A new survey of young Catholics in England and Wales, sponsored in part by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation, finds that young people who call themselves Catholic don’t really hold a lot of Catholic beliefs. As critics of religion have argued for a while, the cultural label matters far more than the irrational beliefs.
Among the findings:
More than half (52%) of self-identifying Catholics say “it’s not especially important for me to go to Mass regularly.” Another 27% say they’re either not religious (i.e. culturally Catholic) or have no connection to the faith at all.
Only 38% of self-identifying Catholics agree with Catholic doctrine that says God created the world and is involved in it today.
And 38% of self-identified Catholics also say Jesus wasn’t the Son of God but just a dude. (If you break that down, some of them said Jesus was merely a “very wise person” or “very holy person.”)
The Catholic Herald referred to the findings as “startling” while the report’s author, Matthew van Duyvenbode, attributed the results to young people “living complicated lives with some perhaps paralysed by pressure.”
Or maybe — hear me out here — more young people realize Catholic beliefs are wildly irrational but they’re not yet ready to toss out all the ritual and pomp and circumstance built into it. They’re scarred by the sex abuse scandals and pedophile priests. They’re bothered by the Church’s bigoted stance against LGBTQ rights and abortion rights and birth control. They know the Church is no longer a source for morality — and maybe there was nothing special about Jesus either — but there are nuggets of goodness in all that wreckage.
With the 2018 Catholic Synod for Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment taking place this October, it’s a good time for the Church to reflect on everything it’s done to turn so many young people away from the religion — or at least the main teachings of it.