The reason so much of our youth reject Church teaching

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!


So no wonder there was disproportionate uproar over what Sr. Laurel said in Charlotte (scientific faultiness aside) on sexual morality. Many of the students likely don’t even have a basic background context! She erroneously relied on the fact that they had a high-school understanding of the Faith, when it’s likely the only encounter they had with Catholic teaching was during election season or whenever a culture war issue comes up!

In this, I blame both the schools in part, sure. But more I blame the parents (present company most likely excepted), because school can only hold them for six hours a day, and CCD and pastors can hold their attention one hour a week, if that. But what are the parents, even the “orthodox” ones, teaching their kids the rest of the time?

Our problem with our youth isn’t that they don’t know Church teaching on, say, abortion. It’s worse, they in many cases have no basic idea of the contours of the Christian faith. That’s why I think the Holy Father is right in not emphasizing as much the culture war issues - the doctrine is, of course, sound, but appreciating why the Church teaches what it does (beyond natural law, which, let us remember, does not require one to be Catholic or even Christian) needs at least a basic knowledge of the Faith. We’ve been acting on the assumption that people have this basic knowledge, but we’re giving them the religious education version of War and Peace when they have not progressed beyond “See Spot run”, if they’re lucky. The Holy Father seems to be calling for a back-to-basics approach, because the problem of ignorance is that bad.

Okay, rant over.

I empathise completely with your frustration on this subject of our youth. When I began school in 1968, I was taught by nuns fairly exclusively until around Grade 4. The whole school day was ‘Catholic’ in some way or another. We lived and breathed the Catholic spirit.

My ‘baby’ finished Catholic school senior in 2012 and had met at the most 2 nuns in her entire life and they really were not very distinguishable from other teachers.

Out there in their world there is a lot of contempt for Catholic teaching and it is regularly mocked. Atheism is a huge new force in its modern disguise of secular humanism and people like Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer are seen as modern ‘saviours’.

The only really strong force for the faith is among the youth themselves. When World Youth Day began, I noticed that groups of young people became more focused and fired up to be counter cultural. Hopefully World Youth Day will continue to thrive and be the strong conduit for the Holy Spirit that St JP envisaged.

In my home, I remain committed to being a Catholic family even though my adult kids are not fired up with faith. I keep the crucifix prominent and it can be seen to anyone I open my door too. I make my kids bless with Lourdes water regularly and take every chance to inject the Catholic perspective into any discussion we have. Of course we pray especially in thanksgiving and I continue with my Ignatian contemplation and monthly meets with my spiritual director.

Beyond that I feel quite helpless to be a force in the way I would love to be. Out there. Visible. Articulate. Confident.

All that is needed to fix this is rock music at Mass and some sort of pizza at Life Teen while we play games and text on our Iphones.

2 Hour youth groups with 5 minutes of Catechism. Yup! That is what we arm them with!

NOT at my church.
We teach according to the Magisterium at LifeTeen. Teens must turn in their phones, no texting allowed. We seldom have snacks. Only for special occasions and they are always very appreciated.
We open with a game, but after that? All Catholic teaching. Every time.
Sorry you have such a bad opinion about youth groups, but there are MANY good programs out there.
I left teaching in a Catholic school because the principal thought I was “too Catholic” and parents might be upset by the Catholic teaching. AT A CATHOLIC SCHOOL.
So, I moved across the street tot he parish.
Where I can be as Catholic as I want. And the kids love it.

The reason why kids reject the faith is because their parents have.
Their parents have abdicated their teaching responsibility to the television, Youtube, popular media, teen peers, and a few teachers. They are not modeling faith to their children. They claim they have no time, or know nothing about the faith.
Faith begins at home. Catechists can turn a kid on to their faith…but it’s very hard when there is no support from home.

When you take in every thing that is going on in the world, in the East, in the West… it leaves you with a feeling of being overwhelmed. Should I just throw up my arms and lock myself in a monastic cell? If I did and peeked out the gates one day, what would I see? Would I still be able to look at myself in the mirror for not “fighting the good fight?”

We were all warned that this stuff would happen. When I think of that, in some strange way it gives me comfort. God and his Son knew this would happen. I suppose we have to play the part of Lot. Last man standing.

It’s a war of distraction. There are more ways to keep a person distracted than ever before in the history of mankind. Wormwood’s tactic: crank up the volume.

That reminded me of something our pastor said a month or 2 ago. He said that somehow children catechisis had become an arts and crafts class. Instead of learning answers from the Baltimore Catechism kids now learn how to make felt banners without understanding what the symbols were for. One kid told him that we refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God because Christ was soft and cuddly. :eek:

When I helped “facilitate” a high school class 3 years ago (we didn’t teach, just facilitate :shrug:) we asked the kids to separate into 3 groups based on answering yes, no, I don’t know to the following question; “Jesus was both God and man”.

Only 2 out of 12 said yes, 3 said don’t know, and the other 7 said no. When we asked why some said no they said things like “he was a good guy, but there is only one God”. The lead facilitator then said “there are no right or wrong answers; each of us are on different spiritual journeys.”

If kids are told that there are no correct answers to some of the most basic foundations of our beliefs it’s no wonder we are in the state we are.

What kind of Catholic schools did these people attend? This is the perspective of a 17 year old who has always attended Catholic schools.I once made a thread not too long ago about the sorry state of my Catholic school, but we do not get taught Church doctrine on hot culture issues at all. In fact, we do not get much of anything besides social justice and only the kind that nobody can disagree with. For example, we all know that racism and excluding people is wrong, but our teacher has been lecturing about that all year. I agree with OP with going back to the basics, since at school, we just have people preaching Jesus loves you without actually telling us any reasons to believe in God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, and all of the basic dogmas that any Christian would be lost without knowing. I would suggest a bottom up approach instead of a top down one.

I think these students got more of their catechisis from mainstream news than from school. From what I have observed and a couple of others is that CCD and Catholic school classes tend to domesticate, dumb down, and sentimentalize Catholicism and try to push a bare minimum. Is there even a bare minimum to Catholicism? No, it is a way one orders his or her whole life but my educators just dilute it to just a hobby or being nice to other people. So, it looks like there is a huge spectrum of problems. Youth may think it too harsh or think it unimportant or too soft depending where one goes.

I was born in 1970. I attended only Catholic schools. This sounds like my education. I left the faith at 16 years old. Returned in my 40’s. It was then that I read what the Catholic faith truly was. I fell in love with the Church and it’s teachings. It was then that I understood why it taught what it taught. I remember saying to myself…why didn’t I learn this when I was growing up?

I really don’t get this dichotomy that you can either learn about the faith (and be dour) or have fun, that the two are mutually exclusive. Why not both instead of just one or the other?

I have pondered this question a lot as a late twentysomething convert. It seems to me that we often ask similar questions about failing schools in this country. The children in impoverished high schools use the same text books. Yet, they fall far behind middle class children using the same material. If you ask most teachers, they will tell you its the home life. Growing up, you look to your parents for guidance on just about everything. Talk to a random Priest, 9 times out of 10: his family 1) went to confession together 2) prayed the rosary every night 3) never missed Sunday Mass, parents went to daily Mass, etc. I think the biggest problem facing my generation of Catholics is they just weren’t taught the faith at home. It seems historically, you could say that Catholics above all else had a wonderful devotional life. That the home was really the domestic Church.

My generation’s parents grew up right after Vatican II. I used to think that traditionalist sort of played this post-Vatican II period up a little, but the more I read the more it seems that growing up Catholic in the 1960s-1970s was just a time of great confusion. Thanks to St. John Paul II, I can pull my copy of the Catechism off the shelf and instantly find out what the Church teaches on something. It seems in the period following the Council, there was mass confusion about what the Council said, such as rumors that the Council made confession optional and that anything traditional was to be discarded. I think my generation’s parents were just confused more than anything else about the Catholic Church. My future mother-in-law and I were talking about my conversion and she said, “Protestants believe Jesus rose from the dead.” :confused: :confused: And her mother and father are daily Mass goers…Many of my parent’s generation say, “If you get divorced, you have to get married outside the Church.” Not thinking this is wrong, but more like this is just the second marriage requirement!

Many Catholics I met that are my age were not brought up going to Mass every Sunday and were really just sacramentalized without being taught anything about the faith, went to Church enough to get Confirmed, never went again, etc. I’ve met so many who have only been to confession twice, once for First Communion and once for Confirmation. Another thing I’ve run into frequently in Catholics my age is a complete lack of knowledge that there is a requirement that Catholics must marry in the Church. Nobody ever told them, literally! They don’t know anything about the Church because they were never taught. They were never taught because their parents were confused.

It can be very frustrating but I feel like the Priest I’ve met who are my age have a great understanding of what the Church is facing and many ideas to help.


I haven’t read the whole thread – I had to jump in at that comment because I HATE the arts and crafts lessons in CCD. DH and I teach 5th grade and the only time we have arts and crafts is when the priest has a specific request, like making cards for shut ins. (That’s about once a year.)

Our kiddos learn that Jesus is called the Lamb of God because He’s the final sin offering and this connects back to Exodus and the blood of the blemish free lamb on the doorposts and the lintels. When we teach how Eucharist was prefigured in Exodus, they are enthralled. They can name every plague and can tell you how Eucharist is the true bread from Heaven. They leave knowing Church teaching, but without reinforcement from home I worry that it stands in isolation.

As St. John Paul II said, the family is the domestic church. Catechesis begins at home and needs supported there. True Catechesis, not culture war talking points.

"But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine, he needs to be prepared by being put into the right frame of mind to really benefit by it.
“'That is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God in his mercy could hardly refuse to give them his grace. So I want you to preach my Rosary.”’

St. Louis Marie De Montfort The Secret Of The Rosary

Many many people who disagree or hate the church/faith ONLY hates it or disagrees with it because they think they know what they are talking about when in fact they don’t and do not have all the facts… And when you tell them to actually go and find out about the faith and do some research they wont.

So what was all of your guys’ attitudes towards the faith when you were young? Just curious.

“It is urgent, at the moment, that Catholics should sanctify the family and the life of the family, for the influence of Christianity upon society depends upon its influence upon the family. Insofar as the family ceases to be Christian, Christian civilization will approach its end.”

This was written in the 1940’s by Dom Eugene Boylan, in his book “This Tremendous Lover”.

I don’t get this either. I’m a convert, started going attending Mass with a friend and thought it was okay, after a while started listening. When me and said friend stopped attending together I eventually wanting to go to church on my own and found a Catholic Parish in the neighborhood my family is from, honestly if it had not been for their “gospel” Mass with music I had heard of and been comfortable with the journey to get me in would have been much, much harder and may not have happened. My Parish has a world renowned choir, a large and active youth group that does BOTH a very involved bible study as well as retreats and game nights, trips to amusement parks etc. Growing up Protestant I knew there were things about it I did not like and didn’t want to continue but it wasn’t all bad;I did have a pretty decent foundation in Christianity.

TL;DR As funny as it may seem the church can take a few tips from (some) Protestants or even the the Sister Act movie if you prefer, it won’t kill us to get some butts in the seats, we can serve pizza or snacks at an event or have some music that will draw in youth and new people in general without being irreverent. We have to meet people where they are. IMHO.

Me? Until about high school (I was born in the early 90s), if you had asked me, I would have said that I was Catholic, but admittedly I would have said that mainly because it would have been expected of me as a Filipino immigrant.

I attended Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation, but until my late teens I had gone to Confession rarely. My mother is devout (goes to Daily Mass when she can, prays the Rosary every day) but my father… he attends most Sundays, but I’ve never seen him go to Confession (even when he was literally ten meters away from a confessional in use, and I was going myself). He’s even admitted that he’s occasionally slept through whole parts of Mass. From what I can tell, though, on the sexual morality front, my folks followed it. Not doing so, admittedly, would not really - does not really occur to them.

As a kid in Catholic elementary school, they (along with my parents) did teach me the Ave, the Paternoster, the Creed and the basic meaning (which judging from what I read is more than a lot of university students know today), so it wasn’t that bad. But, for example, either I wasn’t paying attention when they talked about being in a state of grace to receive the Eucharist, or they didn’t emphasize it at all, nor the Easter duty. And most of the education stopped after Confirmation (I lived in Australia for a bit, so I was according to custom there confirmed at a younger age than in America). So it wasn’t reinforced.

Why do I know more about my Faith now? Simple - we moved closer to my very, very devout grandparents (mother’s side - her dad - may he rest in peace - was a cop; her mom was a public schoolteacher in the Old Country). They taught me a lot that was missing in my CCD classes. Also, as a young man, I was drawn to fiction set in the Middle Ages. Being a curious young man I wondered what the characters were doing in church (one of the series I read concerned a character who eventually became a priest). They helped me remember much of what my mother taught. That’s key to the whole problem, no? Even good formal catechesis can only be effective when it’s supplemented at home, just like education generally. Ideally it should be consistent, too.

In a culture where Kim Kardashian and the x-factor are the most important things, and when the education systems have been dumbed down, don’t be surprised at seeing so-called catholic adults being so ignorant about Holy Mother Church. Also I would wager in my experiences with lapsed catholics that it ultimately boils down to Catholic teachings on the 6th and 9th commandments not suiting what they want to do.

Couple that with hordes of bishops and priests who have worked to absolutely gut the true Catholic and Apostolic faith and solid catechesis from their parishes since Vatican II, and you’ve got a recipe for 0% of young people between the ages of 18-23 that you could classify as “devout” (i.e. faithful to the magisterium, think that faith is important in their lives and can express reasonably well why this is so and what the faith is). The faith is going to die out in the west among this generation and the following unless something drastic happens soon, starting with the bishops and priests returning to solid catechesis, some bold preaching from the pulpit, and fidelity to the magisterium.

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