[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Young U.S. Catholics Show
Spiritual, Social Sides
Nov. 7, 1998


In a national survey, a majority of Catholics in the United States between the ages of 20 to 39 said being Catholic is important to them and they cannot envision joining any other religious group.

Survey results were presented at the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association in Montreal today. Funded by the Lilly Foundation, the survey was conducted by a team of researchers consisting of Dean Hoge and William Dinges, professors at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., Sister Mary Johnson of Emmanuel College in Boston and Juan Gonzales Jr., of California State University at Hayward.

Samples were taken from Euro-Afro-Asian Catholics and Latino Catholics, all who had received the sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic Church. Questions focused on religious beliefs and practices among this young adult Catholic population.

A majority of both groups believe that there is something special about being Catholic. Both groups nearly unanimously said they want their children to receive religious instruction.

The research team also found that few young adults have left the Catholic community and that Catholic identity, especially among core Catholics, is strong for a variety of ecclesiastical, familial, ethnic and traditional reasons.

By 30 years of age, 11 percent of the Euro-Afro-Asians and 9 percent of the Latinos who were confirmed Catholics said they are no longer Catholic. Dinges noted that one of the reasons for this phenomenon is interfaith marriage and that the high rate of such marriages "will have long-term consequences for the Church."

People who have left Catholicism stay within the Christian faith, the researchers found. This result differs from a previous study of Presbyterians conducted by Hoge, in which he found that people who left mainline Protestantism often lost faith and did not join other religious traditions.

Other findings in the survey include:

Eighty percent of Euro-Afro-Asians and 77 percent of Latinos believe they are spiritual, and 96 and 99 percent, respectively, say they pray to God.

Both groups, 90 percent of Latinos and 86 percent of Euro-Afro-Asians, feel a special responsibility as Catholics to end racism and to close the gap between the rich and the poor.

While more than half of the Euro-African-Asian population sample had heard of Vatican II, only 27 percent of Latinos had.

Both groups were equally unaware of the American bishops’ 1985 statement on economic justice for all.

Less than 30 percent of both groups had heard or read about Pope John Paul II’s 1995 statement criticizing the culture of death.

For a copy of the survey, or to arrange interviews with researchers Hoge and Dinges, contact Annamarie DeCarlo, director of media relations,
202-319-5600 or
decarlo@cua.

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