A lost generation? Maybe not

Some highlights of the big conference at Fordham earlier this week, on 20-somethings and the Church, courtesy CNS:

Catholic young adults aren’t as attached to the church as their counterparts from the 1940s and 1950s, but they are hardly a lost generation and have not abandoned the faith, according to speakers at a two-day forum at Jesuit-run Fordham University.

More than 700 people registered for the Jan. 28-29 conference titled “Lost? Twenty-somethings in the Church,” which was co-sponsored by the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies and the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. Participants included young adults, campus ministers, youth ministers and others.

Sociologist James Davidson, professor emeritus at Purdue University, said young Catholics “distinguish between the Catholic faith, which they identify with and respect, and the Catholic Church, which they are less attached to.”

Quoting a wide body of research, including his own, Davidson said eight of 10 young Catholics believe there are many ways to interpret Catholicism and they grant more authority to their individual experience than they do to the magisterium.

“They stress the importance of thinking for themselves more than obeying church leaders,” he said. “Instead of simply embracing church traditions and teachings, they tinker with them. They distinguish between abstract beliefs and principles that they think are at the core of the Catholic faith, and more concrete norms and codes of conduct that they consider optional or peripheral.”

In essence, Davidson said, “they believe that doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Mary as the mother of God, Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist and the need to be concerned about the poor are more important than teachings such as the need to limit the priesthood to men, the need for priestly celibacy, the church’s opposition to artificial birth control and its opposition to the death penalty.”

Catholic young adults are not immune to the complex encounter between the church and popular culture, said participants in a panel discussion on “Sex and the City of God.”

Donna Freitas, associate professor of religion at Hofstra University, said her research among college students showed that “there’s a lot of frustration, anger and alienation about the do’s and don’ts of sex, because Catholic students feel their tradition has not given them anything of use regarding sexual behavior.”

Author Colleen Carroll Campbell said trying to help young Catholics put Gospel values into practice is an age-old Christian challenge compounded by the current hypersexual culture. “Sex is little more than a contact sport, best played among strangers,” even at Catholic colleges, she said.

Check out more here.

  • Mike Andrews

    Seems pretty lost to me.

  • Young Canadian RC Male

    for CINO/C & E and “catholic” youth, I am in agreement Mike. And this quote is total crock to me on the part of the youth:

    ““there’s a lot of frustration, anger and alienation about the do’s and don’ts of sex, because Catholic students feel their tradition has not given them anything of use regarding sexual behavior.”

    That is FALSE!!!! The church has given constant direction on sexual behaviour. One of the most absolute directives in the past decades is the encyclical Humanae Vitae, but then again the majority of youth love to pro-abort and contracept and have free sex and bishops gave a “middle finger” to the Vatican especially the Canadian ones in the notorious Winnipeg Statement on H.V. And for the more interesting matters like in-vitro fertilization the CDF released Donum Vitae and Dignitatis Personae on these issues. If you read them it’s pretty clear cut what is acceptable and what isn’t.

    Then again we can’t be too harsh, the generation before them embraced themselves and the one before that love peace, feminism, and liberalism. So no wonder they have the beliefs they do. However, for there are some youth who thanks to World Youth Days and just general “waking up” and seeing the idiocy of their parental generation, they are coming back and becoming Catholics. And generally the younger clergy (JPII generation) are supposed to be more orthodox and traditional. There is hope, but not where you think it is if you take the article at face value.

  • dymphna

    Some will come back later. I did. But to be honest, most of the type of Catholicism these kids have seen growing up isn’t worth living or dying for.

  • Mike O’Lilburn

    I have to agree with dymphna. Some will come back once they get married and have kids. Others will drift away when they realize that if the Church is wrong on one issue and can be wrong on many issues. (Not saying the Church is wrong but that is the logical train of thought from rejecting certain issues).

    I think it is hard to quantify what 20 somethings are looking for. I am a 20 something myself (26) and I know what draws me to the Church is that I honestly feel that it is the truth. So for me it would involve more bold preaching of the truth. Show people that yes this is what we really believe and preach it, and then I feel we will start to get some of lost sheep back. But nothing pushes people away more, IMHO, then watering the truth down because, in my mind, why should I believe something that you yourself don’t seem to really believe.


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