Youth Need to See the Light

With Catholics leaving the faith as early as age 10, remedial action is critically needed

by Elisa Cipollone | Updated 08 Sep 2016 at 11:52 AM

So many parents have asked the question: “How do I help my child grow in faith?”

Given the larger-than-usual shift away from religion by teens and young adults today, parents are fearing for their children’s religious future more than ever.

“This generation is struggling with faith in ways we haven’t seen in previous generations.”

A new report claims that Catholics are leaving the faith as early as age 10, as Catholic News Agency reported.

“Those that are leaving for no religion — and a pretty big component of them saying they are atheist or agnostic — it turns out that when you probe a bit more deeply and you allow them to talk in their own words, they are bringing up things that are related to science and a need for evidence and a need for proof,” Dr. Mark Gray told CNA. He is a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The need for proof is a normal human sentiment — but the problem appears to be larger than that.

“It’s almost a crisis in faith,” Gray explained. “This is a generation that is struggling with faith in ways that we haven’t seen in previous generations.”

Related: Students: Have Faith Without Fear

Millennials seem to struggle with faith — but the research reveals the doubts begin at a stunningly young age.

“The interviews with youth and young adults who had left the Catholic faith revealed that the typical age for this decision to leave was made at 13,” Gray explained. “Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed, 63 percent, said they stopped being Catholic between the ages of 10 and 17. Another 23 percent say they left the faith before the age of 10.”

The young age of these Catholics who consider falling away is truly surprising — but it also means parents have a tremendous opportunity to react and create real change.

Some children and young adults who decide to leave the faith want “proof [or] evidence of what they’re learning about their religion and about God,” according to the new research.

Among those who leave, “only 13 percent said they were ever likely to return to the Catholic Church,” Gray said, and they “are probably not coming back,” he noted, excluding any major life changes.

Related: A Boy’s Baptism Goes Viral

“Yet the church has a chance to keep more of the young Catholics being baptized now if it can do more to correct the historical myths about the church in regard to science,” Gray said, “and continue to highlight its support for the sciences, which were, for the most part, an initial product of the work done in Catholic universities hundreds of years ago.”

Whether it’s better arguments or divine inspiration, young people clearly have religion issues. The key to combating this and bringing young people back to the faith is not changing the zeal or precepts of that faith — but perhaps shifting the tactics.

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