Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Catholics Leave The Church

A new study from the Pew Forum has isolated some of the reasons that Catholics leave the Church. I have been sitting on this for a few days trying to sort out some of my thoughts. There are many making comments on the issue already including this story from CNA, which quotes the author in one conclusion based on the study:
Adolescence is a critical time in religious development and, as the poll shows, what happens in the teen years has a long-lasting affect. We have to help young people and their parents appreciate the importance of going to weekly Mass so teenagers know Jesus is there for them now and always.
That quote and this graphic really struck me.

My initial thoughts were that the three factors above made no difference, statistically speaking, in whether one stayed Catholic or not. So, I asked a friend who has a Ph.D. in statistics, who I run all stat questions by, to look at my conclusion. He wrote me back and said:
Here’s my stat answer: not exactly.
I tried to extract the raw numbers, and it would have been nice to be able to disentangle the overlaps (i.e. if someone had two or more of the formation categories), consequently I can’t examine all three factors simultaneously. Apart from that, here’s what I see from the data:
  • There are no significant pair wise differences in retention rates for Catholics who attended either RE or youth groups.
  • There is a significant pair wise difference in retention rates for those who attended Catholic high school. Approximately 1 out of 3 students remained Catholic if they attended Catholic high school, compared to slightly over 1 in 4 of those who did not. To put another way, a person who was Catholic and attended a Catholic high school is 33% more likely to remain Catholic.
I didn’t look into the source material. I don’t suspect there are school quality measures or anything else to reflect differences among Catholic schools.
The best conclusion from this study might then be that raising your kids "Catholic" means more than dropping them off at RE and sending them to a Catholic school. We have to truly "hand on" the faith in the family. We have to live it, breathe it, pray it, talk about it, reflect it, and enflesh it.

God does the rest. But, we probably already knew that.


tour86rocker said...

I have to agree that the things that make a difference are unable to be quantified, recorded, etc.

Baba said...

I wonder how many who attend Catholic schools and all those other options still leave the church because of something that was done or was said (or NOT said) to them by a priest or a sister.