Catholics lag behind other Christians in owning, reading the Bible, a new study has found. CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

Catholics not as vested in Bible as other Christians

  • May 20, 2023

Barely half of Canadian Roman Catholics have a Bible at home, and only about a third self-report engaging with Scripture monthly, says a study by Angus Reid and two predominantly non-Catholic institutions.

But “The Bible and Us” survey shows 23 per cent  of Catholics actually increased their interaction with the Good Book during the pain of COVID church closures. The number is not too far behind 33 per cent of Evangelicals, and ahead of 21 per cent for mainline Protestant denominations.

The research findings by Cardus, the Canadian Bible Society and the Angus Reid Institute are drawn from the broader work of a report called “The Sacred Texts: Canadian Perspectives on the Bible, Qu’ran, Torah and Their Place in Modern Society.” Cardus is an overtly non-partisan research organization with roots in Calvinist theology. The Canadian Bible Society is officially ecumenical but the global Bible Society movement was condemned by the Catholic Church in the 19th century. ARI makes study of all religions in Canadian society a key focus of data gathering.

The new deep dive, sponsored by the CBS and written by Cardus, looks specifically at the majority Christian population and the Bible. It isolates three distinct groups, Evangelical Christians, mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics, and asks how each reads and understands the Bible, as well as their level of knowledge of Sacred Scripture. Of the three, Evangelicals (whose name traces to the Greek word for “good news” or “gospel” and who traditionally place a high value on the Bible in their praxis and piety) display the highest degree of attention to the Bible.

Asked if they “have a physical copy of the Bible in your home,” a walloping 93 per cent of Evangelicals, and noteworthy 72 per cent of mainline Protestants answered yes. Those numbers compare to only 52 per cent of Roman Catholics.

Even within a group called “Biblically engaged Christians” — defined as anyone who has read or engaged with the Bible in the last two years — Catholics lagged well behind. For example, 73 per cent of Evangelicals in that category reported solo Scripture engagement at least once a month. A mere 35 per cent of Roman Catholics confessed they had poked their noses into the Bible during that period.

Along with a series of discussion questions, the report suggests the Roman Catholic hierarchy “work with groups such as the Canadian Bible Society to enhance the laity’s engagement with Scripture.”

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