Friday, November 11, 2005

Kids These Days

I actually was not particularly surprised to read this report at CNS of religiosity among Catholic teens. In particular, I found this remark hauntingly clowse to home:
Forty percent of Catholic teens said they had never attended any parish-based religious education, compared to 19 percent of mainline Protestants, 13 percent of conservative Protestants and 12 percent of black Protestants.
My parish does not have a Catholic school, so we provide our own religious education through a parish program that serves both Athens parishes. Attendance is not too bad among those who sign up for it, but not everyone who is supposed to be getting Catholic education is signing up for it. True, it does cost money, but we have scholarships for those who can't afford to pay: nobody in either parish has any excuse for not signing up.

The real problem is that there are some folks who just don't understand that they are required, by Canon Law, to get a religious education for their children. Catholic parents are required to send their children to a Catholic school if there is one available to them and, failing that, they are required to obtain religious education from the Church. Homeschooling is allowed only with the permission of the bishop and in compliance with diocesan standards. If parents themselves don't understand the duties and obligations that come with membership in the Church, then it is hardly surprising to find that the children haven't cultivated very impressive religious values either.

One reason why some parents may not fully understand the duties and obligations that come with being Catholic may be that some parents do not understand what it even means for themselves to be a Catholic. There are some folks who call themselves Catholic principally because that was what they were raised to do, but who do not have very deep committments to the teachings of the faith itself, assuming that they even know what the teachings are beyond some vague princples like "Attend Mass if it's not too inconvenient." I don't know how many such folk there are in the Church, but I do know that there are some, and I suspect that it will be the children of these kinds of people who will have the least interest in getting involved in religious activities.

I sometimes wonder about my own level of committment to religious principles, and I consider myself a pretty religious guy. I worry constantly that my inner attitude is not what it ought to be, that my prayer life is not enough in the spirit of "Thy will be done." These are, in my opinon, important worries to have because they seem to me to reflect "where I'm at" spiritually, so to speak. So when I run into people who think that the Real Presence is not a teaching that needs to be taken all that seriously (certainly not literally!), then I know that I am in the presence of someone who needs to rethink his/her committment to the whole notion of participation in a religious institution. I sometimes think that what is needed is a body of believers whose attitude is more like the attitude that must have been present in the early Church, when committment to the Church's principles was actually something dangerous. It is relatively easy to make such committments today, and indeed in some contexts doing so may bring with it certain kinds of rewards in the form of social acceptance or even status.

Sadly, I'm not all that sure what I would do if I found myself in context where my religious committments were literally dangerous. But at least I'm sad about that. I fear there may be some folks to whom it never even occurs to be grateful that things are otherwise. Until we take these things more seriously--much more seriously--we can't expect our children to take them very seriously either.

3 comments:

Tom P. said...

Beth does not get any religious education. We were sending her to Catholic school until 2 years ago but we were increasingly unhappy with the quality of the education she was receiving. She now attends public school where she is doing wonderfully. But more than that, the moral education she receives there is much better. I have to admit that over the last few years I became increasingly angry at our Catholic church over issues that arose with Mikey. You would think that a disabled child would be welcomed into the community. But I digress.

Scott Carson said...

That's really too bad about Mikey. Have you thought of homeschooling the religious education part? That's what a lot of folks around here do. I'm not sure if it's because they don't like what the parish program has to offer or whether it's just a general preference for taking care of that sort of thing at home. But I've thought of doing it myself, since the parish program only meets once a week for 26 weeks, and what kind of religious "education" is that? There used to be a Catholic school here, but it closed years ago as enrollments declined.

dilexitprior said...

My diocese has a religious order that runs religious education for special needs children and sacramental prep for special needs adults. It's amazing! I wonder if your diocese has any similar programs... my sister has severe learning disabilities and did the normal religious ed program, although as she says "they just let me get confirmed, I didn't HAVE TO know anything." I don't think that's true though... I mean, maybe she didn't memorize the prayers and such, but she knows more than she gives herself credit for.

As a catechist for my parish religious ed program my big frustration is that parents send their kids to religious ed and think that qualifies for the "raising the children in the Faith" aspect of their marriage vows. It doesn't. It's part, but it doesn't fulfill their obligations. I'm only their to support them in forming their children in the Faith, the real formation needs to come from within the home. But then again, if the kids aren't getting it at home I guess it's better that they get it somewhere than nowhere at all.