The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) should give itself a big, fat round of applause over the bang-up job it has done catechizing its flock. Not only do an overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics disobey Church teaching regarding sexuality, a new poll shows that eight in ten U.S. Catholics now believe that Satan — the origin of evil itself — is just a symbol more akin to that of Santa Claus than an actual being.

According to a report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), some chilling data from a Faith and Global Policy Challenges Survey in 2011 showed some shocking results regarding American Catholics and their belief in the existence of evil.

Of the 1,496 adults in the United States polled, only 17% of self-identified "Catholics" said they believe in the existence of Satan, with 83% regarding the being as a mere symbol. Conversely, 55% of Evangelical Protestants believed in Satan's literal existence.

Obviously, this has major consequences in how Catholics (of which I am one) carry out their faith. Mark M. Gray, editor of CARA's research blog, noted that Catholics believing in Satan's existence were exponentially more likely to support pro-life initiatives and other moral causes. They were also shown to lean more conservative politically.

"Symbols aren't really going to stir the same concerns in someone that a being might," Gray explained. "Catholics who believe in the devil and Hell are more likely than those who do not to be religiously active."

Though the Catholic Church has always affirmed the existence of Satan as a real being and not a mere symbol, the polls of U.S. Catholics do not reflect that. In fact, virtually all U.S. polls show that a majority of American Catholics do not follow Church teaching, and that is because the West has a preponderance of people who have zero understanding of the labels they adopt. Similar to Judaism, far too many people call themselves "Catholic" without realizing that being Catholic means accepting Catholic teaching.

This multi-pronged problem has a long history that began in the 1950s when Saul Alinsky infiltrated the American bishops conference. Mainline Protestantism (Methodists, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian) would also suffer the same fate. See the brilliant EWTN documentary A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing to learn more about this terrible and unfortunate event.