Monday, June 18, 2007

Strong Identity, Less Commitment

A team of sociologists has prepared American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church, due to be published in late March by Rowman and Littlefield. The book analyzes results from Gallup surveys conducted between 1987 and 2005.

One set of findings concerns the faith and practice of the "millennial generation," that is, Catholics born after 1979. At a Woodstock Forum, held on February 6 on the campus of Georgetown University, two of the researchers described the differences between the members of the millennial generation and older generations of Catholics. According to James A. Davidson of Purdue University and Dean A. Hoge of the Catholic University of America, the current group of young adult Catholics in their twenties feel a "disconnect" between themselves and the institutional Church. And when they get older, according to Davidson, they are not likely to become more deeply involved in Church life, as Catholics did in previous generations: "They are going to be the Catholics they are now." This disconnect may be made worse, according to Hoge, by the fact that young diocesan priests who are and will be serving this generation are moving in the opposite direction, becoming stricter about Church teaching and more focused on a "cultic" rather than a "servant-leader" model of priesthood.

Despite this feeling of being dicsconnected, young adult Catholics have a strong sense of Catholic identity, according to the survey results. Davidson explained: "Belonging is not a problem; they feel comfortable calling the Church home...It's believing that's the problem." He said that young adult Catholics see Church leadership as having "no credibility, no plausibility, no authority...They practice their faith by caring for other people."
- from NPM Notebook, March 2007