Why young Catholics are leaving the faith, and how to stop them

Tension between faith and science

Young Catholics are leaving the faith at an early age, sometimes before the age of 10. It's not because they are bored at Mass but because they are looking for proof of God, the author of a new report claims. Catholic News Agency has the story.

“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, that they are bringing up things that are related to science and a need for evidence and a need for proof,” said Mark Gray, a senior research associate at the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“It’s almost a crisis in faith,” he told CNA. “In the whole concept of faith, this is a generation that is struggling with faith in ways that we haven’t seen in previous generations.”

Dr Gray recently published the results of two national studies by CARA - which conducts social science research about the Church - in the publication Our Sunday Visitor.

One of the surveys was of those who were raised Catholic but no longer identified as Catholic, ages 15 to 25. The second survey was of self-identified Catholics age 18 and over.

In exploring why young Catholics were choosing to leave the faith, he noted “an emerging profile” of youth who say they find the faith “incompatible with what they are learning in high school or at the university level.”

In a perceived battle between the Church and science, the Church is losing.

And it is losing Catholics at a young age. “The interviews with youth and young adults who had left the faith revealed that the typical age for this decision to leave was made at 13,” Dr Gray wrote.

“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.”

There is a trend in the popular culture to see atheism as “smart” and the faith as “a fairy tale,” he said.

“And I think the Church needs to come to terms with this as an issue of popular culture,” he continued. “I think the Church perhaps needs to better address its history and its relationship to science.”


Why Catholics are leaving the faith by age 10 – and what parents can do about it

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