Thursday, April 06, 2006

An ever more blue-haired church

From the other side of the Atlantic, a Spanish news story yesterday reported that a mere 40% of Spanish youth identify themselves as Catholic, and only 5% got to Mass at least once a month. Nearly 30% are agnostic, and that percentage is growing. This in Spain of all places, the birthplace of Opus Dei and many other high-profile (and conservative) church movements, which only a generation ago had one of the highest participation rates in the world.

So what's going on? Is it just another example of godless youth, more under-40 hedonists who don't see the need for God? Actually, a majority (55%) still believe in God; add the 28% that are agnostic and you still have openness to religion. The big problem? The Catholic church in Spain is now the third least trusted entity, after politicians and multinational corporations. (Talk about bad company!)

This is not just a problem in Spain of course. Spain may be a special case because of the Catholic institution's links with the Franco dictatorship--though that kind of collusion extended to many right-wing dictatorships in Central and South America as well. But even in John Paul II's beloved Poland, participation among the young is declining rapidly. Can the U.S., with its thoroughly discredited leadership, be far behind? (Of my group of friends, only three of us are still "religious" by any stretch, and we were all in the seminary at one time or other.)

It's too bad, really. With due respect to other religions, especially Judaism, which we Christians draw so heavily from, we Catholics have a unique story to tell about God, and it's tragic that, in our efforts to maintain the institution's political privileges, the church has become increasingly identified with, well, Caesar. And it's driving my generation away.

Now many will say that it's our (Gens X, Y, and Z's) fault for giving into the culture around us, but I think there's plenty of blame to go around. By and large the higher-ups have only been interested in talking to young adults who agree with them--on homosexuality, abortion, and birth control, of course--rather than engaging in any serious conversation with the great majority of us who, quite frankly, think that there's a lot more to being Christian than bedroom politics.

But it's really too bad. The story of Jesus and all who have told it through the centuries deserve better.


At 3:36 PM, Blogger Mary Anne said...

You say that there is a lot more to being Christian than bedroom politics, but judging from the five or six blogs of yours that I've read, that's all you think about. How about a scripture reflection? How about a discussion about the Incarnation, or the role of Mary in the the Church?


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