Evangelising religiously unaffiliated people, or “nones”, particularly youth, is a top priority for the Church, a US bishop said. Source: CNS.
Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles is chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Evangelisation and Catechesis and known for his apologetics website, Word on Fire, and for hosting the documentary series Catholicism. In a presentation to the US bishops assembly meeting in Baltimore this week, Bishop Barron said a group of experts who examined why young people are leaving the faith in increasing numbers recently spoke with his committee.
“How many are leaving? The short answer is a lot,” Bishop Barron said, noting the sobering statistic he said many in the room probably were aware of — that 50 per cent of US Catholics 30 years old and younger have left the Church.
“Half the kids that we baptised and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated,” he said, and “one out of six millennials in the US is now a former Catholic.”
Bishop Barron said another statistic that particularly affected him was: “For every one person joining our Church today, 6.45 are leaving” and most are leaving at young ages, primarily before age 23. The median age of those who leave is 13.
“Where are they going?” he asked, and in response to his own question, he again gave a short answer: They’re “becoming nones” although some, in much smaller percentages, join other mainstream religions or evangelical churches.
Bishop Barron said Church leaders don’t need to speculate about why people are leaving because there are plenty of studies and surveys that answer this. The No. 1 reason, he said, is that they simply no longer believe the Church’s teachings, primarily its doctrinal beliefs.
In his opinion, he said, this is “a bitter fruit of the dumbing-down of our faith” as it has been presented in catechesis and apologetics.
Other reasons he said young people are leaving have to do with relativism, science and the Church’s teachings on sexuality.
The bishop’s hope, in this environment, is that the young, religiously unaffiliated can still be reached because as he put it, most have drifted away versus storming away from the faith. “We’re not up against a fierce opponent at every turn,” he said, adding: “Most are ambivalent to religion rather than hostile to it.”