Many Catholics are developing their own spirituality independently of Church teachings, according to a study conducted by Queensland University lecturer Dr Angela Coco. Dr Coco, of the anthropology and sociology department, compiled 40 case studies of Catholics in Brisbane archdiocese for her doctoral thesis.
    She said: "Most people still identified as Catholics, but did not go to Mass every Sunday and did not regard the Pope as God's representative on earth. Participants were at different stages of making sense of the conflict they had experienced between the Church's teachings and the challenges they encountered in their lives. Some were still very confused."
    Former and current priests and nuns and gay and lesbian Catholics were among her subjects. She used 'snowball' sampling, approaching acquaintances, who in turn brought others into the survey. She supplemented this with 'purposive' selection, which filled gaps to make the sample comprehensive.
    One of the main themes emerging from her study overall was that most Catholics still identified as such, but had had to construct their own version of the religion to fit with their everyday lives. Dr Coco said the study suggested that far from being conventional, conservative and unquestioning, many Catholics were challenging the Church's stances and forming action groups to bring about change.
    "One of the biggest problems people reported was that while the Church instilled strong communal values in followers, it did not adequately address individual psychological values and needs that develop as people mature," she said.

Catholic Leader 28/03/99


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