Catholic millennials don't go to Mass much, but they still give up meat during Lent.

A new survey confirms what many have suspected: Catholics born in the 1980s and ’90s are less likely to be active in parish life and are more doubtful about God’s existence than their older peers. That’s according to a study published Tuesday by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which revisited a 2008 survey in order to look for changes in how Catholics of all ages practice the faith.

Mostly, there has been little change across the board, with Mass attendance, prayer and belief in God remaining stable, in large part because of the stability of older Catholics in church life.

Among the findings:

  • Less than a quarter of all U.S. Catholics (22 percent) attend Mass weekly, with most (57 percent) reporting that they visit a church “a few times a year or less often.”
     
  • About three-quarters (76 percent) of U.S. Catholics pray at least monthly, and nearly all (96 percent) believe in God.
     
  • When it comes to the Bible, 61 percent of Catholics believe Scripture to be the “inspired word of God.” (Curiously, 21 percent of Catholics break with their church when it comes to biblical fundamentalism, with 21 percent saying they believe the Bible is “to be taken literally, word for word.”)
     
  • During Lent, just under half of all U.S. Catholics (46 percent) receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, but most Catholics (62 percent) do not eat meat on Fridays. About four in 10 Catholics say they either give alms or try to change their behavior during Lent.
     
  • Confession, or the sacrament of reconciliation, remains wildly unpopular with most Catholics, with 71 percent reporting that they either go less than once per year or never. Just 3 percent go once a month or more.

But when it comes to millennials, changes in how Catholics practice the sacraments are more dramatic.

Take Lent, for example.

In 2008, half of all millennial Catholics reported receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. Now, that number has dropped to 41 percent. The number of millennial Catholics giving up something for Lent dropped 10 points from 2008 to 36 percent, and those donating money or trying to change negative behavior dropped 18 points, to 28 percent.

Some Catholic habits, however, are proving stickier. More than half (58 percent) of millennial Catholics still do not eat meat on Lenten Fridays, a dip of only three points since 2008. But Catholic millennials mirror their non-Catholic peers, showing a downward slide when it comes to attending religious services, prayer and belief in God.

Two-thirds of Catholic millennials attend Mass “a few times a year or less often,” compared to a majority (55 percent) of pre-Vatican II Catholics, who go at least once per week. Fewer millennials (25 percent) pray once a day or more than those who pray just a few times per year or less (30 percent).

Millennials are more likely than older Catholics to say they sometimes (21 percent) or frequently (10 percent) have doubts about the existence of God, though a majority (64 percent) say they believe in God sans doubt.

Part of the reason for the decline in church participation among millennials could be education. Just over a third of millennials (36 percent) say they were enrolled in religious education programs, compared to 50 percent or more of older Catholics.

And just one in 10 millennial Catholics attended a Catholic primary school, compared to 54 percent of Catholics born in the 1940s and 50s. (But, the report notes, 12 percent of millennial Catholics attended a Catholic college or university, the highest percentage among any age group.)

The report also found that the Catholic Church in the United States continues to become more diverse, with about a third (34 percent) of the U.S. church comprised of Hispanic or Latino members, up six points from 2008. And the church continues to migrate from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West, where more than half of U.S. Catholics (55 percent) now live.

Michael O’Loughlinis the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Tim O'Leary
10 months 1 week ago
I am surprised by the overall similarity between 2008 and 2016. I agree with Michael O'Loughlin that most of the changes in the Millennials could be explained by shifting ethnic demographics and much less education in the Catholic faith (i.e. catechesis). A lot of work to do. However, since 2/3rds attend Mass only “a few times a year or less often” and 43% say they NEVER go to confession, it is especially important not to take polls of Millennials as a good indication of what informed and practicing Catholics believe. Archbishop Chaput recently defined what he meant by "Catholic: "by “Catholic,” I mean people who take their faith seriously; people who actually believe what the Catholic faith holds to be true; people who place it first in their loyalty, thoughts and actions; people who submit their lives to Jesus Christ, to Scripture and to the guidance of the community of belief we know as the Church. Anyone else who claims the Catholic label is simply fooling himself or herself — and even more importantly, misleading others."
ed gleason
10 months 1 week ago
The Catholic brand is the Eucharist,,, Why no questions or talk about that?.
Bill Mazzella
10 months 1 week ago
This article asks the wrong question. What does the leadership do? The problem is there in the lukewarm and ineffective clergy who still believe that the Sacraments do all the work while the clergy refused to be crucified with Christ but seeks comfort and luxury in a world where millions of refugees are in abject misery. Is getting ashes the criteria and attending Mass the whole of it. Our response to the refugee crisis is abysmal as we are more concerned about terrorists than. Our refugee brothers and sisters. We have a greater chance of being hit by lightening in the USA. Yet we obsess with it and neglect refugees. Are we still so small that we walk past our wounded neighbors. It took a dead two year old washed up on the beach to get our temporary attention Now a five year old is the face of war. A Complete Fraud maintains at least 30% of our vote while boasting of his riches which many find admirable. Thera are more dives who are more subtle. Yet this five year old again will capture our attention again. Until the next Viagra Ad. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/17/world/syria-little-boy-airstrike-victim/index.html
William Rydberg
10 months 1 week ago
Hey, we're not finished apologizing yet! But when we do, after righting all the wrongs unacceptable to contemporary Society. Once the full Frankfurt School Agenda is unfolded. Then we will start passing out bibles. That's how somebody hopefully will reenter the Public Square...maybe... but only if polite Society assents. Just my opinion... in Christ,
J Cosgrove
10 months 1 week ago
The only agenda of the Frankfurt School is the destruction of Western Civilization in general and destruction of religion and belief in God is an essential part of that agenda. They are succeeding. There will be no "polite society" to do anything.
Lena Dalvi
9 months 3 weeks ago
I love it! At risk of getting scolded for rendering my opinion again, I never apologize for my Catholic faith. I wear it like a 24k gold chain.
J Cosgrove
10 months 1 week ago
This survey is superficial at best. Not that it isn't showing real trends. But it overestimates how much young people go to Church. I go to Mass at 4-5 different parishes in my area depending on timing or other circumstances and rarely see more than a couple teenagers or young adults in the pews. I travel a bit around the country and see the same thing in other areas of the country. Very few in their teens or up to 30 years old. Something is missing from a superficial survey such as this. What do these young people believe and why and what are the implications for how they should lead their life? If they actually believe in God, what kind of God and what does this God expect from them? My guess is that if these questions were asked in depth, we would get a shallow belief as well as one not consistent with the Church's understanding of God. This does not mean that young people cannot be compassionate and considerate or good citizens just that their beliefs are plastic and not firm and subject to the current trends in their environment. They will not form the basis of anything that can be lasting since they are based on changing attitudes.
Lena Dalvi
9 months 3 weeks ago
I guess it depends on what part of the country you are in. In the south, I supposed there are more church goers. And plenty young, teens, 20s and early 30s church goers. In CA churches are full. So I guess if you are in the north this will be expected as in the 1800 when Catholics were not even allowed to worship.
Michael Barberi
10 months 1 week ago
This survey of Catholics and Catholic cohorts are alarming and reflect a major problem facing our Church today. Worse are other surveys of U.S. priests because a significant percent of both older and younger priests disagree with many teachings of the magisterium. When we live in a divided Church and in a crisis of truth, these findings don't help to resolve our problems. We can call for more outreach, more effective messages from the pulpit, and a more welcoming and merciful Church for those who feel disenfranchised. We can also call for, as Pope Francis did in Amoris Laetitia, to change the language priests and bishops often use to condemn and chastise the divorced and remarried and those born with a same-sex orientation. Unfortunately, what we are doing, at least collectively, is not working. The Church's message is not drawing Catholics back to the Church, to weekly Mass or to confession, especially millennials. Millennials are a most critical age cohort because they are the future generation of our CC. The Church relies on its parish priests to do the heavy lifting. However, most parish priests are overloaded with a host of administrative and pastoral responsibilities. There is not enough men entering the seminary compared to the number of priests we lose to retirement and death. Parish priests often rely on lay ministers for help. There is good news here but it is not enough. In my parish I have seen an outreach ministry to falled-way Catholics and those who have registered as Catholics but don't attend weekly Mass. It is a new ministry but most of the people I talk to question its effectiveness, albeit a worthwhile effort. I am a Knight of Columbus and in my parish we are always finding new members....another piece of good news. However, many Knights don't attend monthly meetings or participate in the many ministries we sponsor. JP II and Benedict XVI asked priests to expand weekly sermons to address the most serious issues facing our Church. However, this was not the answer since sermons are only about 10 minutes long and they have to cover the scripture readings. Unfortunately, the only Catholics listening to sermons are the one's who attend weekly Mass, not the Catholics who need to hear the message. Catholic elementary and high schools are very effective in teaching the faith. However, Catholic schools are often expensive and many poor Catholic families don't think about sending their children there because they don't think they can afford it or they don't believe that there are financial subsidies for them. I never heard of any type of financial assistance from the pulpit or from Catholic school brochures other than a one sentence that says something like 'we may be able to help families with tuition, so pleas call'. My parish has an excellent CCD program but reaching all Catholic families is a problem since most don't attend weekly Mass. The good news is that in every century the CC has seen its problems, survived and grown. However, the problems we are facing today, in my opinion, are more serious than our pre-conciliar problems. Finally, I do believe Pope Francis's pastoral approach will work if the bishops get behind his message and the changes he is trying to implement in our Church. Unfortunately, far too many bishops are against his agenda and change is painfully slow.
Lena Dalvi
9 months 3 weeks ago
For some reason the Millennials is not just the church's problem. They are actually the nation's national issue and challenge. They seemed to be a generation lost. Mostly entitled and seemingly thirsty for something they not know what. Most are highly educated but not knowledgeable, motivated or accomplished. Their have pampered them and don't expect a lot from them, demanding very little from them. The lost herd.
Michael Barberi
9 months 3 weeks ago
Lena, Some of what you say is true. However, there is a profound difference on Catholic opinion on a host of sexual ethical teachings between pre-Vatical II Catholics and post Vatical II. The trend among cohorts is growing and it is not just millennials. Many of us live in Western society with its secular culture. However, to ignore those cohorts who disagree with some moral teachings and merely to repeat the Church's argument over and over again, when the teaching and it tired rationale does not ring true to the deepest levels of minds, hearts and souls, is to ignore the problem. We need a more convincing moral theory in support of Catholic moral teachings. We also need a better message that can reach disenfranchised Catholics, those who have left the Church, those who want to return to the Church but find it unwelcoming (e.g., those born with a same-sex orientation and many divorced and remarried Catholics, those living in cohabitation because of culture and severe circumstances). Many changes are necessary in our Church and I have already offer some of my comments on this. I praise and respect your faith. However, we can disagree and still remain faithful Catholics.
Tim O'Leary
10 months ago
On a much brighter note for the Millennials - there were several young Catholic athletes (some the best in the world) at the Olympics who discussed the role of their faith in their amazing athletic careers. For Catholic Usain Bolt, There’s Only One Gold Medal He Always Wears (Miraculous medal) http://ucatholic.com/blog/catholic-usain-bolt-theres-one-gold-medal-always-wears/ Katie Ledecky from Bethesda, MD on praying the Hail Mary before each race - http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/08/03/olympic-swimming-champion-will-pray-the-hail-mary-before-rio-races/ Simone Biles, adopted by her grandparents, and her rosary beads -  http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/08/10/us-catholic-gymnast-simone-biles-wins-olympic-gold-and-is-going-for-more/ Silver medalist shot putter: How the Knights of Columbus, priests and religious ‘helped me a ton’ http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/08/19/silver-medallist-shot-putter-priests-and-religious-helped-me-a-ton/ Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Murphy: 'I Hope Always to Live Life Based on God's Will' http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/olympic-gold-medalist-ryan-murphy-i-hope-always-to-live-life-based-on-gods/ God is always keeps His Church safe, no matter how many times we try to mess it up.
Lena Dalvi
9 months 3 weeks ago
Thank you, Tim. I raised my children to turn to Jesus for help and gratitude at all times. For Mother Mary for safety. And the Holy Spirit for clarity. They have helped them all our lives. I don't know what and where we will be without our faith, our Catholic faith.
Michael Barberi
9 months 3 weeks ago
The Gen X and Millennial Catholic cohorts are not a lost generation, as some believe because they disagree with some moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Granted some are ignorant of the faith. Some of that ignorance is a fault of the individual and some of it is the fault of circumstances. However, most of these cohort Catholics believe in doing good and helping the poor and disadvantaged, which for them is more important than following some moral teachings which they disagree with.. The trends we see from polls, starting with post-Vatican II Catholics, is a reflection not only of our culture but of the unconvincing rationale for some moral teachings such as contraception. When Humanae Vitae was issued many Conferences of Bishops and priests said the encyclical was a non-infallible teaching and subject to the judgement of an good and informed conscience. My parish priest in the mid 1970s told me in a counseling session that I did not have an anti-life attitude (as I had 2 children and did not want more children for good reasons) and therefore my family choice to take the pill was not immoral. Today, this same counseling continues as my local priest in a counseling session on many issues told me the same thing, namely, once a couple goes through a NFP session, they can make up their own minds as to the best choice of birth control. When 78% of worldwide Catholics practice contraception and 40% of older and younger priests in the U.S. believe that contraception is seldom or never a sin, it supports a change in this teaching or a convincing moral theory in support of this teaching. After more than 40 years, the magisterium continues to repeat the same rationale that does not ring true for the majority of Catholics. Other issues, such as same-sex marriage is a very complex issue but I believe some changes are necessary. It makes no sense to me why homosexuals cannot be married and must live a life of sexual abstinence. Even priests can obtain a dispensation from their vows, get marry and have all the sex they want. All heterosexuals have a choice: marriage or a life of sexual abstinence. A homosexual has only one choice, all must practice a lifetime of sexual abstinence. Such a requirement imposed on them from on-high can never work because it is an impossible burden for most of them. Celibacy can only work when it is voluntarily choosen, and not imposed. I believe that those born with a same-sex orientation who enter into a permanent, faithful and loving relationship and abide by all the responsibilities and obligations as heterosexual married couples, should not suffer the guilt of sin, namely culpability.. Why would priests be allowed to give absolution to those who practice contraception under the principle of graduation, when priests are forbidden to do the same for divorced and remarried couples or for those who enter into a same-sex marriage? Why is one sinner subject to absolution but other sinners are denied absolution? The answer to my questions and the moral issues I raise are not as simple as mustering the courage of faith in order to follow every teaching of the magisterium. It is deeper than simple and often incoherent solutions. They are the subject of a faithful and informed conscience and a love of God and neighbor. They are the subject of continuing education and different interpretations of scripture based on new scholarship and a love for our Catholic Church and faith. They are the subject of a lot of prayer, sacrament, and theological and spiritual counseling. They do not undermine the sanity of our Church, the articles of our faith or respect for the magisterium. They represent a respectful disagreement about some moral teachings. I am not an unfaithful and misguided Catholic. I love my Church, my Savior and my neighbor but I do believe that some changes are necessary. When it comes to abortion, change does not automatically mean allowing abortion for any reason at any time. While some Catholics might believe in unbridled abortion, for most Catholics change means permitting the termination of a pregnancy to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest. Such exceptions are rare but the magisterium will not permit it. Incidentally, most traditionalist and revisionist theologians believe in such exceptions. A good example is the Phoenix case where the most prominent traditionalist theologian who supports every teaching of the magisterium, namely Germain Grisez, considered the termination of the pregnancy in this case as 'indirect abortion' and not immoral. This represent respectful disagreement. I realize that my opinion is in tension with the teachings of the magisterium, but I make them for good reasons and they are based on my education in moral theology for 5 years under several moral theologians. For those who believe in every teaching of the magisterium, I respect such beliefs and do not denigrate their choice or their disagreement with my views. I pray for enlightenment for myself, for my Catholic brothers and sisters and for the hierarchy of our Church. I pray: In necessary things unity, in doubtful things liberty, but in all things love.
Tim O'Leary
9 months 3 weeks ago
Michael - this drive for doctrinal change (contraception, divorce, homosex, etc.) seems to hit at one thing in Humanae Vitae - the connection between the unitive and the procreative. Yet all the popes from Blessed Paul VI to Pope Francis have confirmed the teaching of HV. HV continues to bring new converts into the Church: https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/InFocus/Article/TabId/721/ArtMID/13629/ArticleID/16752/Drawn-to-Gods-design.aspx
Michael Barberi
9 months 3 weeks ago
Tim, I have no doubt that some people practice natural family planning or become Catholic because they do not believe in contraception. However, 78% of worldwide Catholics practice contraception and they are all not misguided and unfaithful. There is a connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of marital sexual intercourse. However, and as you know very well, by my published essay in a prestigious Catholic Journal of Theology, the inseparability of these meanings was a theory of Bishop JP II (now St. JP II) in his 1960 book 'Love and Responsibility'. Before 1960, no pope, theologian or bishop wrote about, proclaimed or spoke about an inseparability principle. You might argue that the inseparability principle was a development, but Paul VI went against 75% of his Pontifical Birth Control Commission of more than 72 experts including a steering committee of 12 bishops and cardinals. At that time, he choose the theology and philosophy of only one person, namely, Karol Wojtyla, who was a polish bishop in one country during a time when communism allow contraception and abortion. No bishop or theologian on the Birth Control Commission, either in the Minority or Majority Reports, recommended or mentioned such a principle to be adopted. This issue has been debate for the past 40 years. It is obvious to most Catholics that natural family planning (NFP) is a birth control method that also separates the unitive and procreative meanings of the marital act. Married couples who practice NFP or take the pill have the same end and intention, namely, to ensure that every marital act is non-procreative. Each couple (e.g., NFP and those who take the pill) perform intentional and deliberate physical acts to prevent the marital act from being procreative. The CC wants everyone to believe that NFP couples are obtaining from sex on fertile days, full stop. However, this is only an incomplete and misleading description of what is really happening. It is true that they are abstaining. It is also true that they are performing intentional and deliberate physical acts to ensure that every marital act is non-procreative. This is why most Catholics do not see any moral difference between NFP and taking the pill. I do not want to go into other more significant philosophical and theological arguments here, but only refer you to my published essay. As to the Synod on the Family and Amoris Laetitia (AM), it is widely known that this recent Synod and Pope Francis's AM was not going to adequately address all the issues facing families today. Contraception and homosexuality were not adequately addressed. AM was more about Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried that other issues. Notice we are now seeing the distinct possibility that the divorced and remarried might be able to receive Holy Communion under certain conditions. If this happens, then other teachings such as contraception might be reformed or developed in the future. I do hope that some day the magisterium will issue a convincing moral theology in support of HV. However, after more than 40 years and many attempts at various moral theories, a significant percent of priests, bishops and theologians are not convinced that contraception is 'intrinsically evil', nor are 78% of worldwide Catholics especially those who do not have an anti-life attitude. Tim...I do not want to debate you on this subject. We have had our differences and my published essay, which you disagree with, is all I want to say on this subject. I respect your opinion and do not denigrate your judgment. However, it would not be productive for us to enter into another protracted argument again on contraception. Perhaps on another day and under another AM article, we can have a respectful dialogue on this subject.
Tim O'Leary
9 months 3 weeks ago
Here is something that should make one hesitate in using polls to establish truth - this time from Great Britain http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/moon-landing-celebrates-47th-anniversary-8446862 "Those aged 25-34 are the most skeptical, with 73% believing we didn’t land on the moon, compared to 38% of those aged 55+, who were actually alive for the event." So, the majority think the 1969 moonlanding was faked. In this survey only 29% believed in God (whereas 24% believed in Extraterrestrials). The GK Chesterton adage seems to be verified here “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

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