“Catholic identity redefined by youth”
The current generation of young Catholics has a solid Catholic identity but they are not as committed to the Church as their predecessors.
That’s the opinion of Dean Hoge, professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America, and James Davidson, professor of sociology at Purdue University, according to the Catholic News Service.
Hoge and Davidson analyzed several surveys and concluded that Catholics born after 1979 are much different than prior generations of Catholics. They believe that most young Catholics have a weak commitment to the Church as an institution and its teaching on moral issues.
Dr. William Portier, the Mary Ann Spearin chair of Catholic theology at UD, concurs with Davidson and Hoge’s assessment of young Catholics.
“It makes sense to me that the identity and commitment of the majority of young Catholics has become more diffuse,” Portier said.
Portier believes that one of the main reasons for this is that Catholics are more of a part of mainstream American society than they once were.
“There used to be a well-defined Catholic subculture that dissolved sometime in the 1960s,” Portier said. “Catholics became demographically indistinguishable from other Americans.”
What could have possibly happened in the Sixties that could explain this? Undeniably, you’d have to say it came about when we removed all that is distinctive about Catholic faith and worship, changing it from a supernatural mystery in Latin and solemn music into a Protestant happy-clappy worship service. I’m not saying that the Mass prior to 1962 didn’t need reform. And I do recognize that in many places the Novus Ordo Mass celebrated today is much improved over what you typically saw in the 1970s.
But add the destruction of worship to the watering down of doctrine—thanks to priests and theologians and others who told the faithful that everything was up for grabs now—and you can see how we might have become indistinguishable from the rest of society: Catholics divorce at the same rate, abort at the same rate, contracept at the same rate and all the rest at the same rate as the rest of the country. Then when you see that pretty much everyone under the age of 40 got pretty pathetic Catholic religious instruction and it’s no wonder so many of our generation and the one following have wandered away.
One caveat to keep in mind, however, is that as with all studies, the questions asked and the people who are surveyed are important. We don’t know the criteria used to judge the perceptions of young people toward the Church.