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February 18, 1994     The Message
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12 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Survey Continued from page 11 "Catholic culture," and are sad- dened to a greater degree than younger Catholics are by the increased diversity within the Church. This older generation of Catholics attributes the de- cline of tightly-knit Catholic communities to increased geo- graphic mobility and a decline of anti-Catholicism. This cohort of Catholics used the greatest number of specifi- cally Catholic concepts to de- scribe their religious experi- ences. They often mentioned the sacraments, the rosary, the Baltimore Catechism, the Latin Mass, missals, and Vati- can II. These Catholics empha- sized the importance of sacra- ments more than any other generation did, and spoke of the sacraments with a sense of mystery and awe. Not surpris- ingly, they also identified more specific means of strengthen- ing their faith than did either the middle generation or the young generation. While many in the other two age categories, particularly those under 30, spoke of strengthening faith in terms of just "living your faith," Catholics over 50 spoke of prayer, Mass attendance, reading Catholic literature, ap- preciating nature, and partici- pating in small faith groups. '5Os and '60s Generation This generation shares with the older generation a concern for the institutional church. When discussing the impor- tance of contributing finan- cially to the Church, a man said: "I'm not giving money to the Church any more than I'm giving my mortgage to the bank or money to the food store." Like the younger gener- ation, however, Catholics in their middle-age emphasize personal faith. Whereas this generation worries about the future of the Church, it also emphasizes the greater impor- tance of spirituality. As a par- ticipant stated: "My spiritual- ity is more important to me than my religion. And I can be spiritual anywhere. In fact, I am more spiritual walking in the woods than I am walking down the main aisle of the church." While the Eucharist and other sacraments are impor- tant for this generation, the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) is problematic. As one man said: "There's been such a stigma on the old style of confession that my genera- tion tends to avoid it like the plague ." This generation also differs from the other two in its dis- cussion of Vatican II. While older Catholics tend to feel a sense of loss due to the Coun- cil, and younger Catholics have. little or no knowledge of the dramatic changes it brought about, members of the middle generation generally approve of the Council. As a woman stated: "The first few years of our grade school years it was the Baltimore Catechism. Memorize it. Non-Catholics go to hell. If you miss Mass one time you might as well write it off-- you're out the door. Then Vatican II came along. Vatican II got things going. About the \\; same time, we got our first lay teachers in the school .... They were a little more open to discussion [and] creative thought." Like the older generation, Catholics between 30 and 50 are concerned about the lack of commitment among the young and its implications for the fu- ture of the Church. They view the religious education that the young received as having failed to teach the substance of the Catholic faith. On the other hand, middle-age Catholics speak negatively of the guilt their childhood educa- tion instilled in them. A male participant claims that people of his generation have left the Church "because it was a blaming and shaming church. And because they have person- ally been hurt .... They have chosen that their relationship with God won't be through an institution that hassles them." This generation is more lib- eral than the previous genera- tion on social and sexual is- sues. As a participant said: "We're the children of the '60s, and on the social issues we may be ahead of the Church." Middle-aged Catholics are es- pecially concerned with the treatment of women within the Church. A man stated that "the Bible is written from a male, very sexist, male view- point in an historical time when women had second class citizenship. And for the Catholic Church nearing the year 2000 to so staunchly say 'somehow women simply can't be priests'.... 1 have a real problem with that .... It smells a lot like meat on Friday to me." Another participant stated: "We have Biblical ge- niuses inside the church who are ignored because they are women." '70s and '80s Generation More than the previous two generations, Catholics who are currently under 30 years of age see being a Christian as far more important than being a Catholic. Whereas Catholics over 50 view Catholicism as "the one true" church, young Catholics no longer see the Catholic Church as superior to Protestant denominations. Being more assimilated into mainstream, middle-class cul- ture, and no longer told that they are not allowed to visit Protestant religious services, this generation has had signifi- cant exposure to alternative forms of religious expression. While young focus group par- ticipants expressed pride in the long history of Catholicism, they were also very willing to critique the Church and com- pare it negatively with Protes- tant churches. Many young participants view Protestant churches as friendlier, and Protestant youth programs and sermons as superior to Catholic youth programs and homilies. The most frequently voiced complaint among the young was that Church music and homilies are irrelevant to their lives. A young woman who was formerly president of her youth group stated that "the music is slow and plod- ding -- it's just not fun. It's dull. It's awful .... Churches really need to cater to the younger people. If they don't, there's not going to be anybody around in 10 or 15 years." Because their religious edu- cation emphasized "being a good person" more than under- standing the substantive teachings of the Church, today's youth complain that they know little about Church doctrine. Without mentioning the word "catechism," a young woman said: "I wish they had a little book so I can look up Pen- tecost and see what it is." The majority of young focus group participants openly complained about the religious training they received in both Catholic schools and CCD classes. "I am appalled by what I was [not] Jj. taught in CCD," a young woman stated. Several partici- pants voiced concern that con- verts who have gone through RCIA training have greater knowledge of Church teachings than those who were born and raised in the Church. It is not surprising that the youngest generation of Catholics seldom used specifi- cally Catholic words when de- scribing their faith, and spoke of reinforcing their faith in vague terms. When asked how they go about strengthening or nourishing their faith, they generally talked of relating to others in a kind way, rather than referring to the devo- tional practices mentioned by older generations. Perhaps the best way to sum up the young generation is to say, that for them, faith is a personal matter. Rather than seeing religion as a communal experience, today's youth focus on having a personal faith and a private, friend-like relation: ship with God. Today's young Catholics are very willing to critique the Church if they be- lieve it is not meeting their in- dividual needs, and feel alien- ated from the Church when homilies do not speak to what is relevant in are the most disagree with ings, and are the on issues such birth control, and ity. Referring to ity, a woman type of love that wants to display person should spected." Of the three young are the argue that sacraments an financially to not required Catholic." pants and 29 felt the question be a "good than older under 30 Catholic" son," and Christian is importance th with the man said: tant that a Catholic; me that Christian." SOCIETY OF THE DIVINE WORD G How to receive an 8.6% better for the rest of o With a Gift Annuity from the Word, you can lock in both high rates of cant tax savings. 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