What will it take to keep young people in the church?

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

The photos covered my Facebook newsfeed: pictures of teenagers donning bright red robes, smiles upon their faces, foreheads shiny with the fresh chrism.

The captions for the photos were all similar: “Confirmed in Christ!” or “He did it! A full-grown Catholic, choosing his own faith.”

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It was nice to see photos of happy families celebrating a sacrament. Far better than any of the political posturing that usually occupies Facebook.

But as I went to bed that night, continuing to scroll mindlessly through social media, a thought kept running around my mind: “I hope all those teens stay Catholic.”

Perhaps because of my profession as a Catholic speaker and writer and practitioner of ministry or because I taught many of those young people just a few years before or because I am a mom or even just because I am a faithful Catholic, in the midst of being so happy that so many in my diocese were newly confirmed, I had a feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach that many, if not most, of those young people will disaffiliate from the faith and walk away from the church in the next few years.

The reasons for their disaffiliation will be varied. Some will leave because they will not find a good faith community when they go to college. Others will walk away because their parents are not there to encourage faith in their lives. Some will get hung up on intellectual challenges, unable to reconcile reason with faith. Still others will leave because they never truly believed in the first place, having no real relationship with Christ or love of the Eucharist.

How do we keep them, or anyone really, Catholic? To keep them, we have to stop asking that question in the first place.

How do we keep them, or anyone really, Catholic? To keep them, we have to stop asking that question in the first place.

I could not fall asleep that night as I kept thinking, “I hope they stay,” because I was bothered by my fundamentally flawed question. I should not start with the question, “What will make young people stay Catholic?” I should first be asking, “How can I engender a love of Jesus within their hearts?” Because it is that love of Jesus that will make them stay—it is what keeps any of us here.

Confused and scared, two believers once wandered on the road to Emmaus, away from Jerusalem and away from what they did not understand, perhaps seeking solace in a place less chaotic and noisy and scary than where they were coming from. On that road they meet Jesus, who listens to them, teaches them, shares a meal with them and inspires them to rush off to tell others of their encounter with him. They cannot help but proclaim the Gospel with their very lives.

When a young person is introduced to Jesus by someone who knows him themselves, they come to realize that Jesus is someone who loves them.

When a young person is introduced to Jesus by someone who knows him themselves, they come to realize that Jesus is someone who loves them, longs for them and is close to them, and they become captivated by him. Their hearts will and do begin to burn. Disciples grow; they are not born. They are befriended, listened to, valued and encouraged by those who have been befriended and heard themselves.

The faith is caught, not taught. It is witnessed to, not merely explained. They stay and we stay because friendships were formed with others, and that friendship and intimacy with believers leads to friendship and intimacy with Jesus himself.

To keep our young people Catholic, we have to grow close to them and help them become close to Jesus. There is no more important work at this moment. There is nothing more essential to the work of the church. There is nothing more pressing than to be companions along the journey with our young people so that they stay in the church and stay in love with Jesus.

I hope they stay. I hope we do, too.

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JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

Tell them why one should be a Catholic. None of writers on this site seem to have a reason why. This article does not provide one. The Church committed suicide at Vatican II in order to be good guys. It is not working folks. I doubt any young person can tell you why anyone should be a Catholic.

I'm sorry, emotional appeals will not cut it when there is no intellectual basis for being a Catholic. A few will be caught by emotional arguments but it is then based on a shallow understanding and may not last when they cannot justify their faith.

JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

The main reason for the decline in religion in general is that the atheists have won the logical argument. Their argument is a false one but very successful and has been bought by nearly everyone who wants to be thought of as educated and not superstitious.

Lisa M
4 months ago

J- I think the main reason for the decline has been our focus on gaining wealth while ignoring the faith, and the suffering of others. Couple that with no real witness, other than possibly the 'rules', and you are left with high strung, stressed out young adults in search of something, but they don't know quite what. We owe them more than that.

JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

Why don’t you tell me why anyone should be a Catholic. Nobody here answers the question. And certainly the young don’t know the answer. The author doesn’t seem to know. By the way the answer was elucidated last night in our Mass for the Assumption. So it is part of the liturgy but not part of Catholic education. I find that interesting. Part of the answer is belief. Most don’t believe any more. But what is it they don’t believe?

Robert Lewis
3 months 3 weeks ago

One should remain a Catholic because Catholic orthodoxy (similar to Anglican and Greek/Russian) is the only Christian sect that CAN resist "scientific" atheism; it CAN resist it simply because it is not Biblical fundamentalist, and has the prerogative to "develop" moral theology (as John Henry Newman describes in "The Development of Doctrine") in line with new findings about the world we live in. Catholicism says firmly to atheism, "You are actually a false religion, based on unjustified human vanity--false pride in the five senses; you presume to KNOW God doesn't exist, but ACTUALLY have FAITH that he doesn't. The only non-religious position that has intellectual integrity regarding Creation and Creator is agnosticism. Catholic orthodoxy is flexible because it is characterized by HUMILITY regarding accurate interpretation of Scripture. A lot of Catholic fundamentalists, however, do not understand this, and would like to turn Catholicism into some version of Protestant "salvation by faith alone" heresy.

Nora Bolcon
3 months 3 weeks ago

J, it is sexism, pedophilia abuse gone wild, clericalism above all else except misogyny, and a complete lack of concern for the laity and what they care about, which more and more, is a church that treats all its members the same and guarantees same opportunities to all of its members regardless of how they were born. We do not at present offer this church. This is not an atheistic desire but a Christian desire or requirement from our young in order to stay Catholic. Remember the commandment Christ told us to hold above all other rules, doctrines and laws: Do to others only what you would have them do to you.. Our hierarchy does not do this and therefore causes its own destruction. Women are not putting up with the double standard and less sacraments and authority as men anymore, laity are not putting up with abuse of their children anymore by priests, people are fed up with clerical snobbery and elitism, divorced are done being shamed at every mass by having to avoid Holy Eucharist if they have re-married, and the young and old alike are done with having any politics shoved at them, and especially Republican, sexist politics, and they are done with the LGBT condemnation and abuse by our hierarchy.

Recently, a religious order of priests, whose community I worship in regularly, was invited to a young adult community Christian gathering of many different churches in Boston, taking place on the Boston Common (a City Park) as a time to worship ecumenically and in a public fashion so that the public had a chance to see that not all Christians are Republican, judgmental, conservative, sexist or LGBT condemning, There are young Christians who care but many don't feel comfortable worshiping inside any Christian Church for a variety of reasons.

Only very recently, Episcopalians, who have been ordaining women priests and even lower lever Bishops for decades, were exposed for their decades long
sexism which has been rampant in this church's hierarchy. Many women priests were given only part-time low paying positions in parishes, or no pay, and were not defended by the hierarchy. Most women priests in this Church were paid less than their male counterparts and were often not given a living wage, even when they found a full-time pastor position. Very recently this Protestant Church's hierarchy has been working to end systemic sexism in their leadership but many thought that they had overcome this issue decades ago but they really had not. This is the first year that not only did the Episcopalian Church not lose members in the U.S. but started to gain them instead. Sexism has played a huge role in most religion's loss of women from membership - The RC Church has definitely lost women on account of its sexism as well. Many men go to the church their wife attends and the kids do the same so when women leave, men and boys are often following behind them.

Also Episcopalians and other Protestant denominations have been dealing with the dramatic changes associated with intentionally ordaining LGBT priests and bishops (some of which were married and even a gay married bishop who also divorced.) I believe it is necessary that we treat LGBT equally but it does represent a lot of change in a short time period which caused some members to leave 30 years ago because they didn't like the changes and some to leave over time because the hierarchies were not changing fast enough in action and policy to defend female and sometimes LGBT ordained leaders.

Anglicans and certain other Traditional Protestant Churches have a warmth (or lack of it) problem much like the RCC's. Especially the Anglican or Episcopalian Churches have not striven, in the past, to evangelize but have preferred to continue their memberships thru their human posterity but the low birth rates in these churches had them left with too many churches and not enough members. They are now starting up training to evangelize for the future and guess who is most likely to join their ranks - that's right! disgruntled ex-Roman Catholics.

Derrick Kourie
4 months ago

I agree -- we do not adequately articulate the reasons for being a Catholic. I also agree that some are persuaded by emotional arguments. (How many and for how long they stay is open to debate.) Finally, I agree that atheists appear to have won the argument, although I sense that the tide is turning.

Where we strongly disagree is that the Church committed suicide at Vatican II. I think that, on the contrary, Church leadership tragically failed to follow through on the reforms initiated by VII. It failed to adequately align its teachings with scientific insights into such matters as evolution and human sexuality, deciding instead to revert back to medieval regal models of governance and to theologies and teachings based on pre-enlightenment models of human biology. An up to date, deeply convincing articulation of the Catholic & Christian faith is both possible, and indeed already articulated in broad outline by thinkers such as de Chardin, Newman, Congar, Rahner, Kung, Brown, Lonergan, Ilia, Johnson, and others. However, their creative thinking has been stifled by prohibitions, cautions, monitums, and "almost infallible" statements from an overly confident but increasingly out of touch Vatican bureaucracy.

It has been said that Vatican II tried to address 20th century (and later) issues by reaching back to the 1st century roots of Christianity, but that subsequent church leadership in the Vatican chose to abandon this quest and fixated on insisting on medieval answers to 19th century questions. I tend to agree.

JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

If you want to debate evolution, I am glad to. I have been studying it for over 20 years. In short science does not have a clue how evolution happened.
If you want to discuss sexuality, then I suggest you come up with a policy of who should be allowed to engage in a sexual act. I have only seen one that can stand up to scrutiny, limiting it to marriage.

Where Vatican II committed suicide (only metaphorically) is by saying the Catholic Church is nothing special. Which says there is no reason to belong.

Derrick Kourie
3 months 4 weeks ago

@J Cosgrove:
Re evolution: the point is not whether the details of neo-Darwinian evolution are correct. They are indeed open for debate. The point is that homo sapiens evolved from earlier hominoid species and succeeded as a species precisely because of its aggression, territorial instincts, etc. There was never a time of prelapsarian bliss. Homo sapiens did not "fall", but rose into consciousness and thus rose/awakened to the capacity for sin. The whole theory of original sin as currently explicated from pulpits (and thus, the entire explication of the structure and content of salvation) is parallel to what we know of evolution and leaves modern people perplexed and unconvinced.

Re human sexuality: Theology around this theme is grounded in a medieval biological ideas of male sperm containing homonculi that are to be incubated in a female womb. Gender is thought of as binary. The theology does not adequately contend with increasing evidence that sexual orientation is not a choice, but probably epigenetically determined, etc. Neither does the theology around human sexuality contend with changes in life-expectancy and life style. Instead, it tries to enforce a two thousand year old model based on early marriage (14-20 year old) and early death with many children to sustain the population.

Re VII: Lumen Gentium (8 & 9) states: "Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, .... This Church ... subsists in the Catholic Church, ... although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure." This does not sound to me like "nothing special".

Jesus wants the Church to "bind and loose" appropriately to the times. Instead, post Vatican II embraced Cardinal Ottivani's motto of "semper idem".

JR Cosgrove
3 months 4 weeks ago

You failed to address both of my issues. There is no real evidence that homo sapiens arose from a lower species. The primary biologically difference between humans and other species is not DNA but in the epigenetics that promote proteins dealing with brain function. These represent hundreds of sites and could not have arisen by any random process. Their origin is a mystery. You also fail to answer my assertion that the only area that can be defended for sexual acts is marriage. From a long discussion I had years ago with an ex seminarian who was married and in good standing with the Church. Marriage is a boundary which if you go beyond, there are no limits. Do you want 10 year olds experimenting?

Derrick Kourie
3 months 3 weeks ago

You practically illustrate my point. Because you apparently do not accept the abundant evidence that homo sapiens evolved --- at least morphologically -- from earlier hominoids and, indeed, interbred with Neanderthal, you will have no problem in accepting what is taught about original sin in the catechism and from pulpits.

Those of who have difficulty in accepting the notion of monogenesis, a first fault destroying an primal state of bliss, etc, are marginalised. Teilhard had a monitum slapped on him by both Pius XXII and JPII for challenging these notions. Discussion is shut down. Rome has spoken. No-one may propose in their theology what seems scientifically obvious --- that early homo sapiens in fact never was peaceful, non-violent, unselfish, loving to strangers. We may not propose that our ancestors grew increasingly conscious of what evil means (even if under the guidance of the Holy Spirit); that we progressively gained a capacity for sin. Rather, we have to accept that there was a moment of "fall" after which a redeemer became necessary.

It is precisely because the Church has not been able to address our contemporaries in categories and contexts which make sense that the Church's intellectual basis lacks credibility and this has become a ground reason for the haemorrhaging from the Church.

(The question of exactly how and why cranial capacity increased is a red herring in this discussion. Most Catholic scientists quite happily accept --- not, perhaps, as a matter of science, mind you --- some notion of intelligent design, or divine guidance of the evolutionary process, perhaps along the lines you suggest.)

I never challenged marriage as a boundary (even though exactly what that means is somewhat vague). Rather I challenged the capacity of the Church to explicate a theology of human sexuality that coheres with our current knowledge about the matter --- that modern people can understand and find convincing. This is evident in the incapacity of the faithful to accept the Church's teaching about the use of contraception in marriage. Ah, will come the circular argument --- that is because humans are subject to original sin and cannot accept the sure insight of Mother Church.

No --- large chunks of the Church's theology is out of step with the current state of human knowledge and experience. People in the modern world sense this in a thousand different ways. They cannot relate to it, even if they were taught by Jesuits, and leave.

JR Cosgrove
3 months 3 weeks ago

You assume some things and then treat them as fact. You assume morphological similarly means something. I never denied there were morphological similar species prior to humans. But it is the molecular differences which are too great to have happened by any random process. I’m not sure what inner breeding with Neanderthals has to do with your argument. Who says they were not human?

JR Cosgrove
3 months 3 weeks ago

Without the “Fall” there is no basis for the Catholic Church, no necessity for redemption, no need for Christ to come, no need for His death. The whole thing is a charade. There is nothing that disputes the possibility of Adam and Eve nor that God infused souls into them.

Derrick Kourie
3 months 3 weeks ago

That is your "ex cathedra" assessment, conflating one (Augustinian/ Thomist) tradition with an infallible unbending position. (Your view is, in fact, a disputed position in conflict with thinking of people such as Origin, Duns Scotus and others.) The point is exactly this: that people like yourself assume that the matter is an open and shut case, no need to further examine and align with what science now tells us. Instead, science has to bend and be reinterpreted to cohere with your pre-existing theological "dogma". (Galileo's experience comes to mind.)

Thus any difference of opinion was treated as an attack on the faith. You (as well as the authorities such as JP II, his Vatican bureaucracy, and his episcopal appointments) lock out the possibility of sensible bona fide discussion and reflection. To the apparent satisfaction of ultra-conservatives, large numbers of intellectuals began to leave the Church because there was simply no room for them to contribute. The Church, its theology and its practices became increasingly self-referential (as is your comment above), becoming more and more out of touch with large numbers of the younger people of the late 20th / early 21st century who simply could not find a home in the Church. This culminated in Benedict encouraging us to not be dismayed, but to be resigned to a smaller purer Church of the 21st century.

I give you the floor at this point. It seems unlikely that either of us will be able to give responses that change our respective positions.

Tim O'Leary
3 months 3 weeks ago

Derrick - J Cosgrove is right when he says original sin is as central to the Christian faith as the Incarnation and the Resurrection. If no fall, then no need for a Savior. And your acceptance of modern interpretations of sex only follows from the first abandonment. You may have missed the encyclical Humani generis (Pius XII) or several reflections on evolution from Pope St. JP II and Pope Benedict XII. I think it is a failure of scientific imagination to understand that what we currently know from science on the human race is in conflict with original sin. But it is also a form of spiritual blindness to not see the human race as deeply sinful. GK Chesterton had it right when he wrote: "Original sin is the only doctrine that's been empirically validated by 2,000 years of human history." On the main question in the article, the only good reason to be a Christian is to understand that one is in need of rescue from sin and death by a divine savior. To be a Catholic one must understand that only she was founded by Christ, only she received the guarantee never to succumb to the gates of hell, only she has the fullness of the faith, only she has the sacramental power to forgive sins and the divine sustenance of the Eucharist to nourish the faith. Mark 2: 17: Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

JR Cosgrove
3 months 3 weeks ago

Tim,

Thank you. It’s sometimes difficult to see where people are coming from. To go to Mass every week for decades and have 16 years of Catholic education and hear something consistently proclaimed in each that is completely different from what some people say here is Catholicism is most interesting.

JR Cosgrove
3 months 3 weeks ago

I ask the question why should one be a Catholic frequently. No one answers. I assume that most do not have an answer. Several of the authors here have written the same article, how to keep the young in the church. They never give a reason why anyone should be a Catholic. It would seem logical that the first reason they should give for keeping them in the Church is why everyone should be a Catholic. But they never do. So I assume they do not know why anyone should be a Catholic. Kind of pathetic for a Catholic magazine.

JR Cosgrove
3 months 3 weeks ago

Derrick, A couple things, How the human race originated is a mystery. The differences between humans and the next lower species is so great at the molecular level (mainly in nearly a 1000 control mechanisms not present in any other species) there is no way humans could have arrived by a slow gradual process. It is a mystery how humans came about but there have been human presence for a couple hundred thousand years.
Marriage and sex is very simple. I assume you understand marriage. Allow sexual acts outside of marriage and there is no bounds on who would then be allowed to engage in sexual acts.

Robert Lewis
3 months 3 weeks ago

And I strongly agree with you.

Thomas P
4 months ago

What i have seen as the best reason to be Catholic in this day and age is that the RCC is the only Church with a valid Eucharist. Because it is tied to salvation in Catholic theology, the argument would be that no matter what, people should stay with the Church because this is the only place you are going to find the real deal Eucharist and thus salvation.

I disagree with that statement, and think it is a weak argument, but its probably the best argument I have seen so far.

JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

The Eucharist is only part of the answer. There are much stronger arguments. That you do not give them, is interesting. One must believe there is a God, that Christ is God, and that Christ provided a way to salvation. It is in nearly every Mass.

Douglas Fang
4 months ago

"... intellectual basis for being a Catholic...". Sorry J, I don't share any of your intellectual basis and I still believe that I am a committed Catholic with my own intellectual basis. Faith is much, much more than some totally subjective and egocentric "intellectual basis" - especially from someone who proclaims that "...the Church committed suicide at Vatican II in order to be good guys..." There is no stronger example of "intellectual garbage"! No wonder why young people are leaving the Church. I would do this myself if all left in the Church are people like J!

JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

Thank you for your kind words.

Douglas Fang
4 months ago

J - you should thank yourself.

JR Cosgrove
4 months ago

I never thank myself. I am grateful to many many others including a lot of Jesuits, Christian Brothers and nuns who taught me. It is those that I thank. Since you disdain the intellectual basis (logic) for Catholicism that they taught me. I have some questions for you. Did God establish a religion? If so why, when and how? Did He establish more than one religion? If so what did He establish? If He established more than one religion, why? It is these questions we should be teaching the young. Not the only things but definitely these.

Douglas Fang
4 months ago

J – I never said that disdain the intellectual basis for Catholicism! Actually, this is the opposite – the main thing that keeps me being Catholic rather than being a generic Christian or a generic Spiritual is precisely because of its superior intellectual basis. It is just that I don’t share most of your “intellectual arguments/reasons”.

Going back to your stale repeated question that I answered once and I repeat it here - I believe that it is the grace and the providence of God that keep me to stay with the Church in spite of all its human imperfects and errors.

My two children, who are raised in the Catholic tradition, are still practicing Catholic. They are software engineers working at one of the biggest companies in America. We still go to Church every Sunday and frequently pray together at night. They are very intellectual and have inquisitive minds. I often have intellectual dialogues with them about Catholicism. If I just give them garbage arguments they would leave the Church a long time ago as the majority of their cousins. One important point – most knowledgeable Catholics around me deeply despise Trump and the current Republican party, who lost most of its good traditional features for quite a while.

emmett coyne
3 months 3 weeks ago

I thought it was a shallow article.
Appreciate the author's honesty in her full disclosure of her paid institutional position.
Not question of young people in the church.
There is no serious catechesis to adults.
Forget young people.
What is described is cultural Catholicism.
The institution is not equipped to deal with adult on adult in leading people to why be a disciple of Jesus?
Infant baptism has to go.
That means a paid clergy has to get off their duff and engage with adults as to why Jesus.
Ain't gonna happen.

Michael Caggiano
4 months ago

As someone who has taught middle school CCD, there are two major reasons why very, very few of the current youthful generation approaching Confirmation will remain in the Church.

1. Their parents do not engender any religious obligations or practices on their children beyond going to CCD because they themselves do not follow the Faith or attend Mass. 3/20 of my students attended Sunday Mass in the past six months. 1/20 attended Mass weekly. Similar percentages were taught to pray by their parents. Only 1/20 attended Confession of their own volition outside of the CCD yearly Confession. These kids are effectively already out of the Church, but haven't declared it yet. Being in the Church for them is nothing but a cultural label.

2. These kids get spoon-fed garbage in CCD. I pray for catechists and I am glad that some feel the tugging at their hearts to give up their time. However, at least in my parish and CCD experience, the catechists generally don't know what they're talking about. You can't give what you don't have. I had 7th graders. They were in CCD since 2nd Grade. They didn't know what the Crucifixion was. They didn't know that Jesus Christ was God and Man. They didn't know what the Eucharist was. WHAT were they being taught for 5 years?

Nora Bolcon
4 months ago

Well, if I wanted to read an article that hides from all facts and truth on a subject while feigning to be completely naive about its own topic, this article is definitely that article.

Top reasons all people, including our youth, leave Catholicism. (Not to be confused with Christianity as this article has done throughout):

1. Abuse of minors by priests on a huge scale and our hierarchy's hideous handling of that crisis.

2. Our church's ridiculous stand on birth control and it's un-constructive, naive and harmful political stand on abortion.

3. Our misogynistic treatment of women in and out of church, and our clear and hate-based bias against allowing women same sacraments, authority and opportunities as men, and especially including same ordination as men, considering there is no scripture basis for this discrimination.

4. Our hierarchy's over-push for its lay people to vote conservatively and as Republicans by demonizing, publicly, the Democratic party.

5 Our church's abusive treatment of LGBT.

6. Our church's holding clericalism as more important than its lay strength and participation, especially in and during liturgy.

7. Our writer is correct about one reason given - Catholics seem not to be as warm as some other churches and less community orientated. (Greater Lay participation during liturgy brings parishioners together and would help to cure this issue but heaven forbid we give up the deaconate! which has never had any purpose in liturgy except to push laity out of the way.)

8. Many left after a divorce where they felt condemned by our church's refusal to allow them to accept Holy Eucharist if they re-married.

9. Some people want priests, both male and female, to be allowed to marry if they wish to.

So these are the top reasons given, on countless surveys, over the last few decades, as to why young and old and middle-age have left our Church. Many are not necessarily sure they aren't Christian (not even among the NONES) but we need to represent a more authentic, non-sexist, less judgmental version of Christ in our Church, if we want anyone to remain Catholic, in the future.

Notice only one of the top reasons makes it to this writer's list at all. Perhaps she has indeed not bothered to ask herself why so many have left Catholicism, given the answers have been pouring in for decades, and yet they seem all to have escaped her knowledge. Perhaps she has hidden her head in the sand and refused to notice most of them, much like Pope Francis, or he has not noticed them enough to do the kind of changes that will really matter.

Michael Caggiano
4 months ago

If what you're saying is true, can you tell me why the Episcopalians are not thriving, and are in fact suffering the same decline? They meet nearly every one of your criteria for youth retention. Hmm....

Kevin Schafer
4 months ago

Partly it's assimilation and has been since Catholics started moving out of their ghetto's in the 50's and Cathoilcism is generally a "family thing" i.e imposed by one' family. Once away from home, the imposed faith is likely to be abandoned. Further, despite some uptick in conversions, MORE people are leaving the church than becoming member. I graduated from 8th grade in 1966 and at our 50th reunion less than 20% were still CatholicMOSY have also graduated from Catholic high school. MOST surprising the large number of women who'd left. I say stop worrying and if they leave, they leave. Faith cannot be imposed.

Nora Bolcon
3 months 3 weeks ago

Hi Michael, and definitely I can answer your question. The Episcopalians changed ordination rules to allow for women priests but did not defend their women priests from discrimination afterwards.

Only very recently, Episcopalians, who have been ordaining women priests and even lower lever Bishops for decades, were exposed for their decades long
sexism which has been rampant in this church's hierarchy. Many women priests were given only part-time low paying positions in parishes, or no pay, and were not defended by the hierarchy. Most women priests in this Church were paid less than their male counterparts and were often not given a living wage, even when they found a full-time pastor position. Very recently this Protestant Church's hierarchy has been working to end systemic sexism in their leadership but many thought that they had overcome this issue decades ago but they really had not. This is the first year that not only did the Episcopalian Church not lose members in the U.S. but started to gain them instead. Sexism has played a huge role in most religion's loss of women from membership - The RC Church has definitely lost women on account of its sexism as well. Many men go to the church their wife attends and the kids do the same so when women leave, men and boys are often following behind them.

Also Episcopalians and other Protestant denominations have been dealing with the dramatic changes associated with intentionally ordaining LGBT priests and bishops (some of which were married and even a gay married bishop who also divorced.) I believe it is necessary that we treat LGBT equally but it does represent a lot of change in a short time period which caused some members to leave 30 years ago because they didn't like the changes and some to leave over time because the hierarchies were not changing fast enough in action and policy to defend female and sometimes LGBT ordained leaders.

Anglicans and certain other Traditional Protestant Churches have a warmth (or lack of it) problem much like the RCC's. Especially the Anglican or Episcopalian Churches have not striven, in the past, to evangelize but have preferred to continue their memberships thru their human posterity but the low birth rates in these churches had them left with too many churches and not enough members. They are now starting up training to evangelize for the future and guess who is most likely to join their ranks - that's right! disgruntled ex-Roman Catholics.

Stephen Samenuk
4 months ago

Right on the money.

CATHERINE ARVENTOS
4 months ago

I completely agree with Ms. Bolton's comments above. Until the Church deals constructively with human life and family issues young adults will continue to leave. As much as staunch Catholics do not want to hear the above, I believe it is accurate. I also do not believe that young people (and many of their parents) generally hear or understand that we have a God that loves each of us individually and that we need the community of faith in which to grow. An hour a week of CCD class does little to enable young people to understand or grow in the spirituality found in Catholicism. Faith development is a journey and so much positive can come from that journey but so many of the issues cited above get in the way of continuing on that journey.

Jim Burton
4 months ago

You are right that young people have no use for the right wing politics that is often pushed in many parishes.

They also, however, have no use for the left wing politics that are often pushed as an alternative. If one is into left wing politics, there are organizations that do it much better than churches. I believe this is a big reason why liberal churches are not growing, even though young people are more liberal than their parents.

The problem with political churches (left and right) is that the mission of their church is limited to what can be done with earthly power and how to best acquire that power. Inevitably the pursuit of earthly power leads to abuse and corruption. One goes to Church for reasons beyond this world that cannot be satisfied by anything else.

By their actions, many older Catholics (left and right) do not believe in this or do not take this seriously. The young people see this and conclude that they might as well sleep in on Sundays.

Ellen B
4 months ago

Completely agree. The fact that the writer overlooked so many of these was glaring. One other thing that was overlooked, since so many are turning from Catholicism, where will the new Catholics come from?

Tim O'Leary
3 months 3 weeks ago

Nora - Michael Caggiano is right. Your prescription is exactly what every failing protestant denomination has tried. More importantly, it is a recipe for apostasy from someone who has already abandoned any pretense of faithfulness. Even if it worked in sheer numbers, it would be a sort of zombie church, full of non-believers, like so many polls of what Catholics believe.

Nora Bolcon
3 months 3 weeks ago

Well Tim, In case you actually care at all about facts: the following is the reason that the Episcopalian and even some other protestant churches have suffered similar losses to the RC Church. Much of their un-sexist appearance was only a matter of surface appearances, and is only now being dealt with by these church's hierarchies and to a positive effect. Also, the parishes led by female protestant priests and ministers were and are as successful as those pastored by men.

I cut and pasted this from my above comment to someone else and there are many articles on this subject if you want to research it yourself.

The Episcopalians changed ordination rules to allow for women priests and LGBT priests and bishops but did not defend them from discrimination afterwards:

Only very recently, Episcopalians, who have been ordaining women priests and even lower lever Bishops for decades, were exposed for their decades long
sexism which has been rampant in this church's hierarchy. Many women priests were given only part-time low paying positions in parishes, or no pay, and were not defended by the hierarchy. Most women priests in this Church were paid less than their male counterparts and were often not given a living wage, even when they found a full-time pastor position. Very recently this Protestant Church's hierarchy has been working to end systemic sexism in their leadership but many thought that they had overcome this issue decades ago but they really had not. This is the first year that not only did the Episcopalian Church not lose members in the U.S. but started to gain them instead. Sexism has played a huge role in most religion's loss of women from membership - The RC Church has definitely lost women on account of its sexism as well. Many men go to the church their wife attends and the kids do the same so when women leave, men and boys are often following behind them.

Also Episcopalians and other Protestant denominations have been dealing with the dramatic changes associated with intentionally ordaining LGBT priests and bishops (some of which were married and even a gay married bishop who also divorced.) I believe it is necessary that we treat LGBT equally but it does represent a lot of change in a short time period which caused some members to leave 30 years ago because they didn't like the changes and some to leave over time because the hierarchies were not changing fast enough in action and policy to defend female and sometimes LGBT ordained leaders.

Anglicans and certain other Traditional Protestant Churches have a warmth (or lack of it) problem much like the RCC's. Especially the Anglican or Episcopalian Churches have not striven, in the past, to evangelize but have preferred to continue their memberships thru their human posterity but the low birth rates in these churches had them left with too many churches and not enough members. They are now starting up training to evangelize for the future and guess who is most likely to join their ranks - that's right! disgruntled ex-Roman Catholics.

Your unbelieving Zombie Church statements are really just ridiculous and merely show a traditionalist arrogance based on nothing to support it. Jesus wasn't Catholic and many of our church's traditions and doctrines have been changed throughout history due to there being found to be wrong minded or self-destructive to the church and her mission. More of our doctrines regarding human sexuality and ordination exclusion must be changed or we will fail as a Church, due to man-made folly, and laws our hierarchy refused to change, even when it was pointed out to them many times over, that these doctrines were harmful. sinful, anti-gospel, hate mongering, and repulsive to both justice-minded people and God alike.

Tim O'Leary
3 months 3 weeks ago

Nora - Notice how your absolute and unquestioned faith is to the sexual revolution. It sounds like you think the main problem with Episcopalians and the other mainline protestant churches is they have not been sufficiently "woke." But, isn't that the problem of all denominations who chase after the Zeitgeist? They can never satisfy the hunger. It brings new meaning to the Walking Dead.

Mark Ruzon
4 months ago

It would be helpful if we stopped treating confirmation like a graduation, where you take classes for a while and then have a nice ceremony with pictures and cake. The obvious implication is "You're done." Confirmation should "confirm" that the Holy Spirit is acknowledged and taken seriously, and that can't be done in a classroom-like environment and experience.

Lisa M
4 months ago

How true Mark! I never thought of that before.

Diane Geverink
3 months 3 weeks ago

I was confirmed in 1963 when I was 10 years old and in the 4th grade. I agree with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, a Jesuit and well respected and learned priest, educator,
author, lecturer, etc. , whom I've listened to on EWTM, that confirming should go back to a younger age, so that graces received can begin to work earlier. I suspect the change to 8th grade was due a feeling that those confirmed would be older and more "have a sapppp]y on their decision to be confirmed." At any rate, this was definitely post VII. Maybe not such a good idea.

I

Ted Steiner
4 months ago

I think we often have the question reversed, and I think the author is at least beginning to acknowledge that. We are often asking, "what is keeping young people from coming to us?" when we should be asking, "what is keeping the Church from going to young people?" The Vatican II document, The Church In The Modern World, starts by saying that the joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of this generation are the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of the Church. But is that really true? Do young people really feel that the Church understands them and what they are concerned about? Or are we more concerned that young people understand us? If the Church is not responding to what young people are looking for (love, community, equality, healing, justice, etc.) then why would we expect them to show up at our doors? Young people are not going to come to us because of affiliation, tradition, propriety or guilt. If the Church is not providing what young people need, they will find someone else who will provide it. We need to get real and have some conversion within the church before we think anyone is going to be joining us.

Anthony Noble
4 months ago

The Church needs to live up to its ideals.
1. Show our faith in public as Jesus did in his ministry - bishops condemn the hideous treatment of immigrants; a nun in a habit, a couple of priests, and lay people prayed the rosary in the Capital Rotunda and were arrested for civil disobedience. Good. Now, if every American bishop said Mass at the IC Cathedral, went to the Capitol Rotunda, and all were arrested, even the elderly, to demand immediate humanitarian care, What a Witness to Jesus's ministry! This would show action which Millennials respect and expect - not just words.
2 The Church needs to teach adults throughout our lives; we don't graduate at Confirmation.
3 Emphasis on distinguishing the sciences/physical realm from the spiritual/metaphysical realm; science can prove the material while spirituality relies on faith to believe the immaterial. Science can prove the atom but only faith can explain love.
4 Millennials may be LGBT or friends of them. In real life, the Church's teaching on the problems of homosexuality are exposed to be wrong based on the lived experiences of gay people. The Church's official teachings on this do not reflect reality and upon close examination do not make logical sense - it appears to be written by a tormented, self-loathing, closeted gay man. Millennials do not like to be hypocrites and the Church's hard-line focus on homophobia and firing of LGBT employees appear in error and shows no compassion which is suppose to be the emphase of Jesus's ministry.

John Chuchman
4 months ago

A theology that’s current and relevant

Adam Sabaliauskas
4 months ago

I don't agree fully with this article. Sure we need to have a personal relationship with God, but in order to understand what God yearns/desires from us in our relationship we need to learn what it is He teaches. Many Protestants state they have a love of God in their hearts, if that's all we need than everything else is nothing or worthless and I might as well praise God in my bathrobe while eating a nice bowl of Captain Crunch.

This article conveys only a small portion of what is needed, it's not a comprehensive assessment of what needs to happen and I would state that it's an inadequate assessment of that small portion.

Look at comments from some of the people in this article where they don't fully understand the teaching of the Church or why the Church teaches what it teaches. If it doesn't make you sad, then ask yourself why it doesn't? Also ask yourself, when did this occur and what specifically changed from then till now within the Church?

Christopher Minch
4 months ago

I agree with Adam and Nora. I know that most of the other comments are by people who have never stepped into a classroom to catechize anyone. Never taken classes in catechesis, or teaching or realize the difference between sharing personal faith and teaching the Catholic/Christian faith. Never had to deal with absent children, absent parents and one hour of catechesis with information to fill two hours and spending 4-5 hours preparing for that one hour class and only 2/3rd of the children showing up and you have to prepare the next class that built on the lesson you just prepared. Or the next day was a snow day, :-).

I have taught over 10 years in CCD. The directors of religious ed were excellent leaders, the volunteer catechists were variable in training and abilities but all were people of faith. The text books and materials were generally adequate but all needed to be adapted to the one hour classroom.

Parents and significant others all are doing the best they can with their own work and concerns, schools and their curriculums and extracurricular activities and all demanding their time and attentions. The children are dealing with parents who have varying levels of faith or only one parent who really cares about the child attending CCD. And then there is the ever present peer pressure with all its distractions.

It is amazing to me that there are even persons of faith that come out of this process. Again it is God who is in charge. We witness to our faith, personal and collective, and pray to God, that's the process. In my own experience I have seen that in some cases it works and most cases it doesn't seem so apparent that it works, but it is God's work and love that will prevail. The seeds were planted and that parable is the best example of what catechesis is all about. Even Jesus got crucified in the end by the scrupulous religious crowd and the state.

John Barbieri
4 months ago

People learn love by being shown love. All of us aren’t doing very well st being loving. Young people recognize this. Before too long, the church will be looked upon as little more than a nuisance. Treating each other with kindness and respect might be a good place to start repairs.

Barry Fitzpatrick
4 months ago

Katie, it is all in the relationship you emphasize, not in the compliance structure craved by many. Our faith is centered on a person, three of them actually. As you say, let’s be sure we introduce young people to Jesus, amd let’s do so by the way we live and breathe and have our being. Let them see Him in us. Well done, Katie.

Lisa Weber
4 months ago

I cannot say what might keep young people in church but I can say why I left at 13 and stayed gone for 40 years. The sexism of the pre-Vatican II church was very painful to me plus I couldn’t see anything helpful in church teachings. By helpful, I mean useful for making day-to-day decisions about my life.

I wandered back because I was looking for community. I was shocked to find eminently useful perspectives on daily life, though I suspect that is due more to an exceptional pastor than to anything found in the catechism. The sexism is still painful. Some of what the church teaches is useful, some is best ignored. A welcoming community and thoughtful teaching go a long way toward creating an attractive church likely to keep its young people.

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