Book: Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice
Authors: Dean R. Hoge, William D. Dinges, Mary Johnson, Juan L. Gonzales, Jr.
University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame Indiana, 2001.
Excerpt from Introduction:
Leaders of the American Catholic community want to reach out to young adults. The Conference of Bishops in their 1997 statement called young adults to be “sons and daughters of the light,” that is, a reflection of the light of Christ to the world. They stated that the Church must actively invite young adults into the full life of the Church. And the Church must give special attention to the needs of young adults in parishes, in communities, and on college campuses.
This is urgent, since evidence shows that commitments of Catholics to the Church are weakening. For example, the highly reliable General Social Survey of the University of Chicago found in its 1998 poll of American Catholics that 37 percent described themselves as “strong” Catholics and 48 percent said they attended weekly. The trends are downward.
Today we also see reports that Latino Catholics are often switching to evangelical and Pentecostal churches, thus departing from the long-term traditions of their families. How many are switching? Why is this?
Thoughtful Catholics need more information. Effective ministry to young adults requires that everybody be acquainted with the needs and attitudes of this generation of Catholics. This is the main reason we undertook a study of young adult Catholics. We hoped to gather reliable information on how young adult Catholics, both European-American and Latino, live their Catholicism. Are they alienated from the Church? Are they cynical about Church moral teachings? Do they take the pope’s statements seriously? Do they attend Mass? Have large numbers left Catholicism for other churches? Do they experiment with non-Catholic spiritual groups and therapies? Do they want Catholic religious education for their children? Too many broadstroke journalistic reports of what young adult Catholics are “really like” have been circulating, and some are misleading. Research that is reliable and illuminating is need.
N.B. Statistics from this study are found in our statistical section.
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