Crisis in Faith: The Younger Generation Leaving the Catholic Church

Georgetown study shows why the Catholic youth are losing faith.

The youth of today have had to deal with issues that no other generation has had to deal with. The ubiquitous presence of technology and the ability to access tons of data on a subject at the click of a button have led to the emergence of issues that need to be addressed by parents and the church.

One such issue is the crisis of faith, especially among members of the Catholic Church. This comes as a result of the outcome of two national studies conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

Dr. Mark Gray, a Senior Research associate at CARA released the results of these two national studies that show a crisis of faith in young Catholics. While releasing the results of the national studies, Gray wrote, “Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 63 percent, said they stopped being Catholic between the ages of 10 and 17. Another 23 percent say they left the Faith before the age of 10.” Gray further commented, “Those that are leaving for no religion – and a pretty big component of them saying they are atheist or agnostic – it turns out that when you probe a bit more deeply and you allow them to talk in their own words, that they are bringing up things that are related to science and a need for evidence and a need for proof.”

The two national studies show the reasons for leaving the Catholic Church are deeper than simply getting bored during mass. Gray found out that there appears to be a chasm between what young people learn at school and what they assimilate during church service. It is this cognitive dissonance that leads to many youth losing faith in their God and in religion, becoming either an atheist or an agnostic. With the median age for this decision being made at 13, this is something that parents and the Church need to address if they want to retain their members.

Gray goes on to express the most popular reason why young people decide to leave the Catholic Church. There is a “desire among some of them for proof, for evidence of what they’re learning about their religion and about God… And I think the Church needs to come to terms with this as an issue of popular culture. I think the Church perhaps needs to better address its history and its relationship to science.”

The solution to this crisis in faith appears to be presenting faith and science as being in harmony with each other. This is echoed by Fr. Matthew Schneider, who says, “It was the Christian faith that was the birthplace of science…There’s not a contradiction between faith and science, but it’s understanding each one in their own realms.” Fr. Schneider has four years worth of experience in the youth ministry.

Gray concludes his remarks in the studies by stating, “Yet, the Church has a chance to keep more of the young Catholics being baptized now if it can do more to correct the historical myths about the Church in regards to science, and continue to highlight its support for the sciences, which were, for the most part, an initial product of the work done in Catholic universities hundreds of years ago.”

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