Friday 5: Why young people in the USA are increasingly indifferent to the Catholic Church

Being in the midst of Easter week, it feels like an appropriate time to address the Church’s decreasing appeal to young people in the US. Whether or not this is a bad thing I will leave to you, but the trend of youth disaffection with the Church is undeniable.  The recent election of Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, shows that the Church is all too aware of its waning influence over traditional Catholic demographics (i.e. Caucasians in the West).

Child abuse scandal

The Church’s reputation has taken a hit over the last 15 years with the surfacing of widespread reports of child abuse by members of the Church. These revelations, compounded with the public’s perception of the Vatican’s unwillingness to discipline their own, have led to a deep mistrust of the Catholic Institution.

church homosexuals

The Church isn’t keeping pace with evolving social views.

The Church is pushing against the tide of changing beliefs on a range of issues from gay marriage (very much in the public’s eye this week), to abortion rights, to participation of women as priests. Young people are, for the most part, more socially liberal than their predecessors, and are increasingly turned off by the Church’s intransigence on these issues.

Church is now used less as a social base.

Churches are no longer the center for communities to socialize. In the past, churches were not only physical spaces where young people would gather to interact or play, but they were also the thread that weaved a community together. Young people congregate in other places now, included malls, basketball courts, etc. It is not only the physical spaces that are used less by youth – church groups and clubs are far less popular now.

Bible_Study_Couple

Churches and the Bible are not as prominent in education.

Churches, and the Bible, are far less prominent in terms of young people’s education. Schools devote far more time to other subjects such as science and philosophy, as well as other religions, whereas in the past Bible studies would feature prominently. Religious-based schools are also on the decline due to a number of factors including urbanization and an increase in charter schools.

Decreasing popularity of organized religion

Participation in organized religion is declining in the West. Young people in Europe and English-speaking countries such as the US, Canada, South Africa, and Australia, are more secular, or are participating in less organized, more ‘spiritual’ practices (such as meditation and yoga).

With the expected dawn of a new era in the Catholic Church, what are your thoughts on its role in society over next 20 years?