The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Want to Lose Your Faith? Go to a Catholic College.

Lest you think the above heading is an intentional exaggeration, I suggest you read a study released in February. It examines the beliefs of students at Catholic colleges and universities, focusing particularly on the changes those beliefs undergo over four years. The study, conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), and presented to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, included some disturbing findings.

Apparently, over four years Catholic students' support for the Church's teachings on moral issues declines significantly. The decline is only slightly less among students who attend Catholic institutions than those who attend secular schools. According to the report, released by the Cardinal Newman Society, only 16% of students at Catholic institutions become more pro-life, while 31% moved in the opposite direction, becoming more supportive of abortion. And 39% became more supportive of same-sex marriage. But the most disturbing finding is that their attendance at a Catholic college or university results in no statistically significant difference in students' attitudes toward such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, etc.

Indeed, Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, didn't pull any punches in addressing these findings:

“Catholics should be alarmed by the significant declines in Catholic practice and fidelity at many of America’s Catholic institutions. Everyone expects a Catholic college to be markedly different from a secular one. Students should be inspired to embrace and deepen their Catholic faith, not negotiate around Catholic moral teaching.”
But Richard Yanikoski, President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, didn't seem very bothered by the results:

“...a typical Catholic undergraduate student attending a Catholic college or university emerges more spiritually intact than if she or he had attended a public or secular private institution, but not nearly as spiritually active as would have been the case a few decades ago.”
Now that's a scary comment. I guess he thinks it's good that students lose their faith a little more slowly at Catholic colleges than at secular institutions.

The report of the findings is actually pretty interesting and can be accessed here (a ten-page pdf file): Special Report: Are Catholic Colleges Leading Students Astray?

This study is one more good reason for Catholic high-schoolers and their parents to avoid all those colleges that describe themselves as an "institution of higher learning in the Catholic tradition" or the "...Jesuit tradition"  or the whatever "tradition." When you see words like that you can be pretty sure it's a tradition long since suppressed. Instead, check out the schools I mentioned in yesterday's post. Not only will your daughter or son get a quality education, but they just might save their soul too.

(There is a touch of irony that the report came out of Georgetown University, one of those Catholic schools that lost its true Catholic identity some time ago.)


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