Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The 'Reasons to Believe' Generation

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The 'Reasons to Believe' Generation

Article excerpt

I finished my doctorate in 1985 but stayed on at Fordham for four more years, serving in the administration. Then I joined the faculty of St. Anse1m College in Manchester, N.H., to teach theology. In Catholic terms, that student body was a very different audience from my first-graders back in 1969. Those youngsters were products of a post-Vatican II religious education. A generation later, am I now teaching their children?

If so--and this from an advocate of Vatican II--in those early post-conciliar years our attempts to move away from the pre-council "catechism mentality" left gaps in the religious instruction of the next generation. By 1989 I was teaching theology to a generation of young adults who increasingly entered college lacking a mastery of their faith. They believed in God, they self-identified as Catholics, but, when pressed, they were unable to provide the cognitive elements of the faith. In the language used today, they would have said they were "spiritual" but not "religious."

Sadly, those gaps persist today, 23 years later. (But then, who could have envisioned three decades ago the existence of a college committee, comprised of faculty and students, committed to the cause of inclusiveness on campus? Clearly, many new developments were affecting this new generation.)

Nonetheless, teaching theology across those "gaps" is a great challenge. I think of this generation as the "reasons to believe" generation--which, I think, is a good thing. My students want to know the "why" of church teachings: Why is it that priests cannot be married? Why can't women be ordained? Why would the church condemn homosexual activity? Even with the most solid of theological responses, often the answers do not convince them This generation of young people is clearly an empowered generation--also a good thing. …

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