Where did 20-Something Catholics go?

Maybe I’m overstating it, but I can’t help thinking that Archbishop Dolan has made it…acceptable…to talk about the sensitive subject of Catholics leaving the church.

We all know there are a lot of lapsed Catholics out there. In New York, it seems that every third or fourth person you meet is a cradle Catholic who no longer goes to church (at least not more than a few times a year).

In fact, the second largest “religious” group around, after Catholics, is probably lapsed Catholics. (Then…mainline Protestants, Jews, lapsed mainline Protestants and secular Jews. See a trend?)

But I think that the Catholic Church in the U.S. was, for a long time, loath to address this painful and somewhat embarrassing subject. When Dolan came to New York, though, he talked at his opening press conference about the fundamental problem of losing people to secularism.

When studies showed last year that something like a third of Catholics have left the church, Dolan addressed it right away.

When he was elected president of the U.S. Bishops Conference, he talked about it again.

He told the NYT’s Laurie Goodstein that he regretted seeing long lines of people on Fifth Avenue heading for Abercrombie and Fitch rather than St. Patrick’s.

He said: “And I thought, wow, there’s no line of people waiting to get into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the treasure in there is of eternal value. What can I do to help our great people appreciate that tradition?”

Since then, I’ve noticed a good number of Catholic blogs and websites addressing the “exodus” from their church. Conservatives say the church needs to be more orthodox, liberals that the church needs to be more understanding and less harsh.

No surprises there.

So it’s interesting to me that Fordham U is hosting a two-day conference, Jan. 28 and 29, called “Twenty-Somethings and the Church: Lost?”

Dozens of scholars will be taking on the central question of why young Catholic adults are drifting away.

An intro says this: “Twenty-somethings raised as Catholics are swelling the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.  Even those who continue to identify as Catholic are regularly absent from the pews and are likely to judge faith less important in their lives than did their parents and grandparents. Yet many twenty-somethings hold traditional beliefs about God, prayer, and life after death; many express spiritual yearnings and the desire to serve.”

One session will look like this: “Sex and the City of God/Hooking up, casual sex, cohabitation, later marriages, and same-sex relationships are cultural realities for twenty-somethings. How does this affect young adults’ ties to Catholic communities, teaching, and values, and their own desires for lives of integrity and wholeness?”


“Frenemies?  Popular Culture and Catholic Culture/The complex encounter between church and culture:  How do twenty-somethings navigate the varied terrains of church culture and popular culture?  How does the church engage the media-saturated, sensory-charged, and socially-networked lives of twenty-somethings?”

One of the presenters on the first night will be the academic Robert Putnam, author of the seminal work about social disconnection “Bowling Alone.”

You have to figure he will address the question of why so many Catholics are Praying Alone or not at all.

A Catholic Bible ‘summit’ in challenging times

The Catechetical Office of the Archdiocese of NY has put on some big conferences the past few years for people who want to dig deeper into their Catholic faith.

But they really seem to have come up with something special this year on June 26.

The New York Catholic Bible Summit will take place from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Fordham U’s Lincoln Center Campus.

The theme is “Living the Word of God in Challenging Times.”

The keynote address in English will be given by Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete (that’s him), an internationally known and high regarded theologian and writer  from Yonkers who has a good sense of humor and is a fine story-teller.

The keynote in Spanish will be delivered by Rev. Virgilio P. Elizondo, professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology at Notre Dame.

Ticket info, directions, presenter bios — and whatever else you want to know — can be found HERE. The conference is being sponsored by the Catechetical Office, Fordham and the American Bible Society.

Here is a line-up of workshop presenters:

Rev. Dempsey Rosales Acosta, Ph.D., St. Agnes Church, New York City, En Espanol
Sr. Dianne Bergant, CSA, Ph.D., Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
Rev. Lawrence Boadt, CSP, Ph.D., Washington Theological Union, Washington, DC
Rev. Claudio M. Burgaleta, SJ, Ph.D, Fordham Univeristy, Bronx, En Espanol
Eleana Salas Caceres, FMA, Peruvian Epsicopal Conference, Lima, Peru, En Espanol
James Campbell, Ph.D., Loyola Press, Chicago
Rev. Virgilio P. Elizondo, Ph.D, Notre Dame University, South Bend, En Espanol
Bro. Ricardo Grzona, FRP, Ph.D., United Bible Societies of the Americas, En Espanol
ValLimar Jansen, OCP Publications, Portland, Oregon
Liana Lupas, Ph.D., American Bible Society, New York City
Rev. James Martin, SJ, America Magazine, New York City
Sr. Margaret Palliser, OP, Ph.D., Living with Christ, New London, CT
John Pilch, Ph.D., Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Rev. Timothy Scannell, Ph.D., St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers