Do Catholic Colleges Help Students Stay Catholic?

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.

Kerry Weber



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Randy Schultz
8 years ago
I actually found my faith at a Catholic university. It was the late seventies and I went to my Catholic university because I knew my father would pay for it - and I wanted to get out of the house. I was an agnostic - church of what's happening now kind of guy up until my Junior year (even spending a semester in Rome my sophomore year). But then the university priest asked me to help with the Palm Sunday Passion reading (as an advisor) and something happened in the process. My current girlfriend (now my current wife) and I attended mass for the first time in many years to see how it turned out and have been attending mass ever since. We even flew the same priest out to officiate at our wedding. That was thirty two years ago and I am grateful for the experience that I had at my Catholic university.
8 years ago
I attended a Jesuit university and in one of my courses, I took the position supporting the elimination of the death penalty, one of which I continue to support.  I was mocked in class because my reasoning was antithetical to the Church position, which I believe still supports the death penalty in certain cases.
So putting the death penalty in the same category as abortion and same sex marriage is not fitting.  Why would the author want to do that?
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
The Catholic Church opposes the use of the Death Penalty in nearly all cases - except when a dangerous person cannot be safely incarcerated, which is almost never.  I am often surprised at how many educated Catholics are not clear on the Catholic Church's position on the Death Penalty.  Since 1972 US Catholic Bishops have repeatedly issued statements clearly calling for an end to State sponsored killing.
I credit the Jesuits, and one particular professor, Fr. Harry Heiter SJ, at Spring Hill College (Mobile AL) for showing me the passion and depth of the Catholc Faith.  Going into college in 1968 I was so wary of the piety and rules that I was ready to throw it all out (baby, bath water, everything). 
I admit that I may not be what today is considered a typical Catholic, but I draw my faith and sustenance from Catholic teachings and call it my spiritual home.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
P.S.  The Catholic Church's opposition to abortion and to capital punishment are both based on the same insight: human life is sacred.  The two issues should never be separate.


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