According to a recent Pew survey, from 2007 to 2014, Catholic self-identification fell steeply, to 20.8 percent from 23.9 percent. The survey showed an increase to 1.9 percent from 1.7 percent, which was within the margin of error and which, given the high birth rate of Orthodox Jews, probably masked a notable drop in identification among Reform, Conservative and secular Jews.

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Still, he had the goal of being a preacher, like his grandfathers before him.

After his freshman year at the fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute, Sweeney spent the summer doing missionary work in the Philippines.

Sitting in these Filipino-Catholic houses, trying to de-Catholicize the inhabitants, Sweeney was intrigued by iconography all around him.

“I would look at all their Catholic stuff, and I was very interested, like in their home altars and their pictures of saints,” he said, when I met him and Woll in the comfy, New England-y Vermont house they were about to vacate for Milwaukee.

When, say, a Roman Catholic marries a Jew and together they embark on the journey of “How do we make last for 50 years?

” they are italicizing the questions that all of us who believe in long-term romantic unions ask, every day of our conjoined lives: When is a sacrifice worth making, and when is it too much?

Among Catholic couples you may still find that one prefers this kind of Mass and one that kind, one adores the current pope and the other loathes him.

It does not matter if both partners are committed Roman Catholics, were even raised in the same church, attended the same catechism classes in the same dank basement, were confirmed on the same day by the same bishop and matriculated at the same Catholic college.

But in terms of becoming a Catholic, it was not in the cards, not just yet.