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February 18, 1994     The Message
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118, 1994 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 11 olics in Indiana finds common pride, differences among the generations s. WILLIAMS of Sociology. and Anthropology Purdue University i the SUmmer of 1993, focus groups generations of ag in Indiana: are over 50 who are and 50, and are under 30 Catholics who are Were raised dur- '30s, and '40s, Second Vatican Vatican II Catholics were althood their funda- to religion. Catholics the 1950s ey Were brought Pre'Vatican II erienced the during ative years. are Under 30 in the three focus one for ,a. Each focus of 8  12 per- inCUs group on the of each groups and persons of differing socio- economic status were fairly represented. Potential respon-" dents were randomly selected from parish rolls, and thus per- sons who are not affiliated with a particular parish were excluded from the sample. The sample primarily included Catholics who attend Mass at least twice monthly. We asked participants to discuss six is- sues: their religious upbring- ing; the extent to which they live in a tightly-knit Catholic community; what they consider the strengths and weaknesses of the Church today; why they are Catholic; what they think it takes to be a "good Catholic," and the role the Church has played in their lives. In the rest of this paper, we summa- rize what we learned from lis- tening to Catholics talk about these issues. Findings There were commonalities among all three cohorts. Catholics of all ages expressed pride in belonging to the oldest Christian church. In almost every focus group, there was discussion of the tradition and rich history of the Church: To many, the history of the Roman Catholic Church sets it apart from other Christian de- nominations. Many focus group participants stated that they are proud to be Catholic. because they view the Church as having been established by Christ. Persons of all ages were also proud of the fact that the Catholic Church celebrates the Eucharist weekly. Catholics told us that the fact that the bread and wine be- come the body and blood of Christ sets Catholic Eucharist apart from communion in other denominations. Even some of those belonging to the youngest generation who were least likely to argue the impor- tance of participating in other sacraments, stated that the Eucharist is a valuable expres- sion of their faith. In addition to pride in the history of the Church, partici- pants of all ages declared that the main benefit of being Catholic is being taught stan- dards that provide a firm foun- dation for an ethical life. Many focus group participants stated that the Church has provided them with moral guidelines which have given them strength and helped them be "good persons." Despite this, older as well as younger Catholics admitted to "doing" their faith more than under- standing it. While they express pride in the Church's history, and respect for many Church teachings, many focus group participants complained that addresses, phone num- dates, offices, direc- Schools, institutions, financial statistics, its  they are all Yearbook of the Cathofic EVansville. your copy at Center for $7.50. For include $1.50 for end handling. mm|||nnm|nll|mm||| :! YEARBOOK mmtqmm mam m mmmvmmmam mm m mm mn mm mm m  m m they do not fully understand women and married men. Church teachings or ritu-  While there was dis- als.  1 [ I agreement on these is- Catholics of all ages had ] ] | sues, Catholics seem ready localized views of the [ ] | to accept married priests Church. Most participants ] ] | and are in favor of ordain- emphasized the parish [ I | ing women. While some level of "Church" more ] ] | participants, particularly than the larger, institu- I I I older Catholics, admitted tional level. While I ] | to following the birth con-  i=  trol teaching w " mention of the Pope and Church teachings, most participants defined their satisfaction with the Church in terms of their local parish. This is not to say that the institutional ] Church is unimportant to Indiana Catholics, but rather that persons focus on the Church down the street to a greater extent than they focus on either their diocese or the Vatican. Participants of all ages also insisted that being a "good Catholic" is in many ways syn- onymous with being a "good per- son." While this finding is most pro- nounced among the young, participants of all ages argue that living a moral and decent life is at least as impor- tant as participation in specific religious practices. Even per- sons of the older generation, who are the most likely to be- lieve it is important that a "good Catholic" attend Mass regularly and contribute to the church financially, say that participation in the sacra- ments and financial contribu- tions do not determine whether a person is a "good Catholic." Catholics of all ages verbal- ized disappointment in homi- lies and lack of scriptural em- phasis. Participants in almost every focus group wanted hom- ilies that are better prepared and more relevant to the reali- ties of their everyday experi- ences. Group participants also expressed a desire for in- creased emphasis on the Bible, often stating that they feel un- informed when it comes to scripture. A young woman who attended Catholic schools for twelve years stated: "As far as the Bible goes, I couldn't even tell you what's in the Old and New Testaments." Catholics of all ages are un- informed about Catholic social teachings.. Focus group partici- pants had no clear sense of the social teachings beyond the im- portance of being kind to other persons, Catholics view social justice in localized, rather than global, terms. There was no mention of specifi c peace and justice issues, such as support for unions or minimum Wage. Rather than seeing social re sponsibility at the structural level, participants talked of being kind to others and donat- ing time to local soup kitchens. The majority of participants in all three generations have invested time thinking about issues such as ordaining there was not a single participant that fully sup- ported Humanae Vitae. Even those who have ab- stained from using artifi- cial contraceptives argued that the teaching is overly rigid and displays little compassion for those who cannot financially or emo- tionally afford to have more children. '30s and '40s Gen- eration The most striking characteristic of those who came of age in the 1930s and 1940s is this generation's em- phasis on rules and discipline. Persons in this generation recall that obedience was stressed over thinking for oneself. They remember the Baltimore Catechism, memo- rlzing Church :teachings and :: .... the authority of nuns and priests. They say the way they were taught provided them with specific guidelines, or tools, to help them through life. This generation, more than others, expressed sadness over the changes brought about by Vatican II. One man stated that "they say Vatican II opened up a window. I think it tore a whole dog-gone wall out of the building." Many partici- pants in this age group link loss of discipline and commit- ment to the Second Vatican Council, and worry about the lack of involvement among young Catholics. They are deeply concerned about the fu- ture of the Church. Like other generations, they focus primar- ily on the survival of their local parish, yet see ominous impli. cations for the larger church if commitment among the young is not revitalized. As one par- ticipant stated: "In past gener- ations, I think, we lost our kids at a certain age, and they came back. This generation we're losing, and they're not coming back, and that concerns me tremendously." Older Catholics are very proud of belonging to the Catholic Church. Although persons of all generations ex- pressed pride in the Church's history and traditions, mem- bers of this generation were more likely to say that Catholi- cism is the =one true Church." Because these participants re- member specific acts of anti- Catholicism and living in tightly-knit Catholic communi- ties based on ethnicity, they have a clearer sense of See SURVEY page 12