Survey Finds Young People ‘Agree to Disagree’ on Some Church Teaching

**Survey Finds Young People ‘Agree to Disagree’ on Some Church Teaching **

BALTIMORE — While a failure to understand doctrine is present in many segments of the Catholic population, many young adults are exhibiting an alarmingly casual attitude towards accepting Church teaching, a study commissioned by the U.S. bishops has found.

“They feel completely Catholic even while disagreeing with the Church. We often heard, ‘The Pope is entitled to his opinion,’” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami stated, summarizing responses given by young people to a survey conducted on behalf of the bishops at the annual fall assembly of the U.S. Bishops Conference in Baltimore on Nov. 11

But while all of the groups surveyed had their own motivations and challenges associated with being Catholic, young adults stood out for their insistence on being part of the Church while exhibiting a causal disregard for parts of its teaching.

“Young singles engage the Church with a remarkable amount of pride and ambivalence,” Archbishop Wenski said.

For instance, while other groups said that they had trouble understanding the Church’s “goofy” rules, many young adults surveyed “simply identified the rules as ‘to be nice to everyone, the Golden Rule,’” stated Archbishop Wenski.

If any Church teachings conflict with their own perceptions, young people often simply “tune out” the teachings.

“They agree to disagree with the Church,” the archbishop said.

Furthermore, young Catholics are sensitive to language that could imply judgment. “For them, language like ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ means ‘hate the sinner,’” Archbishop Wenski said

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I suspect that this is the result of years of poor catechesis. Maybe it’s time for a lot more doctrinally focused homilies. Catholicism is not just a blank slate.

I think catechesis is only part of it. I know young people who were very well catechized that support beliefs contrary to Catholic teaching. You really can’t force belief from the outside.

That’s true, and from what I have seen, the really bad catechesis has been corrected for several decades now, at least where I’m at. But the secular culture has been at war with Catholic morality for a long time, so it may be quite difficult to overcome that. I think that the rejection of the Church’s teaching on contraception may have been the start of the rejection of Catholic morality on other matters as well. Catholic moral principles are consistent and interconnected; once one begins to reject one, the others begin to fall as well. It becomes a sort of personal Protestantism.

I agree.

My pastor often repeats an observation once made by Archbishop Martin about the youth in Ireland: ‘being one of the most catechized in Europe yet the least evangelized.’ He goes on to note how you see the results every day.
I have questioned what will we see as a result of poor witness and the downright undermining of the faith youth get in most collegiate environments?

I believe Peter Kreeft was on to something {in this article}.

Cardinal Dolan noted in a recent interview ,

He dates this diffidence to “the mid- and late '60s, when the whole world seemed to be caving in, and where Catholics in general got the impression that what the Second Vatican Council taught, first and foremost, is that we should be chums with the world, and that the best thing the church can do is become more and more like everybody else.”

The “flash point,” the archbishop says, was “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reasserting the church’s teachings on sex, marriage and reproduction, including its opposition to artificial contraception. It "brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us—and I’m using the first-person plural intentionally, including myself—kind of subconsciously said, ‘Whoa. We’d better never talk about that, because it’s just too hot to handle.’ We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day."

I disagree a chance may have been forfeited to be a coherent moral voice to one of the more burning issues of the day – it may be more than one.

Wow, thanks for that link to Peter Kreeft, addressing the decline of true liberal arts education. It used to be that one could get a liberal arts education even in secular schools. No more; it is rare even in Catholic schools. And he mentions the hugely popular Integrated Humanities program at the University of Kansas that ended up being slowly euthanized either because of its popularity or because it was creating too many Catholics. The National Catholic Register has an article about that program here. I wish it could be revived in many places.

Some years back our DRE noted that it is not possible to properly catechize those who have not yet been evangelized. We tare trying to build a structure where there is no foundation.

If parents have no faith, it is likely their children will have no faith either. So rather than being a matter of catechesis, it indeed may be a lack of evangelization. The parents didn’t believe, perhaps the teachers didn’t believe, so the children don’t believe,

And poor parenting. This entire generation is self consumed.

Well, my wife and myself were good parents, raised our two kids in the faith and they are now both adults who have rejected the religion.

We’re not alone. We have friends in our parish with kids who have the same mindset.

In fact our parish was a parish of young families just 25 years ago and is now becoming a parish of older empty-nester grandparents.

Why this is the case, I’m not sure, but I’m seeing a lot of anti-religion in the media and internet social groups and I think there is a trend to view religion as something for the ignorant.

It’s not just a believe what you want, but outright attacks against religion and people of religion, especially those religions which do not accept, abortion, homosexual lifestyles and now the hot one, assisted suicide.


There comes a point where someone or something has to lead you to the choice for or against Christ. (Mine came with a sense of urgency.) I’m beginning to agree that the issue of contraception is a hinge issue and a bellwether. If there’s a way to help people see not only how miserable life is without Christ, but how boring it is, that helps. We have to rekindle the imagination. Then the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.

EDIT: And I meant to add that the headline may as well read: “Survey finds people who agree to disagree with Church teaching.”

Of course I was making a generalization…

It is true that the entirety of the secular media incorporates anti-religious messages and has done so for a long time. Fulton Sheen no longer has a popular TV show and would likely never get a hearing at any network now. I don’t know what causes many young people to effectively reject the Faith in which their parents raised them and join a general apostasy against the Church. Schools and universities have helped the trend by teaching that there can be no enduring truth.

I think it’s a combination of things.

First, is the nuttiness of Christian fundamentalist preachers, who reject anything which doesn’t align with their political ideologies, including science.

Second, the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church gave young people the reasons to reject religion.

Third, from what I’m seeing is their acceptance of homosexuality, abortion rights and what they see as an assault against freedom. They don’t understand that sin is what enslaves.


I haven’t heard too many sermons on avoiding the mortal sin of artificial contraception and how one unrepented mortal sin could send someone to eternal damnation.

My point exactly. In my long gone youth, it was the pastor’s habit to give doctrinal homilies nearly every Sunday. By the time I was in 6th grade I probably could have outline the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and original sin from memory! But there was a change of emphasis to focus homilies on the gospel reading or on love of God or neighbor. There’s nothing wrong with such homilies. But in the meantime, everybody forgot the doctrines.

This, IMHO, is the biggest problem facing the Church. It’s not the pagans or Protestants or hedonists. It’s the fact that we tend to put the cart before the horse, that we put doctrines and rubrics before Christ.

What is worse, we tend to not notice it. Catholic morality is important and indispensable, yes; but when we only focus on moral codes for their own sake instead of why life in Christ demands that morality, we turn people away. We come off as ideologically-minded fundamentalists who don’t think they need to explain anything.

In my own experience, I was not attracted to the Catholic Church because of some sermon that was doctrinally sound or talked about ethics persuasively. I came back because someone at my high school was kind and welcoming to me. I saw how joyful she was, and wanted to find where she got this joy.

Again, I am not advocating that we back down on moral issues, especially not the abortion-marriage-what-have-you ones. I am saying that we need to remember that Christ is the only reason we have a Church, let alone Church teaching.

IMHO, there needs to be a healthy balance of each. Too much of one drives people away (dogmas this, doctrines that, ethics blah blah blah). Too much of the other gets the “Spirit of Vatican II” nonsense that has plagued the Church all this time.

Sermons are preached to people who go to Mass.

It doesn’t reach those who don’t attend and could care less.


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