Although the sinless life of Jesus Christ is a foundational tenet of the Christian faith, a study recently released by the Diocese of Camden found that 60 percent of practicing Catholics in southern New Jersey believe Jesus sinned during his time on Earth.
"The number of Catholics who have a very flawed, a seriously flawed, understanding of who Jesus is, that's troublesome," Bishop Joseph Galante of the Diocese of Camden said during a press conference, USA Today reports. "We've got to re-focus on how we teach and inform people. Jesus is the foundation of who we are as Catholics."
The study was commissioned by the diocese with the hope that the results would help it to better evangelize the communities it serves. The study was conducted by the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based research organization, which surveyed 612 adults living in the six New Jersey counties within the diocese.
Of those surveyed, 34 percent identified themselves as Catholic, but there are some discrepancies between what the church teaches and what some of them believe.
For example, the study showed that four out of ten of these Catholics disagree with the idea that sex should be reserved solely for marriage. While 38 percent of the total residents living within the Camden Diocese agree strongly with the idea that the Bible is "totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches," only 28 percent of Catholics in the diocese believe the same.
Another major issue Galante discussed during the press conference was the high number of Catholics in his diocese who simply don't attend Mass. One-third of lapsed Catholics said they have other priorities or are too busy to attend, while others said they just aren't interested in church (27 percent).
"What intrigued me in particular was the high number of people who don't attend Mass simply because they have other priorities," said Galante.
"One of the things we need to do is emphasize that worship time can also be part of family time as well. These findings are both troubling and a challenge as we begin to deepen our evangelization efforts."
Peter Feuerherd, director of communications for the Diocese of Camden, told The Christian Post on Monday that another thing that struck him from the study was the low percentage of Catholics who invite others to church. The study found that Catholics (33 percent) were half as likely as Protestants (66 percent) to invite someone to visit their church.
"I find that the 'ask' is so important, and Catholics are not in the habit of the 'ask.' Even our parishes are not in the habit of the ask," said Feuerherd.
He also indicated that a major issue all churches have to deal with is the tendency for people to want to always be productive in the American culture. Those who don't take time off from work on the weekends are honored in our society, he says, and other "distractions" like youth sporting events and various forms of entertainment can sometimes take away from church attendance.
"I think we have lost ... the idea that whatever that Sabbath day is, it is valuable. It's important that people have it," he said.
Other interesting findings from the study:
-Of the Catholics surveyed, 38 percent favor attending church only on holidays.
-Among all of the adults surveyed, 51 percent said churches are "too involved" in opposing abortion or same-sex marriage.
-Nine out of ten (89 percent) adults said they know about the clergy abuse scandals that have occurred within the Catholic Church. Among those who are aware of the scandals, 89 percent consider it a "major issue."
-Only 18 percent of Catholics strongly agree that it is their personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others, as compared to 40 percent of Protestants and 36 percent of people who believe in non-Christian faiths.