Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Stop Talking 'Bout My Generation: Young Catholics May Not Win at Catholic Jeopardy, but They've Gotten the Gist of Jesus' Message

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Stop Talking 'Bout My Generation: Young Catholics May Not Win at Catholic Jeopardy, but They've Gotten the Gist of Jesus' Message

Article excerpt

I'VE GOT A MESSAGE FOR ALL THOSE CCD TEACHERS FROM the 1960s and '70s, those men and women who taught religious education before it was called religious education. You know who you are: You fed us all that "God is love" stuff and had us make banners with smiley faces instead of memorizing the Baltimore Catechism. There's something I've been wanting to tell you for a long time: Thank you.

I think you did a decent--in many cases exemplary--job of teaching my generation about the faith. I know this is an unpopular view, one that goes against the commonly accepted wisdom that young people in their 20s and 30s arc the most poorly catechized Catholics in recent history, or perhaps ever. Noted Catholic historian Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame has gone so far as to say that "no previous generation of American Catholics inherited so little of the content and sensibility of the faith from their parents as have today's Catholic youth."

Ouch. No previous generation? Does that include the illiterate immigrants of the 1800s?

It is true that many young Catholics are rather ignorant about a lot of the details of institutional Catholicism. Everyone's got a story about some young whipper-snapper who didn't know something basic--like that Mother Teresa wasn't Jesus' mother, as one college student answered on a quiz given by my brother-in-law. I've had friends ask me, "What's Pentecost again?" and Lord knows even I sometimes get Popes Pius XI and Pius XII mixed up.

But give us a break. I once heard a speaker rail against Gen X Catholics for knowing next-to-nothing about the Second Vatican Council. I protested: "C'mon. They weren't even born yet! How much does the average Baby Boomer know about Vatican I? Or the Council of Trent?" The speaker insisted that wasn't the same.

The truth is that not a few older Catholics could stand to brush up on their religious knowledge, too. We once interviewed a seventy-something biblical scholar who admitted his sister had finally asked him, "What's this Exodus thing you keep talking about?" It could be argued that Catholics of all ages are not exactly overeducated about their faith not to mention other things. Quick: Name the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. …

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