The Consequences of 50 Years of Poor Catechesis
by Gene Van Son
Why 60 % of Catholics believe, like Nancy Pelosi, that same-sex marriage is perfectly compatible with Catholic Doctrine, or that pre-marital sex, cohabitation, contraception, divorce, or abortion are not such bad things? Because they do not have sufficient knowledge of the logic and “why’s’’ of their Faith, they are easily swayed by secular emotional arguments.
Something odd happens once the majority of young Catholics in the U.S. become teenagers – they seem to lose interest in their Catholic Faith.
According to statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), in 2015 there were almost 3.989 million children in parish religious education and Catholic elementary schools in the U.S. (2.631million in CCD [Continuing Catholic Development] programs, and 1.358 million in parochial schools). Assuming these numbers were roughly the same in 2014 that would mean that there should be around 3.989 million young Catholics in both secondary parish religious education programs and in Catholic high schools in 2015. But according to CARA’s data, there were only 1.219 million young Catholics in secondary parish religious education programs and Catholic high schools in 2015. Some 2.77 million young Catholics were all done learning about their faith. They became “Catholic Ed dropouts.”
Perhaps Poor Catechesis = Poor Attendance at Mass
This wouldn’t be a reason to fret if attendance at Mass on Sundays was standing room only. But as CARA also reports, the number of adult Catholics regularly going to mass each week has steadily declined for the past 50 years. So this high percentage of Catholic Ed dropouts may be part of a much larger problem. It may just be that poor Catechesis over the last 50 years is the reason why only 24% of adult Catholics go to mass on a weekly basis today.
The chances are good that these teenaged Catholic Ed dropouts are not going to Mass either, and once they become adults they will probably become part of the 76% of adults who go to mass ‘only occasionally,’ if at all. As the Catechists in my parish say, ‘once these kids are confirmed we don’t see the majority of them in church again until they want to get married.’
A Trend – But Not A New One
And this is not a new trend at all. As the slightly modified CARA chart below shows, this high rate of Catholic Ed dropouts has been occurring for just as long as mass attendance has been falling – since at least 1965.