Take an average Sunday Mass in the Diocese and in Catholic parishes throughout the nation. You are likely to find continually fewer young people in attendance. The majority leave before age 21; with a median age of 13. They are “going, going, gone,” said Bob McCarty, D. Min., in a talk at the Santa Clara Faith Formation Conference 2017 held Nov. 3-4 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. A national study conducted by CARA and Saint Mary’s Press in 2015 can tell us why. It looked at the dynamics of disaffiliation among young Catholics.

About half of those leaving become unaffiliated “Nones” who are spiritual but not religious or who do not believe in God or religion at all. The other half identify with a Protestant denomination. Many of them lacked Catholic education and parish formation.

But beyond statistics, the study aimed to learn the nuance of their stories, and the youth were grateful to share. They had often made a thoughtful and deeply reflective choice to leave the faith; one that often left them crushed, confused and alone. “It was as if no one cared that I left,” expressed one participant. Therefore, McCarty noted, the important questions are whether we miss them and whether they know that we do.

One group is the “dissenters” who express active resistance to the Church. They have unanswered questions about Catholic teaching such as birth control or what they perceive as literal interpretation of the Bible. “Here we have an opportunity for better catechesis,” said McCarty.

And then there are the “injured and damaged.” They may have prayed for someone who died anyway or they may see the way the Church treats the LGBTQ community. They perceive this as an issue of human dignity and social justice rather than human sexuality. McCarty said it’s important to recognize that “they are sitting on these big theological questions of why does God allow suffering, does God love me, will God forgive me?” The faith community is challenged to create opportunities for young people to ask their questions, listen to peers, and explore faith responses.

Full story at The Valley Catholic.

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