Young Catholic America

Young Catholic America:  Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone From the Church is the most recent book reporting results from the first three waves of the NSYR project.  Authors Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill, and Kari Christoffersen analyze a wealth of survey and interview data to construct a thorough and thought-provoking description of the state of the Catholic faith among today’s emerging adults.

The authors find that most contemporary Catholic emerging adults have experienced either consistently low involvement with their Catholic faith and the church itself since adolescence, or a decline in faith and religious behavior.  While the reasons for this are numerous and complex, they suggest one primary culprit -- that changes within the Catholic church led to the weakening of the faith and involvement of the parents of current emerging adults, resulting in either the inability or unwillingness of those parents to model, teach and pass on the faith to their children.  

Just when the Church and its faithful needed to create new means for propagating the faith better fitted for the circumstances of the late twentieth century, the most important means by which any religion is transmitted to new generations – the investment, modeling, and instruction of parents – was weakened by uncertainty, distraction, and incapacitation. Unsurprisingly, this combination meant a partial breakdown in the effectiveness of religious catechesis.

One of the ramifications of this social and institutional change in the transmission of the Catholic faith has been the marked decrease in mass attendance among Catholic emerging adults – a decrease not likely to be recouped in the next few decades, thanks to the weak or non-existent personal connection that many feel for the American Catholic church.
Smith and his colleagues find evidence that the primary influence on the religious and spiritual lives of Catholic youth is the strength and quality of religious socialization processes, including, most importantly, positive and strong relationships with religious adults, both parents and non-parents.  Indeed, they find that such ties are a necessary component of maintaining or developing a strong Catholic identity in emerging adulthood.
Also discussed in Young Catholic America are the seemingly innocuous effect of Catholic school education on adherence to Catholic faith in early emerging adulthood, and methodological concerns about the variety of ways that individuals live out their Catholic identities, and that the various ways in which the term “Catholic” is measured have significant implications for any conclusions that can be drawn about this non-homogeneous group. 
Oxford University Press, 2014
ISBN 9780199341078