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Four types of younger Catholics? Isch don’t think so

wyd-crossOver on the Commonweal blog, Fr Joseph Komonchak has posted an interesting excerpt from an article in the magazine featuring a conversation between former and current Commonweal editors.

In the excerpt Peter Steinfels, who spent many years at the magazine, muses about the Commonweal readers of the future.

He identifies four groups: the fundamentalists “who want something, whether it’s the Pope or particular texts opr certain forms of ritual, that can be relied upon to provide their identity” for whom “things are not to be challenged; they are to be taken literally”, the neo-conservatives, a group which is “much more questioning and intellectually adventurous but whose identity is very much defined over against the secular liberal culture”.

Steinfels juxtaposes these first two groups with two subsequent groups to which he assigns no handle. They consist of “a very large liberal group that has a Christian and Catholic commitment but are not willing to isolate themselves” who want “to be engaged with the culture in conversation with it, not just in battle with it” and the fourth group “is a more radical and political group that forms an identity largely around very personal, radical social justice commitments.”

I find this analysis surprising and when judge from my personal experience, it seems downright wrong. What does he mean by “a Christian and Catholic commitment”? Most people of my generation — that post-post concilliar generation which came of age at the dawn of the 21st century — know next to nothing about their Catholic faith. They may still self-identify as Catholics (we’re-Catholics-but-we-don’t-really-believe-most-of-it)and attach importance to the vestiges of a Catholic culture, own a rosary, even admire the Pope for example, but have embraced the cultural aspects of the faith that do not translate into a “Christian and Catholic commitment”. They are the largest group (in the West at least). Seeing as most of these younger people hardly darken the door of a church, it seems curious they would subscribe to an Catholic magazine, no matter how interesting.

 There are a multitude of reasons for this development, not least the lack of decent catechesis.

The first commentator to Fr Komonchak’s blog post wrote from the perspective of one of the young post-Concilliar Catholics that Steinfels was alluding to, except that she rejected his classifications.

Catherine Harding:
As a non-American, post Vatican II Catholic my view may not be apropos, but I find all of these cateogries totally irrelevant to both my faith and my position with respect to it. Based on the categories provided, I’m not a “fundamentalist” Catholic, nor am I a “neo-conservative” Catholic. I’m not part of the “large liberal group” of Catholics, and I’m certainly not part of “a more radical and political group that forms an identity largely around very personal, radical social-justice commitments” Catholic.

I’m just Catholic – not a particularly good one, but Catholic first and foremost.

I’m sad that being a youngster growing up in the wake of VII and attending Catholic schools throughout, that I was held hostage to the personal problems of my religious and other teachers going through their own particular and personal faith crises and letting those crises leach into what they taught (or didn’t) to those coming up.

I’m sad that I was part of a generation that had to solely rely upon my own family to provide me with the basics of the faith and to be part of a Catholic school system that couldn’t muster up the courage to present the intellectual and historical bases for that faith.

I’m sad that I had to grope for all of this in adulthood, willy-nilly, with hits and misses along the way.
I’m sad that the baby was thrown out with the bathwater in the whole VII process. If you want to be relevant to younger people then just be honest with them. Don’t twist the faith into a construct of your own making based upon your own life experience in the 1960s and 1970s. Believe me, this is a big turn-off.

Give us post Vatican II Catholics the relevent part of the Catechism from which you are basing your contention, with the contributions of one or more learned theologians stating their perspectives – and you’ve got it made.

You will have a free for all discussion, hopefully (but not always guaranteed) discussion, based on these foundations.

This would be a positive move.

Amen to that, sister.

Most of the young Catholics I know who are “serious about their faith” fall between political parties, a bit like this contributor to the Commonweal blog.

Being Catholic after all, is more than just a cultural thing. It also requires  personal conversion and a conscious decision to try to follow the teachings of Christ as best one can. It comes with struggles and doubt and questioning and challenge. One of the reasons I read Commonweal is because it makes me think about my assumptions even when I disagree with it.

For an interesting take on the “Millenial” generation of Catholics, check out the Intentional Disciples blog. Sherry Weddell, a former Evangelical Protestant, offers an insight into Catholic cliques within the Millenial generation. We call them holy huddles over here…

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