Roman Catholics in Britain: Faith, Society and Politics.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

In recent decades, the religious profile of British society has changed significantly, with a marked increase in 'religious nones', declining proportions identifying as Anglican or with a particular Non-Conformist tradition, an increase in non-denominational Christians, and the spread of non-Christian faiths. Within this wider context, Roman Catholics have remained broadly stable as a proportion of the adult population and represent the second largest Christian denomination in Britain, after Anglicans. However, there have been significant internal and external developments which have affected the institutional church and wider Roman Catholic community in Britain, and which could have shaped how Catholics' think about and engage with their faith and how it impacts their daily lives. Recent years have seen demographic change through significant inflows of Catholic migrants coming from Eastern Europe, the papal visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain in autumn 2010 (the first since 1982), Pope Francis's pontificate from 2013 onwards, Catholic leaders' political interventions against 'aggressive secularism' and in other policy debates, and internal crises and debates impacting on the perceived authority of the Catholic Church.
The last major academic investigation of the Catholic community (and only in England and Wales) was undertaken in the late 1970s (Hornsby-Smith and Lee 1979; Hornsby-Smith 1987, 1991). It found that the 'distinctive subculture' of the Catholic community in the post-war period was evolving and dissolving in complex ways due to processes of social change and developments within the wider faith, such as the Second Vatican Council (Hornsby-Smith 1987, 1991). It also demonstrated growing internal heterogeneity in Catholics' religious beliefs, practices and social attitudes (Hornsby-Smith 1987, 1991).
However, while there has been some recent scholarship on particular topics relating to Catholics and Catholicism in Britain, using both general social surveys and limited one-off denomination-specific opinion polls (Clements 2014a, 2014b; 2016; Bullivant 2016a, 2016b), there has been no systematic academic inquiry into the Roman Catholic population in Britain. In comparison, an academic-led survey series has profiled the Catholic population in the United States on five occasions between 1987 and 2011, with other large-scale surveys carried out in recent years by organisations such as the Pew Research Center.
Most existing research into the waning of religious belief, practice, and affiliation in Britain has focused either on the very large, macro level or on the very small, micro level. While both are important and necessary, largely missing has been sustained sociological attention on how secularising trends have affected - and are being mediated within - individual religious communities.
This project would undertake such a task for Roman Catholics in Britain, by conducting a large-scale, thematically wide-ranging and nationally representative survey. It would provide a detailed study of personal faith, social attitudes and political engagement within a significant religious minority with distinctive historical roots and in which 'tribal' feelings of belonging have been strong.
The core topics would consist of personal faith, religiosity and associational involvement in parish life; attitudes towards leadership and governance within the institutional church; attitudes on social and moral issues; and political attitudes and engagement. It would be thematically wide-ranging and analytically rich, providing a detailed portrait of contemporary social, religious and attitudinal heterogeneity amongst Catholics.
By undertaking this large-scale and wide-ranging survey, an important and distinctive contribution would be made to the sociology of religion in Britain in general and to the study of its Catholic population in particular.

Planned Impact

Securing the maximum potential for impact beyond the academic community will be a core element of the proposed research. Several distinct user groups will benefit from the research, which will encompass a wide range of topics pertaining to Catholics and Catholicism. Users will benefit from a clear programme for disseminating information and findings.

Who will benefit from the research
Firstly, the project will produce data and findings of practical and pastoral use for the wider Catholic Community and related civil society organisations. The general demographic findings on the Catholic population in Britain and those on specific topics would be of considerable interest and use to key beneficiaries, such as the Catholic Bishops Conferences of (i) England and Wales and (ii) Scotland, to individual dioceses, and a range of Catholic charities and campaign groups. Secondly, the data and findings would be of interest for think-tanks that specifically focus on religion in British society, such as Theos and Ekklesia, and researchers at other think-tanks whose work focuses on the intersection of religion and policy issues. Thirdly, the findings from the research are likely to be of significant interest to both the religious media - including the main weekly Catholic publications, The Tablet and The Catholic Herald - and mainstream media, nationally and internationally. Fourthly, the findings would benefit parliamentarians with an interest in religious issues and also those who belong to particular 'all party groups' (including but not limited to, the Christians in Parliament, Faith and Society, and the Holy See APPGs).

How they will benefit from the research
User groups beyond the academic community will be able to use and benefit from the research because of its rigorous methodology, the range of topics to be covered pertaining to the Catholic population in Britain, and a clear and planned programme for timely dissemination of information and findings.
Firstly, all of the potential user groups set out above would benefit given the rigour of the proposed research methodology, which would be based on a national-representative sample of adult Catholics in Britain. Secondly, it would provide detailed and up-to-date information on a range of topics relating to Catholics' social lives, how they engage with their faith, and their social and political attitudes.
Thirdly, through the timely and continued dissemination of project updates and findings to these user groups through a range of activities. A clear digital presence involving a project website, a project Twitter account, and blog posts on scholarly websites - these are a popular resource with non-academic audiences, being widely read by journalists and practitioners. The project's Twitter feed would follow key organisations and media outlets pertaining to the Roman Catholic community in particular and religious affairs in general. During the project's duration, the website will be used to post preliminary findings, conference papers, enabling groups to obtain access to accessible summaries, visual illustration and explanation of findings. After the project has finished, the website would be maintained, ensuring its long-term sustainability as a digital resource for the benefit of use by groups outside the academic community.
Dissemination for non-academic users will also take place through writing articles for publications, as well as through issuing news releases for specific religious news websites and the general media through the media relations offices at the universities of Leicester and St Mary's. Also, by staging an event to disseminate preliminary findings from the project to users and beneficiaries outside the academic community. Those invited to the event would encompass the types of users and beneficiaries outlined above.
 
Description The project provides a wealth of empirical insights on Catholics in Britain relevant to the following questions: Who are the Catholics in Britain? How do they engage with their faith and with the Church? What do they think about issue within, and the leadership of, their Church? What are their views on wider social issues and on the party-political landscape?
This survey and the findings obtained means we now have a solid benchmark on which to build a future survey, or recurrent surveys, of Catholics in Britain, in order to collect valuable trend data pertaining to these questions.
Exploitation Route The published outputs will be of interest to academics working on Catholicism/the Catholic Church in Britain and other country contexts and those working more generally in the sociology of religion, theology and religious studies, and the role of religion in politics.
The dataset and user documentation deposited with the UKDS's Reshare repository will be an important resource for the wider academic community, in terms of replicability and informing future research in this area.
For non-academic audiences, the findings will be interest to and relevant for, those - clergy, laity, practitioners, journalists, writers and commentators, and civil society groups - with a pastoral 'stake' in understanding the Catholic community in Britain.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

 
Title Catholics in Britain Survey 2019 
Description The survey dataset and user documentation from the project have been deposited with the United Kingdom Data Archive's ReShare data repository, to ensure its legacy as a sustainable digital resource, in accordance with the project's Data Management Plan. In terms of structure, it is a cross-sectional dataset with 1,823 observations, containing numerical data. Further details on the variables in the dataset can be found in the accompanying Codebook. The dataset is available for download in SPSS format. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The dataset will be embargoed for six months, as it standard practice, and then will be freely available to all users with a UKDS account, enabling those in the wider academic community to use the dataset for their own research. 
URL https://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/855354/
 
Description Article for the Catholic Herald 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article written for the Catholic Herald ('How Catholics are likely to vote in the General Election'), during the 2019 general election campaign. Date: 11th December.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://catholicherald.co.uk/exclusive-data-how-catholics-are-likely-to-vote-in-the-general-election...
 
Description Article for weekly newspaper: 'The Real Presence: What British Catholics believe about the Eucharist' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article published in the The Tablet, a weekly Catholic newspaper, disseminating findings from the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/20463/the-real-presence-what-british-catholics-believe-about-...
 
Description Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation given at the Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2021, Belfast (online format), as part of the set of panels organised by the Politics and Religion Specialist Group. Purpose was to disseminate findings from the project, based on the research undertaken for article published in the Review of Religious Research.
Title: 'Catholics in Britain: Attitudes towards moral and structural issues relating to the Catholic Church'. The presentation elicited questions and feedback from those who attended the panel (comprising academics and postgraduate students).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.psa.ac.uk/events/psa21-annual-conference
 
Description Contribution of findings to newspaper article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Providing survey findings on British Catholics' view of Pope Francis in response to an enquiry from a journalist working for the US media organisation NBC News.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Coverage of project report in newspaper article. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Findings from a project report on British Catholics' views of Pope Francis discussed in article in the Daily Telegraph (13.03.2020). Titled: 'Top of the popes: Pope Francis is a hit with young Catholics'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/03/13/top-popes-pope-francis-hit-young-catholics/
 
Description Coverage of project report in newspaper article. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Discussion of findings from project report on British Catholics' views of Pope Francis in article on the Premier Christian News website (13.03.2020). Titled: 'Catholics under 30 give Pope Francis the thumbs up'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/catholics-under-30-give-pope-francis-the-thumbs-up1
 
Description Coverage of project report in newspaper article. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Discussion of findings from project report on British Catholics' views of Pope Francis in The Tablet (Catholic weekly newspaper) (13.03.2020). Titled: 'Young Catholics love Pope Francis, survey shows'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12585/young-catholics-love-pope-francis-survey-shows
 
Description Interview for Italian newspaper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Media interview given to journalist, Silvia Guzzetti, discussing some of the key findings from the project. Published in an Italian newspaper, 'Avvenire' (on 18.02.2021).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Interview for news website. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Information on project findings provided for journalist, Silvia Guzzetti, for a piece published on an Italian news website: www.agensir.it.
Title: 'Gran Bretagna: Univ. St. Mary e Univ. di Leicester, uno studio sui cattolici. "Per il 50% degli intervistati il Papa ha dato svolta positiva alla Chiesa"'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.agensir.it/quotidiano/2021/2/1/gran-bretagna-univ-st-mary-e-univ-di-leicester-uno-studio...
 
Description Post for project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Blog post on project website to disseminating findings relating to Catholics and weekly Mass attendance. Titled: 'Catholics in Britain and weekly Mass attendance'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/findings/catholics-in-britain-and-weekly-mass-attendance/#.YEZGm...
 
Description Post for project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Post for project website: 'Catholics and church attendance in Britain'. To discuss the long-term context of church attendance amongst Catholics in Britain, and to present and discuss survey evidence in a clear and accessible way. Provides relevant content and analysis for the findings from the new survey which will be reported on the website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/resources/catholics-and-church-attendance-in-britain/#.XlpNwKj7Q...
 
Description Post for project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A post on 'Catholics' attitudes towards religious authority in Britain', using recurrent survey data to compare the view of Catholics and other religious groups on issues such as trust in religious institutions, the power of religious organisation, and the exercise of religious authority in the political process. The post provides a discussion and presentation of long-term evidence, setting the context for findings from the new survey.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/resources/catholics-attitudes-towards-religious-authority-in-bri...
 
Description Post for project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Post for the project website disseminating some findings relating to Catholics' views on the ordination of women within the Roman Catholic Church.
Title: 'Catholics in Britain and attitudes towards the ordination of women'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/findings/catholics-in-britain-and-attitudes-towards-the-ordinati...
 
Description Post for project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Post for project website: 'Catholics' attitudes towards social issues: Same sex relations, abortion and euthanasia.'
To provide a long-term perspective on changes in Catholics' views on key social issues of particular relevance to Roman Catholicism and its teachings, and to present and discuss survey evidence in a clear and accessible way. Provides relevant content and analysis for the findings from the new survey which will be reported on the website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/resources/catholics-attitudes-towards-social-issues-same-sex-rel...
 
Description Post for project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Post for project website: 'Catholics and religious affiliation in Britain'. To discuss the long-term context of religious affiliation in Britain, comparing levels of identification as Catholics and with other traditions, and to present and discuss survey evidence in a clear and accessible way. Provides relevant content and analysis for the findings from the new survey which will be reported on the website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/resources/catholics-and-religious-affiliation-in-britain/#.XlpOi...
 
Description Post for scholarly website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Blog post to disseminate findings from the project, published on a prominent U.S. scholarly website for research on religion and politics (Religion in Public).
Title: A Generation Gap? Catholics and Social-Moral Issues in Britain
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://religioninpublic.blog/2020/03/27/a-generation-gap-catholics-and-social-moral-issues-in-brita...
 
Description Short report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Short report published, presenting findings from the new surveys relating British Catholics' views of Pope Francis ('Everybody Loves Francis? British Catholics' 'job approval' ratings of the Pope').
Made available on the project website.
Circulated to religious affairs correspondents in national newspapers and to journalists working on Catholic publications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://catholicsinbritain.le.ac.uk/