This is a bit of a rant, so if you’re looking for something more uplifting, I’d advise you to press the Back button and find another thread.
Anyone still with me? OK.
I was wondering why so many of us young people were rejecting Church teaching, even after in some cases years of Catholic school, or CCD. Was the teaching of Holy Mother Church really so unattractive as to merit repulsion?
Then as I was looking through some blogs, I saw an article by a professor at a reasonably high-performing Catholic university, who teaches among other things a course on Christian Belief. On the first day of class, she had an exercise, where she asked students to write down some of the most important things that Christians believe (the class was a mix of Catholics of various levels of devotion (most of which had attended Catholic school nearly their entire scholastic lives), Protestants and nonbelievers - all had attended either a Catholic or a Protestant school for some time).
Now there were some, thankfully, who responded with things like articles of the Nicene Creed, or basic things out of most catechisms in the Christian world today. But those accounted for a small percentage of responses.
The overwhelming majority said either things which weren’t the teachings of mainstream Christianity (“Christians believe that gay people [in context referring to the orientation, not the acts] are going to hell”, “Christians believe that all gays are pedophiles”, “Christians believe you have to choose to be straight if you want to love God”) or beliefs that, while certainly true and believed by Christians are secondary beliefs that in some cases could be just as easily held by a pagan (“Christians believe abortion is murder”, “Christians don’t believe in terrorism”, and so forth).
One conservative Protestant student even confessed, “I know Christians don’t like gay people or women, but that’s all I ever learned in Christian school. I don’t know what else to list.”
Perplexed, she then asked them in a discussion to tell the class why they put those answers down in the exercise, instead of something else. It turned out that for most of them, all they knew was the culture-war stuff. One knew that he should pray for the unborn, but had not even the vaguest idea of what the Holy Spirit was. Most horrifically, of all, there were students who had gone to Catholic school since kindergarten who had no idea, until given the course textbook, that Holy Mother Church taught that Jesus was God, or that she taught anything other than that abortion or sodomy was a grave sin. Most of those with Christian backgrounds didn’t even know the basic contours of Christian history or of the Scriptures. And by basic contours I mean things that used to be assumed even second graders would know.
These were university students, and they were otherwise intelligent people. And all they could truly gather from their religious education were culture war talking points, some of which were clearly erroneous when compared against, say, the Catechism. I’ve heard that many Catholics have only a high-school level of education in the Faith. If this is reflective of our best and brightest, I can say it is worse - their education in the Faith is next to non-existent. I remember watching the Don Camillo movies, and I remember the character Peppone Botazzi talking about some of the things the Church taught as if it was common knowledge, which these university students had no knowledge of. And Botazzi was an illiterate, anticlerical Communist!
So no wonder the youth reject Church teaching on, say, marriage, or sexuality, or abortion (though the last is not as widely rejected as the others). Most of what they are taught even in Catholic school is about the culture war talking points, or teachings of Church morality which, while true, have been divorced from the context which makes them particularly true.
Honestly, if what these students were taught was presented to me as the sum total of what Holy Mother Church taught, in complete ignorance, I would have rejected the Church, too (there but for the grace of God go I!) It’s no wonder they, for example, reject Church teaching on homosexual relationships - they’ve been barely taught why they should believe in God, or the Real Presence! I’ve seen people come out of RCIA - a truncated version, mind you, because of pracrical concerns - that know much more than these children who have been to church their entire lives!