beliefs and actions “important but not essential” and the survey shows that 2 in 3 Catholics take every one of those markers seriously. Pew also found that 9 percent of Americans consider themselves ex-Catholics — but [CARA researcher Mary] Gautier would claim those people as Catholic too. Not only do many still hold those Catholic beliefs and practices, said Gautier, but going by church law, “canonically, being baptized Catholic makes you Catholic whether or not you ever attend Mass again. Period.”
One interesting question that pops up every election cycle is whether Catholic politicians who support abortion are excommunicated. Canon lawyer Cathy Caridi addressed that question a few years ago, and it’s not as clear-cut as it seems. Check her blog for details.