A new survey of “Millennials” shows the generation of young Catholic adults to be more pro-life and interested in learning more about their religion. While many are sympathetic to moral relativism and are indifferent to sexual ethics, the head Knight of Columbus said their interest in religious education was an “especially good sign.”
The survey, conducted by the Marist Institute on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, took place from December 23, 2009 to January 4, 2010.
About 85 percent of self-described Catholic Millennials believe in God, compared to 76 percent of the wider population.
Only one in four young Catholics attends religious services at least once a month. While Millennials overall were evenly split on whether people should only practice one religion, Catholics were more likely to approve of practicing more than one religion.
However, about 65 percent of young Catholics were somewhat or very interested in having more education about their religion.
Given the option of saying morals are “fixed and based on unchanging standards,” about 82 percent of young Catholics said that morals are relative. Asked about particular ethical questions, survey respondents often favored saying a topic was “not a moral issue” rather than saying it was morally wrong or acceptable.
Millennial Catholics were evenly split on whether people should have different business and personal ethical standards, though their peers favored more consistency.
While 31 percent of their peers say being spiritual or close to God is a long-term life goal, only 18 percent of Catholics this age named that as their goal. They prioritized getting married and having a family.
Six in ten Millennials oppose abortion, with opposition slightly stronger among Catholics. On embryonic stem cell research, Catholics mirror their peers. About 37 percent said the research is morally acceptable, while only 32 percent said it is wrong.
Catholic Millennials are morally opposed to assisted suicide at a rate somewhat higher than their non-Catholic peers. They were less likely than their peers to say drug use is morally wrong.
On issues of sex and marriage, nine in ten young people say marital infidelity is morally wrong. About 35 percent said divorce is morally wrong and only one in four young Catholics said it is morally acceptable.
Only 20 percent of Catholic Millennials said sexual relations between an unmarried man and woman are wrong, while almost four in ten said they are acceptable.
About 35 percent of young Catholics said homosexual relations are morally wrong, but slightly more said they are acceptable. They showed slightly more opposition to same-sex “marriage,” but less than their peers. Only 28 percent of all Millennials deemed such unions morally acceptable, while 47 percent described them as wrong.
More than one-third of young Catholics see themselves as politically liberal.
“It is very important for the Church to understand the outlook of the next generation of adult Catholics,” said Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson in comments about the survey report.
“Catholic Millennials support Church teaching in a wide variety of areas, including contentious issues like abortion and euthanasia. In other areas, the cultural relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken so much about is very evident, and it confirms the wisdom of his attention to this question as central to the New Evangelization.”
He said it was “especially good news” to see that so many Catholics want to learn more about their faith.
“The Church has a great opportunity to evangelize, and has much to build on with the next generation of Catholics, but it must act and teach in a way that makes clear the reasons for Church teaching as part of what our Pope has called our 'yes' to Jesus Christ."