Black Catholics: Social and Cultural Characteristics Author(s): Jon P. Alston, Letitia T.

Alston, Emory Warrick Source: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Dec., 1971), pp. 245-255 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/05/2011 21:02
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In 1957.S.Withfewexceptions. Gockel. at manuscript presented the Societyfor the Studyof Religion. BLACKCATHOLICS amongreligious groupsin Amersocio-economic differences 1969. 1969. Hyland. January 1970.. EMORY WARRICK University Georgia of interest the in therehas been an increasing In recent years. ALSTON. little is knownabout thisreligious category. Goldstein. Glennand ica (Alston. Regional [2451 . was in on Southeast 30. However. Bureauof Census.Characteristics Social and Cultural JON P. LETITIA T.'black Roman and as Catholics havebeen neglected a topic of research. 1970). 1967. This lacuna is in part the consequenceof the smallnumberof black Catholics. ALSTON. to However. An earlier version this of ResearchCenter. 1969. Meetings Atlanta.most studies fail to simultaneously controlfor the variablesof race and religious affiliation both. only 6% of the nonwhitepopulationwas Catholicas against28% of the whitepopulation(U. 1958: Table 1). sinceWorldWarII showsthisgroupto be highly herewas supported the AUTHORS' NOTE: The research by reported and theRoper Public Opinion system University Georgialibrary of whichsuppliedthe data.the increaseof black conversions Catholicism In dynamic. Georgia. Jacksonet al.

as more and more blacks enterinto the middle classes. beliefs.they wish to associatewithmiddle-class religiousbehaviorand beliefs(Feagin. religious and position.[246] JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / DECEMBER 1971 1967. data based on national samples indicate Contemporary that religious groups do vary in attitudes.Norval D.thereexistsan important for Within problem sociologists.Nonwhites were foundto be morereligious and more theologically traditional-fundamentalistic. An investigation black Catholicswillenableus to see iftheseconversions a result are of a differential movement into a religion whichholds more values and attitudes. also-in conThey trast to white Protestantsand white Catholics-felt that churches should be more concernedwithsocial and political issues(Glenn. Leonard . 1968: 190). see of each category does or does not resemble its white religious counterpart. Given that a minorityof blacks are being attractedto Catholicism. Black Catholics may reject Protestantism because. The presentpaper attemptsto differentiate betweenblack Protestants and black Catholicsin termsof socioeconomic to secularattitudes. beliefs. maywellbe thatblacksare It congenial of increasingly beingattracted Catholicism to because certain themwish to divorcethemselves fromthe black. Glenn(1964) contrasted nonwhite Protestants withwhiteCatholicsand whiteProtestants.revivalisticoriented Protestantreligion.However. 1968: 191). upwardmobility may encourageblacks to seek out churches withmore congenialattitudes and beliefs. That is. In the most extensive analysis of Protestant-Catholic attitudinaldifferences published in recent one out of fourteen 1953 (Feagin. one out of eightCatholicadult converts was black. and socioeconomicposition.if white Protestantchurchesrefuse black members. against in thiscontext.blacks may be forcedto seek elsewhere compatible for church membership. is important know why these it to conversions are takingplace and what some of the conseof quences of these changes are. 1964: 625-626).

Glenn (1966) found that white Protestantswere. politicallymore conservative. black Protestants wereat timesmore similarto white Catholics than they were to the white Protestants. Bureau of the Census.Catholicsweremorereligiously and believedmorein in-group marriage. Our threelargestreligious-racial groups show a highcomparative in consistency their socio-economic as standings reflected otherstudies(Goldstein. 1963: 113. found that white Protestants were more orientedtoward work and constructive uses of leisure time than were the Catholics. Unfortunately. U.these and other differenceswere often slight. less on tolerant. We in feel that. a small sample can be utilizedto delineate trends and differences.1966). samplesusinga widerrangeof attitudinal THE SAMPLE The data are derived from two nationalpolls conductedby the AmericanInstituteof Public Opinion during1957 and Protestantstended to reflectCatholic rather than Protestantvalues when social class was held constant(Lenski. lower-scoring and orthodox authoritarian items. termsof both politicalideology and family In orientation. are althoughcomparison of our sampleswithothersshowsthatour samplesper se are representative (Glenn and Hyland. using a more restricted sample. This paper seeks to substantiate Lenski's findings throughthe use of national items.Alstonet al. total numberof black Catholicsin the our sample is small. / BLACK CATHOLICS [2471 Broom and Norval D. 1958). However. Errorsdue to samplingvariationare large.By contrast. general . and the CatholicProtestant differences were. on an exploratory level. 1967. in contrast with white Catholics. GerhardLenski (1963).and our findings only tentative.1969). on the average. 212-259).less than the Jewish-Christian differences (Broom and Glenn.S.

do you thinkreligion a whole is increasing influence as its on Americanlifeor losingits influence?(1957) Increasing 83 68 73 54 7 21 Losing 15 39 10 11 12 7 Same Number(% = 100) 356 19 918 136 or Should the churcheskeep out of politicalmatters should theyexpressviewson social and politicalquestions? (1957) day-to-day Keep out 48 40 50 33 Expressviews 52 60 50 67 Number(% = 100) 345 20 897 130 Do you believethat religion can answerall or mostof today's problems?(1957) Can answer 91 100 95 96 5 Old-fashioned 9 4 Number(% = 100) 333 131 19 860 Do you believe thatthereis or is not a devil? (1957) Is 65 65 62 83 Is not 20 27 17 35 Uncertain 15 11 977 Number(% = 100) 368 19 128 Did you.and Black Protestants (IV) to ReligiousQuestions (in percentages) Black White Catholics Catholics I 11 White Protestants Ill Black Protestants IV At the presenttime. happento attendchurchin the last sevendays? (1957) Yes 44 77 65 44 No 33 56 56 35 144 NumberM = 100) 370 982 20 if Do you thinka personcan be a Christian he doesn't go to church?(1957) Yes 73 75 82 70 14 No 22 28 25 Uncertain 5 4 2 Number(% = 100) 141 368 20 978 Do you thinkthata personcan be a Christian even ifhe doesn't believethat every word of the New Testamentis true? Yes 73 60 66 50 No 17 26 25 39 Uncertain 10 15 8 11 Number(%= 100) 142 20 976 368 .[248] JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / DECEMBER 1971 TABLE 1 Responses of WhiteCatholics (1). Black Catholics (I1). WhiteProtestants (111). yourself.

Whilethesefew itemsdo not exhaustthe subject.with the black Catholicsbeing slightly more positivethan the othergroups. / BLACK CATHOLICS [249] DATA ANALYSIS Table 1 consists of seven items dealing with religious attitudes. asked in March 1957.However. must be viewed withinits temporalcontext.In thisinstance.In termsof rankingorder. This is no doubt influencedby the civil rights movement duringthe 1950s.especiallysince theywere highest stating in (item one) that religionwas increasing influencein American its society.In termsof believingin the . both white religiousgroups are higher in feelingthat the churches should be more insulated from secularactivities. The last four items in Table 1 deal with theologically related attitudesand behavior. However.the black Catholics resemble the white Catholics the least. it is interestingthat white Catholics have the lowest percentage statingthat religioncan be an answerto today's problems. In any case. The first item deals withwhether not the respondents or or felt that religionwas increasing losing its influenceon American life. they do enable us to indicate relativeposition in a limited manner.Alston et al.The differences amongthegroupsare too smallforfurther analysis. are not so pessimistic black Protestants. they fall between the black and the white Protestants. Black Catholics seem more pessimisticthan theirwhite religious as but counterparts. The thirditem-"Do you believethatreligion can answer all or most of today's problems?"-indicates highdegreeof a similarity among all groups. withwhichmanyblack leaderswerereligiously of affiliated. The same general patternexists in item two: "Should the churches keep out of politicaland social matters?" Catholicsare closestto in of the white Protestants similarity answers.being least like the white Catholics.the intraracial differences smallerthan forthe are previousquestion. The answerpatterns the question.

those dealing the with religiousbeliefs.the black Protestants were also high on this item.the black Catholicscloselyresemble the whitesof both groups. the black Protestants more fundamentalistic are than the other three racial-religious categories.Only theblack Protestants diverge. We suggest are that the above itemsindicatea partial on rejection thepartof the black Catholics of the revivalistic-fundamentalistic orientation of the more traditionalNegro churches. however. indicate that black Catholics tend towarda Catholicrather thana Protestant ideology. of of the itemon the beliefin theimportance attendance lies in the factthatthetwo Catholicgroupsweremostsimilar. In summary. the . If we definechurchattendanceas reflecting traditional/orthodox a attitude. The significance they were also lowestin actual attendance.That is. The last item-askingwhether personcan be a Christian a that everyword of the New Testament is withoutbelieving tend to be less true-indicatesthat both Catholic categories than theirracial counterparts. Here. although lowest in actual attendance.However. permissive thoughthe black Protestants tend to be as rigidin theiremphasison Biblical authority. Relatively low in seeing the necessityfor regularchurchattendance. last fouritemsin Table 1. Whenasked if churchattendance were a requirement for good religiousstanding.[2501 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / DECEMBER 1971 existenceof a devil. Catholics of both races tended to emphasize its importance. The black Catholics resemble the white Catholics the most. The two Protestant categories. Churchattendancealso revealsintraracial divergences. although the two categories not exactlythe same.are exactlyalike.then we see thatCatholicsof eitherrace are more traditional. althoughthe two categoriesare not completelyalike. in that most (83%) state they believe in the devil. althoughthe black Catholicsplace slightly less emphasis thevalue of church on attendance. There seems to be less conflictin termsof attitudeand behaviorfor the white Protestants.

000 to $5.000 to $4.999 24 $5. higher concentrationof those in the $3. in comparisonwith black Protestants. see fromTable 2 that black CathWe tend to have a olics. (I1).Alstonet al. The above speculations strengthened the findings in are by Table 2.467 . which consists of three items measuringthe socioeconomic position of the four religious-racial groups under investigation.782 Occupation of the chiefwage earnerin the immediate family.S. the reversal percentages the lower two incomecategories of in is Responses White of Catholics BlackCatholics (1). / BLACK CATHOLICS [2511 attraction Catholicismfor blacks has been influenced of by an upward mobilitymovementfrom the lower-class traditional black religiousenvironment a more middle-class to orientation.000 income range.999 55 $10.999 14 $3. 56 50 43 College 18 6 25 Number(%= 100) 690 18 1.000 and over 7 Number(% = 100) 677 White Protestants II Black Protestants IV TABLE 2 of the members your immediate of family 33 50 11 6 18 25 28 37 10 1.000 to $9. (IV) to Socio-Economic Questions percentages) (in White Black Catholics Catholics I 11 What is the total annual income of all in living your household? (1962) $ 0 to $2. White Protestants and BlackProtestants (111).(1962) White-collar 37 13 38 Blue-collar 57 87 46 Farmer 6 16 Number(% = 100) 621 8 1. Althoughthe proportionof blacks in both religiousgroupsearningabove that amountis the same.776 56 26 14 4 265 63 31 6 273 15 70 15 213 Whatwas the highest gradeor class you completedin school? (1962) 0-8 27 44 32 H.

1969). Having more education. These associationsare consonantwithearlierfindings (Horton and Hunt. Black Catholicsalso have a different occupationalprofile from black Protestants. The black Catholics' peculiarsocioeconomic positionplaces themin an ambiguous .the two in Catholic categoriesare similar. The factthat theitemsof for income and educationreflect similar ranking patterns the black Catholics and Protestants increasesour beliefin the of general validity the smallsample. and holding (presumablyhigher-level) urban jobs.The similarity occupation between the two white categorieswas expected.especiallywhen these white churches-as Gibson Winter (1962) has pointed out-are fleeing to the segregatedsuburbs. This suggests into what may be considered the middle class are attractedto Catholicism because theyno longerfeel comfortable withthelower-class orientation theblack churches.[2521 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / DECEMBER 1971 significant.since the of occupationaldifferences white Catholicsand Protestants are now slight. the most striking difference being found in the farming occupation. social class (in theobjectivesense)is associatedwitha higher decreased belief in the more black Catholicshave had one or moreyearsof Catholicsalso enjoya higher-class position than do the black Protestants.Having more educationand higher incomes. In this context.especiallywhen measuredin termsof the blue-collar/white-collar dichotomy (Alston. 1960). higher incomes. 1968: 258. the black Catholics forma distinct socioeconomicgroupfromthe black Protesthat blacks entering tants. and a more liberal theology(see Table 1). greaterproportion black Catholicsseem to A of have entered into a (forblacks)middle-income level. Rhodes.In terms of educationallevels. blacks may have little other choice if they findthe whitemiddleclass churchesclosed to them.we would expect black Their Catholicsto be moreliberalin their religious attitudes.higherrates of churchattendance. of Since the Catholic religious churchis both urbanand morelikelyto be integrated.

neither Democratsnor Republicansreflect The last item to be discussed-"How happywould you say earlierfindings.the black of Catholics fall even lower on this item than the black Protestants. The same is foundin the in item. indicating is religion morea factorthan race. Such statusinconsistencies would resultin a smallerproportion black of Catholics believingthemselvesto be very happy (Lenski. they nevertheless find themselvesblocked from moremiddle-class the against roughlyone-halfof the other groups.theydiffer other groups. largerconcentration Republicans of The larger proportion(28%) of black Catholics who are theirmarginality. 1956).only the whiteProtestants thantheblack Catholics. We see that or three-fourths the black Catholicsstatethatthree fewer of children the ideal number.Only a the fifth the black Catholicsfind four or more children of ideal situation. would have expectedthisif is We we can safelyassume thatthe black Catholicsare mobilityoriented. fromall of the and in this context.Black Catholicsprefer smaller a of children. In terms abstaining Catholics of fromalcoholic their socio-economicprofileindicates. which are relatively the same.Alstonet al. While the two white religiousgroups have equal proportions those sayingthey are veryhappy. "Do you object to women drinking public places?" have a In the political sector.2 SECULAR ATTITUDES Table 3 presentsresponsesto five questions of a more ideal number secularnature. have alreadymenWe you are?" confirms tionedthat the blackCatholicis in an ambiguous in situation terms of socioeconomic standingand race. / BLACK CATHOLICS [2531 Differsituationregarding religiousbeliefsand membership. in thisinstancethat of eitherrace are the same. . black ing in dogma and religiousattitudesfromtraditional Protestantism.

how happy would you say you are-fairlyhappy. Democrat.the black Catholics in our two national samplesforma distinct socioreligious group.771 267 In general.or not veryhappy? (1957) 21 Veryhappy 58 56 36 42 Fairlyhappy 38 79 56 4 2 Not veryhappy 8 Number(%= 100) 144 365 19 972 In summary. or Independent?(1962) 12 6 31 Republican 13 47 Democrat 68 66 66 20 22 21 Other 28 18 Number(% = 100) 689 1.isolatedin one aspect or anotherfromboth theirreligious and counterparts theirracial peers.and Black Protestants (IV) to Selected Secular Questions (in percentages) White Black Catholics Catholics I 11 White Protestants III Black Protestants IV Whatis the ideal numberof children?(1962) Two Three Four or more As manyas can have or afford One - 15 19 57 9 31 46 23 - 18 29 46 7 21 21 52 2 4 Number(% = 100) 638 13 1.[2541 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / DECEMBER 1971 TABLE 3 Responsesof WhiteCatholics (1). do you consider yourselfa Republican. WhiteProtestants (111).Theirattitudinal differences reflect part in their social class differences.684 227 Do you have the occasion to usealcoholic beverage orare you a totalabstainer? (1957) Use 74 75 51 53 47 Abstain 26 25 49 Number(% = 100) 20 370 975 143 Do you object to women drinking in public places . .Because of their singular in positionin our society-a minority terms bothrace and of religion-their attitudinal differences should also be investi- . Black Catholics (I1).? (1957) 41 30 Yes 57 52 No 59 70 43 48 Number(%= 100) 345 20 948 142 In politics. .as of today. veryhappy.

(1963) The ReligiousFactor.P-20. Soc. 623-639 in L. New York: McGraw-Hill. S. of Educational Sociology 34: 97-105. of Sociology 74: 632-647." Amer. 2. GardenCity.N. F. LENSKI. HUNT (1968) Sociology.J. Analysis27: 187-209. N. BROOM.) Religion. .is Glenn (1964). GOLDSTEIN. of Sociology 74: 612-631. (1964) "Negro religionand Negro statusin the UnitedStates.."Amer. W. L. L. G. (1969) "Income and religiousaffiliation: regression a analysis. HYLAND (1967) "Religious preference and worldlysuccess: some evidencefromnationalsurveys. (1960) "Authoritarianism and fundamentalism rural and urbanhighschool students.Soc. of ReligiousResearch 10: 135-140." Rev. and N. S."Amer.Cultureand Society. CROCKETT.1953-1964. (1962) The SuburbanCaptivity Churches. L. 35: 48-63.althoughblack Catholicsare ignored. (1969) "Occupational placementand mobilityof Protestants and Catholics. and C. (1968) "Black Catholics in the United States: an exploratory analysis. NOTES 1. G. D. B. ---(1956) 21: 458-464." Soc. Analysis29: 186-192. ---and R. D. Y. Rev. R." pp. (1970) "Religion and occupationalachievement. FEAGIN. "Social participationand status crystallization. Bureau of the Census (1958) "Religion reportedby the civilianpopulation of the United States. FOX. HORTON. (1969) "Socioeconomic differentials among religiousgroups in the United States. GLENN.J. GOCKEL. A. Rev.: Doubleday." Current PopulationReportsSeries. L. / BLACK CATHOLICS [255] gated in greaterdetail. Rev. R.Alstonet al.New York: Macmillan. of WINTER. March 1957. We conclude that black Catholics differ enoughin the fewitemsdiscussedabove to suggest that thistopic is worthy continuing in of interest students the by field of social stratification in the sociologyof religious and behavior. JACKSON. 79."J. and H." Amer. J. GLENN (1966) "Religious differencesin reported attitudesand behavior. A similardilemma viewed in terms of theology and financial supportin whitechurches discussedin Starkand Glock (1968). E. of RHODES. February. GLOCK (1968) "Will ethicsbe the death of Christianity?" Transaction5 (June): 7-14. U. and C. 32: 73-85. P. J. An exception. STARK.Y. G." Amer. is REFERENCES ALSTON. P.S." Soc. Soc. Jr. Schneider(ed. New York: John Wiley.

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