A new CARA study shows that Catholics students attending Catholic colleges are less likely to stop attending Mass than those who attend public universities, but the results also reflect a diversity of viewpoints on social and political issues among young Catholics. The study surveyed 14,527 students at 148 colleges and universities. Some interesting highlights from the survey, in a piece by Catholic News Service include:
• The study found that as Catholic students at Catholic colleges advance in their education, they often "remain profoundly connected to their faith." In their junior year, 87 percent of them said following religious teachings in everyday life was "somewhat important" to them, and 86 percent said their "religiousness" did not become "weaker" in college.
• But the study also found that Mass attendance declined during the college years among almost a third of Catholics at Catholic colleges, but at non-Catholic colleges, the percentage jumped to nearly 50 percent.
• On pro-life issues, the results indicated a "mixed pattern," it said. A majority of Catholic students leave college disagreeing that abortion should be legal but they number fewer than those who entered with that opinion, it said. Overall 56 percent said they disagreed "strongly" or "somewhat" that "abortion should be legal."
• Regarding same-sex marriage, the study said there is no other issue on which Catholic students -- regardless of where they attended school -- moved further away from the church. Only one in three Catholics on Catholic campuses disagreed "somewhat or "strongly" that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Catholics on non-Catholic campuses were slightly less likely to disagree.
• On the death penalty, 49 percent of Catholic students on Catholic campuses agreed "strongly" or "somewhat" with the church's opposition to the death penalty and were more likely than Catholic students at public colleges to agree with the church's social justice teaching on the need to reduce suffering in the world and "improve the human condition."
Of course, Richard A. Yanikoski, president of the Washington-based ACCU points out in the article that these findings are not "a specific outcome of students' attendance at a Catholic college or university," and said it's important to take into account the strength of a student's faith life prior to attending college, as well as their family life and other circumstances.