What makes Catholics Catholic?

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A new survey finds that 86 percent of Catholics say “you can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church.”

For the vast majority of Catholics, being part of the faithful flock doesn’t mean buying into everything the Church tells you to do, a new survey has found.

The survey finds that 86 percent of Catholics say “you can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church.”

Twenty-five percent of Americans call themselves Catholic, but the survey finds this is more a cultural brand label for many than a religious identity.

An overwhelming majority — 88 percent — say “how a person lives is more important than whether he or she is Catholic,” according to the survey, called Catholics in America: Persistence and Change in the Catholic Landscape.

The survey offers a comprehensive look at the beliefs and practices of adult Catholics nationwide, based on surveys with 1,442 people.

About 30 percent support the “teaching authority claimed by the Vatican.”

And 40 percent say you can be a good Catholic without believing that the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Christ during mass — a core doctrine of Catholicism.

We asked local Catholics Wednesday whether they believe you can disagree with some of the teaching of the Church and still call yourself a good Catholic.

Almost all said a good Catholic doesn’t have to follow all of the rules:

“I’m a very good Catholic because I follow what’s in my heart, more than I feel what the church has to tell me to do. ... I don’t care if it makes me a good Catholic, it makes me a good human being.”

Barry Blake, 70, Gold Coast, retired bed salesman

“The church is a little antiquated and they pick and choose what makes the most money at the time. For instance — the pope, he’s infallible now, but years ago he was never infallible. They married and did all kinds of things, which kind of gets me to believe (the rules) are a little more the hierarchy of the church than God-given.”

Merri Baldermann, 50, downtown Chicago, retired banker

“Love God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself — those are the two greatest commandments. If you follow those tenets, you’re doing OK.”

Al Baldermann, 70, downtown Chicago, retired banker

“A lot of the teachings of the Catholic Church were written so long ago that they applied to a different culture and situations that no longer exist.”

Kareen Di Giovanni, 51, Bartlett, human resources communications manager

“I was brought up to believe it’s all or nothing. ... (These days) I believe you can be a good Christian (without following all of the rules), but maybe not a good Catholic.”

Sue Vitort, 54, lives in Phoenix, Ariz., but originally from Cicero, health care administrator

“I am a Catholic, but I’m not a fanatic. There are some things, some rules I don’t agree with in the Church, but that doesn’t change my religion. It makes me a loyal Catholic because I’m not against it. I just have a different point of view.”

Olga Garcia, 44, North side, medical biller

Gannett News Service, Sun-Times Staff