Nov 13, 2014
During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for administering the sacrament next spring, and for many of us in that church it was a moving moment.
But the occasion was darkened for me by something I’d read just a few days earlier. If those 32 young people conform to the national averages, fewer than half of them will be practicing Catholics 10 years from now.
According to Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and colleagues, only 7 percent of the sometime-Catholic young adults who were part of a large-scale study they conducted several years ago were still practicing Catholics. Another 27 percent had plainly dropped out of the Church, while the rest reflected varying degrees of disengagement from their religion.
The picture was not a whole lot brighter even where the offspring of solidly Catholic parents were concerned. As one reviewer of Young Catholic America (Oxford University Press) by Smith and his associates put it, “even if you do everything right, the odds are way less than 50-50 that you’ll see your children turn out as Catholic as you are.”