Where are the millennial Catholic activists?

Sisters of Mercy and others pray inside the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington Feb. 27 during a "Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers" protest to press Congress to protect "Dreamers." (CNS photo/Bob Roller) Sisters of Mercy and others pray inside the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington Feb. 27 during a "Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers" protest to press Congress to protect "Dreamers." (CNS photo/Bob Roller) 

Looking back on the Catholic Day of Action to Protect Dreamers in late February—when dozens of Catholics, many of them members of religious orders, were arrested while demonstrating in support of undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children—it was difficult for me not to notice something striking: the average age of the protesters.

Perhaps it was because so many of the photos were taken from above, capturing the gray- and white-haired heads of peaceful protesters in concentric circles flanked by the Capitol police officers who would later arrest them.

Advertisement

Religious sisters will always draw attention at protests—indeed, that is often a goal of including them in a demonstration. But seeing these older sisters arrested while advocating for undocumented people my age, in their early 20s, shocked me. Where were all the Catholic 20-somethings who should have been protesting for our peers alongside these sisters? Why is the face of Catholic activism today so often a Baby Boomer?

Where were all the Catholic 20-somethings who should have been protesting for our peers alongside these sisters?

This is a question I have asked myself repeatedly in recent months as I have torn through books and documentaries about Catholic social justice leaders like Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and Madeleine Delbrêl. I see the spirit of these men and women in myself and my friends: We are idealistic, energetic and passionate about the way our faith calls us to work communally for justice and peace. But when I meet members of Catholic activist groups like Pax Christi or bring friends to the Friday night “clarification of thought” meetings at the Catholic Worker, however, we are often the only people in the room under 60.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

While it is in vogue for millennials to blame Boomers for many of this country’s institutional problems—perhaps a reaction to older generations who call us selfish and entitled without considering the socioeconomic circumstances that shape us—we cannot deny the significant social justice progress that Catholic activists in their 60s and 70s brought about. When they were our age, young Catholic Boomers peacefully protested segregation and the Vietnam War until the Civil Rights Act was passed and both the war and selective service ended. When Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, some of the same Catholic activists turned their sights on fighting abortion.

Today, Boomers remain the face of many Catholic peace and justice efforts. Millennials need to acknowledge that our parents’ generation will not be able to lead the way forever.

Millennials need to acknowledge that our parents’ generation will not be able to lead the way forever.

Many of us have already had a taste of activism at the March for Life. Tens of thousands—some years, hundreds of thousands—of Catholic students demonstrate or have demonstrated in Washington, D.C., in groups from Catholic high schools, youth groups and colleges. But after graduation, few of us return to the march, and the scope of our activism within the church rarely branches out to include the anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-poverty and anti-racism work that previous generations of Catholics championed.

Millennials are also equipped to organize in a way that past generations were not thanks to social media, as we have seen in the success of secular movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. Young Catholics who are involved in these movements might rightfully ask, why bother organizing with fellow Catholics when you can simply be a Catholic in a secular social justice movement?

It is important for the church to bring the faith out of the sanctuary and into the streets.

Catholic peace and justice groups are important for several reasons. First, these groups continue the strong tradition of U.S. Catholics working for justice that dates back to the Knights of Labor who fought for workers’ rights during the Industrial Revolution. Young Catholics have breathed new life into traditions like the Latin Mass that date from before the Second Vatican Council. Advocating for social justice—a term coined by an Italian Jesuit in the 1840s—is a Catholic tradition that it is vital for us to carry on in a world marred by injustice.

Second, Catholic groups enable us to advocate without being forced to downplay or compromise our beliefs. For example, in 2017 the Women’s March alienated Catholic women by declaring that access to abortion was one of the “unity principles” that its marchers stood for. Explicitly Catholic advocacy groups will, of course, face difficult decisions about who they are willing to work with in order to advance a cause. But they are able to uphold and integrate Catholic teachings in their work in a way that can be difficult for individuals who join non-Catholic organizations.

Third, and perhaps most important, Catholic activism can be a powerful evangelization tool. Groups that advocate for Catholic social teaching can reach people by advocating for the issues that they already care about and invite them into the full Catholic understanding of justice, which is intertwined with faith and love. The church today is often seen as hypocritical and sexist for its anti-abortion advocacy; Catholics, critics charge, are pro-life only until the babies’ due date. The witness of Catholic activists fighting for a living wage, paid family leave or an end to mass incarceration can prove that we practice the justice we preach. We can show that we oppose all killing, not just abortion, by working to end the death penalty and the wars the United States has fought for our entire adult lives. Catholic groups can also provide a sense of intentional community to counter the growing trend of social isolation in the United States.

As Generation Z, the oldest of who are now 19, begins to find its political voice, millennial Catholics ought to provide an example of what faith-based activism looks like in a digitally saturated world. Teens today are less Catholic and less religious than previous generations, which means it will be even more important for the church to bring the faith out of the sanctuary and into the streets. If millennials do not step into leadership roles in Catholic justice movements, then we risk denying the next generation the living examples of Catholic activism that they deserve.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
3 months 2 weeks ago

If one looks at all the photos used here on America, one would get the impression there is nothing but millennial protesting.

the success of secular movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March.

Did you see who was behind these movements you publicly praise? I am not sure Catholics of any age want to be associated with these causes.

Kurt Hansen
3 months 2 weeks ago

I am a Catholic who wants to be associated with each of these causes.

J Cosgrove
3 months 2 weeks ago

They are all phony movements based on false premises that hurt the poor so if you want to hurt the poor then support them. It's privileged people beating their chests on false protests while the gullible and unfortunate pay the price.

Kurt Hansen
3 months 2 weeks ago

Not from what I've seen. Can you explain further what are the false premises?

J Cosgrove
3 months 1 week ago

Not from what I've seen. Can you explain further what are the false premises?

All are based on false premises

Occupy Wall Street was organized by communist, anarchists and other people of the far left on a dubious proposition that the 1% are somehow bad for society. You might as well criticize God because that is how he made us, unequal, and in all of human history a small percentage rose to leadership in every society including communism. It is called the Pareto distribution and is all throughout nature.

But now a specific 1% is criticized and it is this group which alleviated most of human suffering, poor health and a life of misery. Seems kinda of strange to single out the group that has probably done the most good for the world as a pariah.

Women's march - I suggest interested readers google

"When Progressives Embrace Hate New York Times"

a quote from article

What wasn’t to like?

A lot, as it turns out. The leaders of the Women’s March, arguably the most prominent feminists in the country, have some chilling ideas and associations. Far from erecting the big tent so many had hoped for, the movement they lead has embraced decidedly illiberal causes and cultivated a radical tenor that seems determined to alienate all but the most woke.

It goes down hill from there.

Black Lives Matter is probably the most egregiously false as blacks are less targeted by police than whites and are less likely to be shot by a policeman.

The problem is that blacks commit an extremely disproportionate amount of serious crime. But no one asks why blacks do this. They did not always account for this large percentage of crime. You are not allowed to discuss the reasons why on this site because the answer is too uncomfortable for liberals especially white liberals.

Dionys Murphy
3 months 2 weeks ago

What Catholic wouldn't want the great reversal that Christ taught?

Kevin Murphy
3 months 2 weeks ago

Exactly. Occupy and BLM are not good examples to cite if you're trying to appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Michael Ward
3 months 2 weeks ago

Maybe the more important question is "Where are the millennials?" ...period. If they are not there on Sunday...likely they won't be there on Monday either. The deficit ythe other notes is just a product of the larger one in out tradition as a whole...at least here in the cool, white, priveleged North. It is a vesing matter of large importance for the life of the Catholic community as a whole in this culture over the coming decades.

Carol Sobeck
3 months 2 weeks ago

Your first question is exactly what I was going to write. The question really should be"Where are the millennial Catholics?" Perhaps the Church has already lost a generation. But all things are possible with God.

Adam Slusser
3 months 2 weeks ago

Millennial Catholics don’t care ankh the social justice movement that was manufacture by the Boomers in the 60s. They care about mystery, sacrifice, and traditional worship. Albeit, this group is very small because most millennials have abandoned Catholicism. The millennials are going to bring back the Catholic Church as it was a century ago.

Jay ess
3 months 2 weeks ago

You go to mass, the priest is an old out of touch man. The songs are ancient, catering to an older demographic. The homilies rarely touch on pertinent social events, just in passing with a "Lord hear our prayer". Why? Because they want the money to continue flowing in. Perhaps they should have said 'give up your guns for lent', but won't hear that will you. Instead of the church embracing cultural change, it wants people to feel bad about reading their astrology, as silly as it is or not. Stuck in the middle ages no young person can understand not eating meat on Friday or why there are no women priests. You think they will come back and revitalize the church? THe church should revitalize itself first.

Rodney Pelletier
3 months 2 weeks ago

It's almost as if young people aren't buying into the feel-good pseudo-Catholicism being pushed by all the grey hairs since the 1960's. Visit your local Extraordinary Form Mass and you'll see where all the Millennials are.

Dolores Pap
3 months 2 weeks ago

They are not. The Millennials that I know( excepting one family), are kind, progressive, passionate about social justice for all, and they do not consider the Church as part of their life. .I think they've just outgrown the whole 'judgmental bit', it doesn't relate to their lives.

Rodney Pelletier
3 months 2 weeks ago

They don't consider the Church a part of their lives? That's a problem and that's why they're not in church.

Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea
3 months 2 weeks ago

Dolores Pap: With two Millennial daughters, I wholeheartedly agree.

Reyanna Rice
3 months 2 weeks ago

ALL the Millenials are at the EF Masses??? That’s a big claim I know is not true! Also, I have yet to see any good statistics that show there is any significant percentage of Millenials at the Trad Masses! You might want to be a bit more realistic when you make claims such as this.

Kurt Hansen
3 months 2 weeks ago

There is no home for progressive Millenials, i.e. the ones who share the same concerns as the social justice groups, in parishes and schools. So, they drift away because all they see are judgmental traditionalists telling not to be "cafeteria" Catholics while being "cafeteria" Catholics themselves who just choose other options on the menu. Just look at the some of the comments above mine for what I mean.

Most of the observant Catholic Millenials are traditionalists as are the newer priests. Progressives don't see much in common with them.

Plus, evangelical Christians are giving Christianity a bad name. The alignment of the RC hierarchy with evangelical Christians and the Republican Party doesn't help.

Colleen -- what do your progressive friends tell you about why they are not involved?

Derrick Kourie
3 months 2 weeks ago

In my view, your observations are very accurate. For example, millenials find very little resonance in Catholic teachings about sexuality: contraception, homosexuality, divorce, etc. These teachings are put across as infallible. They are told, in effect, take-it-or-leave-it. And so millenials "leave it" as soon as they are old enough. Your point about evangelical Christianity is well taken. They teach a form of extreme substitutionary atonement (by his blood, Jesus has paid to God the price of my sins) that is embarrassing but seldom challenged by Catholic spokespeople.

don ttouchme
3 months 2 weeks ago

You're right. And given that the family is the cell of the Church, when these teachings on sexuality were dropped in favor of social justice stuff, the cell of the Church basically started decomposing. The boomer protesters are like spiritual AIDS in the Body of the Church.

Derrick Kourie
3 months 2 weeks ago

In my view, your observations are very accurate. For example, millenials find very little resonance in Catholic teachings about sexuality: contraception, homosexuality, divorce, etc. These teachings are put across as infallible. They are told, in effect, take-it-or-leave-it. And so millenials "leave it" as soon as they are old enough. Your point about evangelical Christianity is well taken. They teach a form of extreme substitutionary atonement (by his blood, Jesus has paid to God the price of my sins) that is embarrassing but seldom challenged by Catholic spokespeople.

Kristin Wiener
3 months 2 weeks ago

Some of the previous comments show exactly why younger adults, millennials and otherwise do not identify "Catholic" activism. It's not that they aren't activists, it's the "Catholic" part of that phrase they have a problem with. People in those generations have a low tolerance for the kind of conservative hypocrasy that the American Catholic church is rife with. Fifty percent of Catholics voted for Trump, if millennials only had voted all but one state would have gone for Clinton. Millennials are overwhelmingly for compassionate immigration reform, many older Catholics can't even drum up enough compassion to support DREAMers. Millennials want to prevent abortions from happening in the first place, but the "pro-life" movement focuses solely on criminalization. A better question is, why would any young adult identify with "Catholic" activism when they can simply and more effectively change the world without all that baggage?

Kurt Hansen
3 months 2 weeks ago

I agree. Very sad but true.

Tim Donovan
3 months 2 weeks ago

With respect, I believe you're seriously mistaken. Yes, those of us who are pro-life want to restore the maximum possible legal protection to innocent unborn human beings, but in tandem with assisting pregnant women and their born babies with practical, compassionate assistance. There are many hundreds of pro-life alternative -to- abortion groups nationwide. Without being immodest, each month I make modest contributions to various Catholic and secular charities. I believe that the best means to promote the protection of innocent unborn human beings is to encourage young people, regardless of their faith, to take the reins of the pro-life movement, as well as to encourage youth to vigorously work, in a bipartisan way, to enact laws to insure that the rights of the vulnerable are protected: this includes the poor, the ill, immigrants, and other vulnerable people in our nation and in foreign lands. Pope Francis has said that he wants a Church that is like a field hospital, that meets people where they are in life, regardless of their circumstances. I agree. Jesus healed lepers and other sick people, not only of their physical disabilities but by suffering on the cross for ur sins (and I readily admit to being a very imperfect Catholic Christian) and rising from the dead in victory over death. I also agree with the observations of the author that Catholics must engage in political work in many different ways: opposing capital punishment, racism, human trafficking, and supporting stringent gun control laws, foreign aid to impoverished nations, and support for reasonable laws to protect our environment from degradation, and government assistance to the millions of Americans in need. Among others, these include people who are homeless, disabled (I 'm a retired Special Education teacher), senior citizens, the poor, the seriously ill, people addicted to alcohol and drugs, and others in need. The Rev. Martin Luther King observed, "Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated." Although I largely agree with the late Rev. King, I happen to believe that many political issues have a moral dimension . Although I 'm not a pacifist, I respect their convictions, and favor war only as a last resort when diplomatic efforts have been exhausted. Civilians must never be deliberately targeted, and nuclear weapons must never be,used. Pope Francis has wisely observed that "abortion is the death penalty for the unborn." I might add that for some years I've been a pen pal with Hubert, who's serving a sentence of life imprisonment for a serious crime . Frankly, I don't know what the crime is, but from our correspondence, I'm convinced that Hubert, who's a devout Jehovah's Witness, has reformed his life. Let's do our best to evangelize (as the author put it) so that people of whatever faith (or even none) will work to do Jesus' will, and restore legal protection to human life, both before as well as after birth. Finally, without being ostentatious, I'm perhaps somewhat unique because I'm a gay Catholic who many years in the past had sex with men (I 'm now 56). However, I realized the error of my behavior, and received forgiveness and consolation through the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a compassionate priest. I do have a friend who's gay, and I call him on the phone from time to time to see how he and his family are doing. As the Church teaches, gay people must be treated with respect and never be targets of violence. I certainly sympathize with gay men and women and other people who aren't heterosexual, as when I was growing up I was often taunted with being called a faggot, which was emotionally painful. However, I do believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I am a former long-time registered Democrat of more than 30 years (I'm now 56) who reluctantly registered as a Republican several years ago, but I do for the most part disagree with President Trump 's policies. However, while I favor the consistent ethic of life principle, I believe that the killing of one million innocent unborn human beings for any reason up until the time the unborn infant (or "fetus", which means "young one in latin ) is viable, is the paramount issue facing our natuon. Let's trust in Jesus that as the true God and true man who associated with sinners and in His mercy forgave the repentant, will give all of us Catholics the fortitude to do God's will.

Robin Vestal
3 months 2 weeks ago

I care deeply about justice for immigrants (something there is far too little of in this country) but I work full time and I volunteer at the local jail/detention center for Catholic Services on Saturdays....I am grateful for those who can March and show up for protests. It makes me feel better when I see Sisters and Priests being arrested for standing up for my brothers and sisters. I suspect that far too many are struggling to survive and thus have a hard time showing up for protests. I do wish that the same energy that goes into the March for Life was directed towards protecting and helping other vulnerable people; people that are homeless, incarcerated, immigrants and refugees. (though the Catholic Church helps a lot)

Philip Cheung
3 months 2 weeks ago

We need to raise a generation of young men and women who know their Catechism in the very least. But that is not enough. The world is crying out for WISDOM, the highest gift of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom has to direct knowledge in the service of love of our Lord, Our Lady and St. Joseph (Her most chaste spouse), and of our neighbors, i..e, assuming that there is knowledge to be had in the first place! Where are the teachers and leaders, clergy and laity alike, who will continue with adult education and formation after RCIA? Who are the role models for millennials? Snowflakes need not apply --- there are already too many in the Church who advocate the separation of the head (reason) from the heart (emotions), not knowing that this will only fragment the person. What heresy, what damage! The whole Church must read "Faith and Reason" by Saint Pope John Paul II again !!!

In the face of blatant hostility towards the Church, internally and externally, it takes depth and strength of character, of courage, and of stoicism to stand up to the "principalities of darkness" (Ephesians 6:12) . In other words, it takes true grit. In the movie "Heartbreak Ridge", Clint Eastwood played gunner sergeant to a bunch of misfit rookies in an army training camp. But he turned them into a formidable fighting force and praised their ability to "improvise, adapt and overcome" in the face of impossible odds, launching his patrol on a career of success which proved irresistible. How many millennials are praying the five decades of the Luminous Mystery of the Rosary everyday? How many are asking for the guts of St. Joan of Arc? How many, indeed, ask for the clear and profound intellect evinced by St. Albert the Great and his student St. Thomas Aquinas? How many are doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola for discernment? Without fortifying the soul there will be no activists.

Activists fight for values because they truly believe they are spiritual and moral agents of change. Are we even there yet?

Edward Graff
3 months 2 weeks ago

Phillip, I don’t want to challenge you because I see value in your comments, but the critical issue is what relevance do millennials see in Joan of Arc or Loyola or Aquinas or even my hero, Francis of Assisi? Those saints solved the problems of long ago and most of them aren’t even taught in Catholic schools anymore. What speaks to the hopes and anxieties of young people today? They see a world filled with pointless violence - even inside their own classrooms. They see poverty and economic injustice, addiction and despair, the crudity of our national discourse, the melting of ice caps and dire warnings about environmental ruin. And above it all there is a spiritual vacuum which they didn’t create but is engulfing them. They see politicians approved by church leaders who are ripping away at their schools and health care, and they remember the lies and obfuscation that surrounded our leadership when the sex abuse crisis was finally revealed to the world. Most critically, they have embraced their LGBT friends and have chosen not to condemn them and refuse to be a part of any church that has no place for them.

So where exactly are the relevant Catholic voices that could inspire and motivate millennials?

Philip Cheung
3 months 2 weeks ago

Edward, my brother in Christ, thank you for your valuable comments. It seems to me that the whole point of Catholic veneration of the Saints is missed completely here. The Saints evinced heroic examples of personal sacrifice, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (Jesuit motto: To the Greater Glory of God). Their dedication, devotion, faith are to be known and emulated. You seem to be saying that, because the saints lived so long ago, their lives and examples are irrelevant. (or are you?). A lot of the faithful will disagree with you. Technically, Saint Mother Teresa lived in the "past". Are you prepared to tell me she's irrelevant to all the ills of the world today? Poverty and economic injustice is exactly what she experienced! Moreover, it is exactly the love of the poor, the care for the environment and the love of our Lord that made Assisi so Saintly, marked by the unmistakable sign of his stigmata. But you already know that, don't you? Why does Pope Francis take his name? Exactly to emulate his deep sanctifying virtues! Why don't you tell me, Edward, that the Pope's love of Saint Francis is erroneous too? According to your own theory, he should not be learning from a Saint that lived "long ago". I am slightly dismayed at your line of thinking, because, carried far enough, your thinking will surely mean that history classes are a waste of time too., and that nothing can be learned from history classes. Sorry, I don't see your logic.

Ratzinger still reads the "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas-a-Kempis. Surely, the ice cap was not melting in the time of Jesus? Or is it? I, for one, am not prepared to reject the history and tradition of the Church and the entire deposit of Faith. Where do you stand?

At Holy Mass, we pray to the saints "on whose intercession we constantly rely upon". Do you pray the same prayer and sincerely mean it? Why pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary at all? She lived about 2000 years ago, didn't she? And did she face a different set of problems than we do today? No! Rightly so, you mentioned "despair" and "crudity of national discourse". Judas died in disparity. And no language is more crude than the taunting of Our Lord during His Passion! Mary was at the foot of the Cross !!!! But this is my point, the Church Triumphant is alive and well --- and to answer your question --- the Saints' voices are the relevant Catholic voices that millennials should aspire to. You live by the Franciscan code, Edward, don't you?

The CRITICAL issue is this. A lot of people have resolved millennials of all their personal responsibility as if they are not part of the Church Militant. The harsh reality is, they are. And people like your good self should try to talk to them and tell them about the Catholic Faith. Why don't you do the Aquinas thing of "contemplata aliis tradere" (to pass on the fruits of your contemplation). Millennials need to exercise their Faith and Reason simultaneously for the Imitation of Christ. and strive towards sanctity. Where exactly is the relevant voice? In the hearts of millennials themselves! Jeremiah 29:13, "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." Amen! Go and tell them, Edward, you go and tell them to pray the Rosary and read the Bible!

God bless you, Edward!

Edward Graff
3 months 2 weeks ago

Phillip, you’ve made a number of false assumptions about me and what I value or what I am or am not doing to educate young people so please be more careful in future.

The point I was trying to make is to look at the church from millennials’ point of view and ask where is the relevance for them? And to point out that educators and leaders in the church are simply not hearing or prioritizing their concerns. If our faith is to survive it has to speak to the challenges of today.

Edward Graff
3 months 2 weeks ago

I’m not a millennial, but I was in the first AP American History class offered at my high school. The first day of class our (wonderful) instructor told us that the school’s board had decided that the class would not include any 20th century American history because they had decided that the issues that would be discussed, “especially the Civil Rights movement,” were “too controversial” and when she objected they threatened to replace her.

There was no engagement with the community or with any Catholic social issue on any level in the four years I spent there outside of warnings about drugs and premarital sex.

Since then the tuition has increased sixfold and the students are now nearly universally white and affluent. Comfort and the security of the “gated community” mentality do not encourage empathy or engagement with the parts of the wider world that are in crisis.

Edward Graff
3 months 2 weeks ago

To clarify, I attended a Catholic high school.

Marissa M
3 months 2 weeks ago

Millennials who would take leadership roles in the progressive causes you listed above are leaving the church, pure and simple. They see the church's stance on LGBT people and women and realize that they are not welcome to the church. The millennial activists who remain in the church tend to be traditionalists, focusing all their efforts on criminalizing abortion and fighting pro-LGBT equality laws (obviously not all younger Catholics, but this is the trend). Why would I, a former Catholic, continue to ally with people who call me a murderer for being pro-choice, who call my gay family members abominations or a perversion? Why would I work closely with a church that denies me leadership positions due to the fact I was born a woman? The millenials aren't showing up to Catholic protests because the Catholic Church is no longer a place we can call our home.

rose-ellen caminer
3 months 2 weeks ago

Supporting LGBT people and their rights is one thing;it is humane and just to do both, but publically supporting the killing of unborn humans, is another matter entirely.You can't help what your conscience tells you;if your conscience is clear that killing unborn human, by crushing their skulls or dismembering them or however its done does not elicit empathy for these suffering unto death, victims, and horror at the inhumanity of it, then, well, your conscience is clear, that's between you and Jesus.. But if you openly promote and support abortion, then you are undermining the Church on its most fundamental belief; the sanctity of human life, humans as subjects, created in Gods image, beloved by God, not objects where a might- makes- right, survival- of- the- fittest ethos ,Jesus showed us ,was not God's ethos. From which we get the Church's prohibitions against the deliberate premeditated taking of innocent human life. To work against Christian dogma on this issue,[ and explicitly non Christian but humanistic ethics too] by calling one self Catholic while publically validating the killing of the unborn, warrants excommunication[imo].if you keep your pro killing -the- unborn belief to yourself , then you at not undermining the Church and so you should not be excommunicated for what your happen to believe[ we're all disordered in our sincere beliefs in some ways or others.as we now see darkly

Andrew Wolfe
3 months 2 weeks ago

Of all the blindnesses in this article, I think the one most telling is this: "The witness of Catholic activists fighting for a living wage, paid family leave or an end to mass incarceration can prove that we practice the justice we preach." This is not practicing justice. Fighting for a living wage is just more preaching - more useless words on another political stage. I've seen the activists you've described — not the way they've imagined themselves, as knights for all that is good and right — but as they are. I have encountered more judgment and condemnation among the social justice crowd, of people they don't know and people they won't meet, than among the traddies. All the right-sounding things in this article sound so wonderful and good, you can't imagine anyone disagreeing. Why? Well, ask a small business owner about a "living wage" and you'll find out that he or she are making less per hour than their employees. Or about paid family leave, which leaves them hiring fewer workers than they need to run their business. The money for these things doesn't come out of nowhere, the way Boomers were used to living in the 1960's. The gray-haired Catholic activists talk about "mass incarceration" of convicted criminals rather than the sufferings of those criminals' victims, and the fear on the streets of crime-ridden neighborhoods. Somehow it's more comfortable for them to condemn fellow Catholics, law-abiding citizens, over a difference of political opinion than to condemn drug dealers over those dealers' direct harm to people in close contact with them. And they condemn pro-lifers, fellow Catholics!, for "only caring until birth," without ever bothering to find out how long these groups stay with these women, well past the delivery of their children, trying to help them get a better life. You see, with these older "Catholic activists," the only gray areas are with personal sin and sexual morality. With issues of social justice, on which they purport to advocate for millions of people, there is only black and white.

The Millennials know something is wrong with American society, and they know all the talk and protests and arrests of the gray-haired activists, worn like badges of honor, are part of the problem — not the solution.

Lisa Weber
3 months 2 weeks ago

This article has certainly drawn a lot of interesting comments. The reason Catholic protesters are old and gray is that most Catholics are old and gray. The protesters reflect the group from which they are drawn.

I find it incredibly sad that so many young people leave the Catholic Church, but I also find it easy to understand. From reading about issues that most concern the church, one could get the impression that the sole purpose of the church is to regulate people's sex lives. If you look at Jesus' teachings, everything he did with regard to sexual issues was to make them more private. If the Church could manage to reduce the emphasis on contraception, abortion, and gay marriage, it might have time for more valuable pursuits.

I sometimes wonder if Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed not because of the activities of the inhabitants, but because so much public attention was given to sexual activity. Single-issue voters in this country have come close to destroying it with the election of our current president.

Mike Theman
3 months 2 weeks ago

Operative words here are, "From reading about issues that most concern the church." What are you reading?

If you're reading leftist media articles, yes, the Catholic church's conservative views on sex are all you read, Because the leftists are sex-obsessed. As you say, there is not a lot written about sex in the Gospels; conservative values on sex had long been instilled in culture during Jesus' time and there was really no reason to address it.

Look at the issues that leftist activists have created and driven: contraception, no-fault divorce, homosexuality, mind-altering drugs, etc... No one ever spoke about the Church's views on sex until the leftists started attacking the Church. The Church is no sex obsessed; the leftists are.

Lisa Weber
3 months 2 weeks ago

"Conservative values on sex" during Jesus' time on earth included stoning women caught in adultery. Jesus ended that. He also ended ritual impurity related to menstruation and childbirth. When a "sinful woman" anointed Jesus with perfume, he said nothing except that her deed would be remembered. Claiming that "conservative values on sex" have existed since before the time of Christ is an absurd statement. And to blame "leftists" for creating and driving controversy on contraception, no-fault divorce and homosexuality - Catholics use the same kinds of contraception at the same rate as the general population in the USA, leftists certainly didn't invent homosexuality, and divorce affects more Catholics than just the leftists. To blame leftists for those things is absurd.

rose-ellen caminer
3 months 2 weeks ago

Abortion is not a "sexual issue"; any more then the use of torture, or indefinite detention without trail, or preemptive wars are "national security" issues. The words chosen are manipulations to hide great evils being condoned.

Lisa Weber
3 months 2 weeks ago

Pregnancy is a result of sex. It is hard to make a case that pregnancy and sex are not related. Abortion applies only to pregnancy, therefore abortion is a sexual issue. If it weren't a sexual issue, there would not have been exceptions made for rape and incest, back when abortions were entirely illegal.

Mike Theman
3 months 2 weeks ago

Millenials in the US have been fed liberal propaganda for most of their lives, not only from the Federal government schools and its leftist Dept of Education, but from their baby-boomer parents who were the original leftist-indoctrinated students formed by the US Dept of Education. The Catholic Church has been terrible at teaching the catechism, jumping on the leftist social justice bandwagon after Vatican II and ignoring the essence of Catholicism.

As a parent who has tried hard to bring up nice Catholic kids, I have received little from the Church and society to reinforce our Catholic views. Indeed, my wife, who is just a few years younger than I and fully subjected to leftist public school propaganda and the leftist media, has taken to attacking the Church as antiquated.

Time will tell whether our kids will ultimately embrace the Catholic views that I have attempted to instill in them (I, too, strayed as a young college lad in a leftist school). Perhaps they will be gray-haired when they do.

don ttouchme
3 months 2 weeks ago

Catholic boomers, especially fake nuns who love abortion and illegal immigration, are contemptible setting up these spectacles. They just want attention.

Mike Macrie
3 months 2 weeks ago

Why should Millennials get involved when the American Conference of Bishops trumps all opinions. This is where the problem starts and ends on Catholic issues. The American Conference of Bishops need to stop throwing their political support to the Republican Party and stick to the Gospel on addressing the issues of the day. The American Conference of Bishops can’t have it both ways on Pro Life and Immigration when the party they support want to throw Catholic Immigrants Out of the country.

David Nussman
3 months 2 weeks ago

We millenial Catholics, the few of us who are left, are a little too busy trying to learn the basics of the Faith and recover some semblance of self-discipline. Baby Boomers were too busy fornicating, strumming guitars during Mass, making sacrilegious Communions and obsessing over earth-bound political causes to bother teaching us supernatural truth.

Renia Saddler
3 months 2 weeks ago

At some point, Catholic children stopped believing their parents and teachers. Why? All I know is “a tree is know by its fruit”. The fruit of generations past is the world today. Interpretations may vary.

Dawnie Jens
3 months 2 weeks ago

Millennials are defined by my understanding as born from 1981 - 1996 -factors such as they have an "historical" understanding of 911 attack NYC-grew up in Obama era - a socio-economic recession-first "plugged in" generation to always have a "device" on- some of the older generation say they act "entitled" "spoiled" "lack of work ethnic" -product of "bad parenting" - in my humble opinion it is the lack of leadership in the Church - the clergy for the most part are failing youth - expecting them to "minister" to each other - there is a "disconnect" and lack of insight and knowledge of the social issues that may inspire them - whereby they desire to work for collective good - Millennials do seem to be the most pro-life generation since 1974 with roe v wade - with encouragement and leadership they would find other causes to be proactive and work for peace posterity dignity versus adrift on a sea of chaos immersed in apostasies as shifting as sands in the wind be they liberal or conservative - once they realise being a humanitarian does not always involve giving out large sums of money - it starts with having empathy - compassion - understanding versus condemning will lead to peace posterity for the society as a whole ......................

Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea
3 months 2 weeks ago

Millenials are actively engaged with other secular groups and churches that are more universally welcoming. My kids and their friends marched in the women's marches, plan to march for gun control, and were active in local campaigns. Ms. Dulle thinks it is important to be active within Catholic social justice groups because they represent what I guess she thinks are good values. But, most millennials are pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-cohabitation prior to marriage, pro-equal right for women. They eschew a monarchical church in which women are banned from the highest offices. Maybe the Catholic Church needs to get on board with millennial values, not the other way around. She also seems to favor evangelization, but why would millennials want to evangelize Catholicism? She imputes a devaluation of millennials that is unjust and snotty, which I guess is the typical and expectable 19-year old arrogance, but she has a lot to learn.

Rachel Christine
3 months 1 week ago

The Church is Asking Millennials the Wrong Questions

In response to the article “Where are the millennial Catholic activists?” by Colleen Dulle about the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers, I say: well, we were there. We weren’t getting arrested, but we participated in the protest in less visible ways. This question puts me on the defensive and is part of larger, problematic narrative within the Church that millennials are self-centered and uncaring. If people within the Church are interested in the active participation of young adults, then they need to ask different questions.

I suggest, “Who are you? What do you care about in life? How can we be of service? Would you like to participate?” A compassionate orientation to human beings opens the door to authentic connection and relationship.

If the shift is not made from a “Why aren’t you here?” to an honest, caring “Who are you?”, then you can’t expect anyone, much less millennials, to show up to what you’re offering. Go out and listen to our stories, be with us, cater your messaging and programs to the insights you find, and include millennials in leadership; perhaps Catholic institutions will find where they and millennials intersect and can fully benefit from one another.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

An undated photo of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans is seen at the National Museum of African American in Washington Jan. 5, 2017. February is African American history month. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams is uncovering the previously hidden lives of African-American women religious.
Ashley McKinlessJune 22, 2018
A U.S. Border Patrol agent watches as people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, stand in line at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)
I humbly exhort you to listen to and follow your conscience during these stormy times.
Tobias WinrightJune 21, 2018
Demonstrators in Managua, Nicaragua, stand behind a barricade during clashes with police May 30. (CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters) 
Nicaragua’s political crisis is in its second month, and President Daniel Ortega’s soft authoritarianism has turned into violent repression.
Jan-Albert HootsenJune 21, 2018
Rodney Earl Sanders made the pleas to two counts of murder in state court in Lexington, blocks away from where Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill had worked as nurse practitioners in a medical clinic.