80% Catholic Youth Leave the Church (and how to fix it)

Why do youth leave the Church? 80% of Catholics are no longer Catholic by the time they turn 23. This is an American stat. I don’t know what the numbers look like in Europe. I cannot imagine that they are any better. Youth are leaving the Catholic Church.


I was reading Kevin Cotter’s review of Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell over at the Focus blog. He lists some alarming statistics. Here are four notable stats:

  1. Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing (p. 24).
  2. 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics (p. 25).
  3. Nearly 80 percent of cradle Catholics are no longer Catholic by the age of 23 (p. 33).
  4. In the early 21st century, among Americans raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult (p. 35).

What if I told you, “Only 20% of the students that graduate from University XYZ acquire employment.” You would think that this must be a pretty lame university. In fact, it’s accreditation should probably be re-investigated.

Well that is exactly what’s happening in the Catholic Church in the United States. Only 20% of Catholics that go through our system later apply that faith to their lives when they reach the age of 23. The other 80% drop out.

Why Do Youth Leave the Church?

Youth leave the Church because they have not encountered Christ and His love. Period. That’s the answer. Being Christian entails the passionate desire to be with God forever. That’s what the Christian desires more than anything else. God. To be with the One that loves you more than any other.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Does your Church feel like a community of love? If not, we need to begin there. Young people are looking for love. They look to sexual experimentation, political movements, drugs, and cause groups.

How can we invite them to reinvestigate Jesus as the God of love?

Jesus did not say, “Go ye out into the all the world. Be bitter. Complain about politics. Keep a public scorecard on the mistakes of the bishops. Talk about how hard it is to have lots of children and obey the divine precepts. In doing so, you will draw all men to me.”

Saint Paul reminds us: “do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

Be kind. Show love. Bring others to God (try for seven in your lifetime and convert the globe).

Question: Do you know young people who have left the Catholic Church? What are their reasons? What has been your response? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • PiusFan

    I don’t think Christ came primarily to bequeath to us communities of love, nice as that might be. He came to give us truth and salvation.

    So why don’t we start there? And that would mean bringing full traditional worship back to the Latin rite. And it would mean jettisoning doctrinal abberations that are de-facto dalliances with modern thinking and returning to the fullness of traditional doctrine, especially the Social Reign and Kingship of Christ.

    This may not be attractive to those solely looking for love. But I bet it would potentially be viable with those who yearn and hunger for truth, substance, and meaning.

    • Pius Fan,

      I think there’s a difference in emphasis here. My sense, correct me if I’m wrong, is that you are (rightly) bristled from all the emphasis on warm fuzzy love and kumbaya liturgies.

      Be assured that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m a big believer in the Latin Mass, work with the poor, and old school catechesis.

      You mentioned salvation and truth.

      What is salvation?

      Communion with God who is Trinity. The circumincession of the three Divine Persons is the model for human society.

      The removal sin is the removal of an obstacle. It’s is not the final cause of human salvation. The vision of the Divine Essence is our final cause.

      Also, one can have the truth and not reach the beatific vision. The Catholic Faith holds that one can hold all the doctrines of the faith perfectly…and still be damned. Saint Paul says one can have the theological virtue of Faith, but lack divine Charity. Such a faith “profits him nothing.” James 2:24 etc.

      Again, emphasis. If by truth you mean the Person of Jesus Christ. Yes, if you mean, rightly holding all the doctrines of the faith, that’s not enough. If by salvation you mean the attainment of the beatific vision. Perfect. If you mean removal of sin, that’s only instrumental (though absolutely necessary!!!)

      Good comment and good timing.

      • PiusFan

        While I agree with all these points, Taylor, I’m actually going further. I am going all the way to our recent popes and the dubious things we’ve seen with regard to religious liberty, ecumenism,’interfaithness’, ends of marriage, and the death penalty. The fullness of traditional doctrine is the fullness of traditional doctrine. That’s what we should have and what needs to be restored in its complete, explicit fullness.

        • Stmichael19

          From Matthew’s Gospel:

          36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

          37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

          As Dr. Marshall pointed out, one can still have a great many things (including Faith) and be without Love. Authentic love will always lead a person to God and His will. It cannot go against Him because it comes from Him. Authentic love is a sharing in the life of the Trinity, which in turn is shared with others by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is what the Church is built upon and how it is sustained!

          • ajay

            Good boy! How I long to hear it whenever we spoke about Christian life! I couldn’t find Him saying ‘follow the liturgy’ neither in His direct words (in the Scriptures) nor in His indirect ones (the Holy Tradition).
            Over importance to the liturgy is compared to a reasonless emotional man. Emotion is good, because it adds beauty to the human experience though it’s not the central thing.

          • Ave Maria!

            Ave Maria!
            From John’s Gospel

            “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
            How do you love or obey when you lack the Truth…
            To love someone is to tell them the Truth. I think you can’t have Truth without Love and vice versa… But in certain circumstances one might come before the other…
            My preference to attend a Catholic Church would be to find one who would preach the Truth… Formation of my family comes before community in the Church…
            In the Immaculate

    • fact dragger

      the error here is confusing love with sentiment. he did not bequeath to us communities of tender sentiment, but of love (seeking God’s good for others and taking steps to secure that good)

      • PiusFan

        If we’re going to make this distinction between sentiment and love, then all well and good. I think what I’m saying still holds true. There isn’t going to be true love while the eclispse of the fullness of truth continues.

        • Leen

          It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. I’m a Jesus fan above all else. People get caught up in inner politics and causes within the Church and forget to love and care about others. I’ve been in Churches where there is more concern about how the altar linens are ironed and folded then about the parishioner who’s crying in the pew. That is the concern here. Do we care about the souls Jesus loved and died for? Are we there to encourage one another, as scripture teaches us to do. The latin Mass is beautiful but if it’s celebrated with a bunch of grouchy, self righteous people, it cannot be pleasing to our Lord. It’s not, “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day” OR “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. It’s both. To choose one, over the other, is just another version of cafeteria Catholicism.

          • Karina

            I completely agree with what you’re saying. If and when this is the case, what do you think someone of no power in a situation like this can do? If you can see that people are disconnected with the priest and you yourself feel that way, what can you do? So many people have told me to mind my own because God is working though the priest but what if there’s a problem and you feel like you’re opinion is important for the community as a whole?

          • ajay

            The only time I had the experience of the Latin Tridentine mass was when I was asked to stay by the pews with the faithful (while I am a priest, but not white or European though I know Latin as a language well enough).
            I stayed for that long mass, but I cried after it in private.

  • Nathan718

    I was baptized but not raised Catholic. I came (back) into the Church only a few years ago, around the age of 30. What brought me in were the realizations that:

    1) God exists.
    2) Christ is God.
    3) The Catholic Church is the One True Church.

    For me, the path was Truth, not the Love of the parish, which honestly doesn’t exist where I attend Mass. Of course, others will be moved by Love, I’m just relating my experience.

    God bless.

    • Jakie

      And we can’t say hi to people who come to mass because then we would be stopping other people from praying before or after mass with our noise. I suppose we could try to give a more loving “peace be with you” though.

      • AugustineThomas

        Or make any type of effort whatsoever to welcome people into the Church after Mass.

  • Drexel Gregory Bautista

    Fascinating stats. Do you happen to have a source for them? I’d love to look at a thorough breakdown and analysis of the numbers.

    • They come from the book sited above and hyperlinked.

      • Sherry Weddell

        Whoah everyone. I DON’T say that 80% of young adult Catholics are no longer Catholic by age 23!!!! Please do NOT catastrophize the reality which is bad enough as it is. Because the research doesn’t say that! What I did said in the section on young adults and religious change was “Nearly half of *all cradle Catholics who become “unaffiliated”* are gone by age eighteen. Nearly 80% are gone and nearly 71% have taken on an “unaffiliated” identity by their early twenties.” This is right out of the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey. In other words, of those young adult cradle Catholics who *have* dropped the name “Catholic” and consider themselves to be nothing, 79% have done so by age 23. Those who leave, leave early. But between 10 -15% of Catholic YA attend Mass every weekend, another chunk attend more casually, another group may not practice but still retain the identity or name of Catholic and another chunk have become Protestants. Only a minority of Catholic YA would consider themselves to be “nothing”. A 2012 Pew study found that 30% of Americans under age 30 regard themselves as “unaffiliated” or not part of any religious tradition. Could the original blog post be amended to reflect this? Thank you!

        • Thanks for the clarification. It would also be interested to see how many of these did come back to the Church by, say, age 40 or 50.

          • Sherry Weddell

            Good question. I don’t think we know. i’ve never seen any stats on that issue. In general, about 53% of all US adults have left the faith of their childhood at some point and only about 9% have returned. CARA estimates that on any given weekend, 11% of those at Mass are converts, 11% are “reverts”, 2% are non-Catholics and 2% are baptized Catholics who no longer call themselves Catholic. So 26% of those present have non-normative journeys. Of course, remember that a little over 18 million American Catholics attend Mass on a given weekend or 23% of the “official” Catholic population currently put at 77.7 million. 11% of 77.7 million comes to about 2 million converts and 2 million reverts at Mass in the US on a given weekend.

          • Sherry Weddell

            PS. Kevin Cotter has graciously amended his original article to reflect the real numbers reported in my book. I look forward to Dr. Marshall doing the same here.

          • Daniele

            Many thanks for this clarification.

        • JemLaw

          Thanks for this number clarification

        • Drake

          What kind of clarification is this? And why with such a grave level of apostasy, hasn’t every EMERGENCY BELL BEEN SOUNDED? Rome has lost the faith and become the seat of the anti-Christ, wasn’t this fortold in prophecy? Sedevacantism or some variant is the only honest response…

  • Joyce Donahue

    I agree with much of what you say. Most young people have not encountered disciples of Christ in the Church. Mostly, they have observed adults who belong to the “Catholic club” on Sundays, but live pretty much like everyone else on weekdays. Because of poor or non-existent liturgical catechesis, they do not fully understand the Mass or appreciate the liturgy because we do not take the time and effort to help them love it. Mass is “boring” because they do not understand the importance of their role as hearer (and doer) of the Word or their part in the sacrifice…. and how Mass supports the life of a disciple of Christ. That makes it easy to reject the “Catholic club” and choose a secular lifestyle, because they don’t get the point of practicing a faith that is superficial.

    • dariowestern

      Gandhi summed it up well when he said “I love your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are most unlike Christ in every way”.

  • TaylorB

    Lack of reverence; lack of a tightly-knit congregation; and I think lack of study of the Old Testament, which shows that the Jesus and the Catholic Church did not just spring up in Rome at some point in the early Church.

    • Amen to that.

      • TaylorB

        A year or semester of CCD, in my opinion, should be spent on the Old Testament. And books like the Crucified Rabbi would be a great supplement!

        • the gardener


        • RobinJeanne

          Even though my student are only 10 yrs old, I do plan on tieing in some of the
          information from The Crucified Rabbi, as we go through the year. I put in more
          bible stories then usual late year and would stop just short of the
          conclusion… telling them they’ll have to come back next week to find out what
          happens. Their reaction was priceless. I love teaching 4th grade CCD!!!

  • Andrew Goddard

    …it is stated that the way and method hitherto in use among Catholics for bringing
    back those who have fallen away from the Church should be left aside and
    another one chosen, in which matter it will suffice to note that it is not the
    part of prudence to neglect that which antiquity in its long experience has
    approved and which is also taught by apostolic authority. The scriptures teach
    us that it is the duty of all to be solicitous for the salvation of one’s
    neighbor, according to the power and position of each. The faithful do this by
    religiously discharging the duties of their state of life, by the uprightness
    of their conduct, by their works of Christian charity and by earnest and
    continuous prayer to God. On the other hand, those who belong to the clergy
    should do this by an enlightened fulfillment of their preaching ministry, by
    the pomp and splendor of ceremonies especially by setting forth that sound form
    of doctrine which Saint Paul inculcated upon Titus and Timothy.

    Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae of Pope Leo XIII (1899)

    • I love how Pope Leo XIII (who should be canonized) points to the pomp and splendor of ceremonies as opportunities for conversion and evangelism!

      Great quote Andrew!

  • Franz

    I think there is one simple reason for leaving the church: God is not the most important “Thing” in their life! And so, sooner or later, something “more important” will lead them away from good, sins against chastity, sleeping out on sunday morning, not being made fun of because of your Religion…

  • William Olson

    I’d be interested in knowing if we have any data on the 20% who do not leave – motives, attitudes, etc.

    • JMJT

      I have some personal information on the 20% who do not leave the Church and if you want to call it data, then o.k. I have one son,age 30 who fortunately is still a practicing catholic. He is the only child of a married-late mother,a cradle Catholic but not practicing , and an immigrant father from a Catholic country who was baptized protestant but thereafter unchurched . I managed to marry in the Church in spite of not being a practicing Catholic and had our infant son baptized at the parish of his godmother. When our son was 3 years old I had a re-conversion experience and returned to the practice of my faith. I prayed and was very diligent to try to prevent my son from ever leaving the Church. I took him to noon Masses during the week on the way to the playground.
      We lit candles in front of Jesus’s mom and discussed the holy pictures and statues. We bought some Catholic children’s books at the local religious store, and a few videos also.
      The next step was to find an orthodox Catholic grade school…this took a lot of investigation and school visits and involved travel each day. Things became more difficult at the High School level when my husband and son chose an academically superior math-science high school over a Catholic Boys’ H.S. I attempted to continue Catholic religious instruction by using a Catholic Home School enrollment, since I could not find an adequate CCD for teens. This did not work as well as I hoped, so we engaged a mentor/religion teacher, at first a seminarian, then a devout and extremely well educated Catholic family man. This man was a gift of God and an answer to our prayers on a pilgrimage to Fatima. This man continued to influence and guide and also tutor our son in Latin. Our son attended a small orthodox Catholic College, attended daily Mass and was devout and serious about his Faith.
      He is now married to a devout cradle catholic young woman. I pray every day for them, have enrolled them in Mass associations, and Continue to remind him of the ultimate purpose in life which is to attain Eternal Life.
      On the down side, and this is sometimes difficult to communicate to those who have not experienced it; my and I think I could say our main problem after my re-conversion has come directly from the personnel problem within the Church, including Clergy and lay people who are working in positions of teaching within the Church. One has to pick and choose priests and parishes, and sometimes change dioceses. We have experienced some very difficult times , when leaving the Church has been a temptation.

      • William Olson

        JMJT, thank you for sharing this with me. I’ve been a permanent deacon for almost 30 years and have heard similar accounts from families not unlike yours. It seems as if God has from time to time graced your family with strength to do the difficult (find an orthodox Catholic school), or have others enter into your life who not only shared your values but were willing to help you. I celebrated my 21st birthday on the day that Humane Vitae was promulgated. It seems as if only recently we have began to emerge from the post Vatican II chaos that characterized life in the church. And I’m not claiming we’re truly free yet. God bless you, your son and his family.

  • Nelson

    Traditional mass will turn everything again. Be careful with the liturgy will help every one to believe in Jesus and his Church! .
    We have to pray a lot. look what happens if we pray. Look what is happening in Syria.

    • Judy Kallmeyer

      I am sorry, Nelson, but the Traditional Mass would never do it for me. I much prefer the Mass in English and facing the people. This enables me to fully participate in the Mass, not just be a spectator who has to fumble around in a missal or missalette to figure out where the priest is in the celebration. While I loved the Liturgy of the Traditional style before the change came about, I find the revised Liturgy more conducive to full participation and that is what it should be–full participation by all present. No saying the Rosary or novenas or all the prayers in that stuffed prayer book. The full focus should be on the Mass. People say that the mystery went out of the Mass when the vernacular was introduced. I beg to disagree. The mystery of the Eucharist did not come from the language, but rather from the awesome reality of the fact that bread and wine are changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus. I think that people are confusing mystery and incomprehensible language. The first Mass was celebrated in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Latin came into focus when Christianity became the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire. And it just stayed. There are some things in tradition that must be adhered to. Language is not one of them. I am getting frustrated with Traditionalists who think that the Mass in the Extraordinary Form is the only one worthy of celebration. If that form works for you, then by all means celebrate it. But do not denigrate the validity, the reverence, and integrity of the revised liturgy because it does not suit you.

      • Bill Guentner

        My suggestion to you is to investigate the theology on why the priest should not be facing the people. Again further study should be done on what “active participation” actually means. It does NOT mean what you think. Once you fully understand these two practices you may just change your mind.

  • Alisa

    Cradle catholic Here. I left as a teen simply because church was church.. and it wasn’t lived at home. (church was kept at church). I’m back.. and it was Truth that led me as well. Not love. I had a soft spot for my catholic upbringing (praise jesus) and when an E-Free person challenged me and told me the Catholic church was wrong.. I proceeded to investigate. I pray for her and thank her for challenging me.. because in essence it brought me “home”. 🙂

  • charlie


    After serving with FOCUS for three years, I see the bigger problem is a disconnect within the family and the Faith spoken vs the Faith lived. We have a great lack of magnanimity within the paternal ranks which leads to the destruction of the domestic church.

    You are right in saying that a loving community of believers leads young people back, because it is the desire of their hearts that has been unfulfilled at home. We all want to be known, loved, and cared for by those closest to us and many times that desire leads us to others who ‘promise’ fulfillment: fraternities, sororities (some good albeit), youth groups (99% of the one I attended in high school are no longer Catholic btw).

    Communities like FOCUS on college campuses (with whom Kevin Cotter serves) are thriving because they offer the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Catholic faith and authentic fulfilling relationships. If only we in suburbia and the workplace were so bold so as to create such relationships, our parishes would be bursting at the seams!

  • vaderof3

    Well the power of the darkness using the face of “secular humanism” is very powerful among the youths. Their environments (high school and university) and their popular media has succeeded in making Catholics ‘uncool’ and ‘backward’. We should pray for these lost soul so they might find their way home.

    • dariowestern

      A wasted prayer. Leave the young people to be themselves as long as they don’t kill, maim or injure anybody else.

  • the gardener

    As a convert, I can speak for our parish. For me RCIA was a joke. Anything I wanted to know I had to ask about (the priest was very tolerant with me) It was all the little things. First, I went to the Faith Formation person about the rosary. (This is totally new to me) She handed me a “childs information about the rosary”. When I see the first confirmation kids and what they sing I shudder (Disney would have been happy) I am a retired teacher and know how kids love and respect someone who teaches and care about their love of subject. I know much more is needed than this but without this we will never hold the teen-agers or see them come back to the Church. Just got an invitation to Israel from a student of 35 years ago. Lovely. I have been in this church for 7 years and the bishop has never come. Last spring 71 children were confirmed from several parishes. I think he could have made it some time in the 7 years.

  • Mary

    Lack of catechesis. We cannot love what we do not know. No instruction from the pulpit in 50 years.
    Very little instruction in Catholic schools; poor instruction for public school children if any. Little or no instruction from the home.

    ( “Take up and read.” – Confessions of Augustine )

    Then you will love.

    • Bill Guentner

      Catechesis has been lacking that’s for certain. However, I keep reading here and other places that there is no instruction from the pulpit, no exegesis of the Word, etc. People–I don’t know where you are but this has not been the case with me. I am thankful and happy that the last 4 priests in my present parish have been great teachers. Are you really sure you are not just listening carefully? Just asking.

  • John Smith

    I am a parent of seven boys and one girl, ages 14 to 30. Of these eight only two are practicing catholics and I am doubtful of one of those. That’s 20%! Your question today is one of the greatest burdens I carry now. Today I follow the five little stones: pray a daily rosary, go to confession regularly (monthly), read the Bible daily, go to mass, and fast every Friday.
    But my children’s lack of faith comes from our failure to have raised them properly in their faith. We did all the right things on the surface but did not live our faith properly at home when they were young. Cathoic to the world but we had no personal relationship with Jesus.
    So now we are playing “catch up”; I see my sin in the eyes of my sons and daughter when at Mass or at the table we pray and their eyes look empty and hollow. To console myself, I ask myself did God save Noah because of his sons or did his sons make it throught the water because of their father’s faith.
    I have chosen to live with a long view of life. I see hope when – as occurred last summer – I hiked with my sons in the mountains of Pennsylvania and one evening found myself with a glass of Makers Mark and a cigar setting on a mountain watching the sunset with four of them and a few of their friends. I raised a toast to God for the beauty before us and my eldest raised his glass and said “Yay God!”. I told them of my life and witnessed to them as if they were not family but friends. I told them of my love for Jesus and I pray that they will have that kind of love one day.
    I am 60 now and know that when I was 20 I was invincible. Now, not so much. Time passes quickly and soon enough my boys will turn to God in a most personal way.
    I am a son of a farmer and know that seeds grow slowly if the roots are deep. Patience is a virtue. I trust God who has brought me through so many problems in life and taught me to trust; just close your eyes and take another step.
    The lack of faith in our church is a result of failures of faith of the parents – we are to blame. We need to admit it, confess it, repent of it. Pick up the five little stones and carry them. We cannot walk with one foot in the world and one in the church. We have tried that and it doesn’t work. Only a personal relationship with Jesus works. It is that simple and that difficult. The really sad part is we all know this inherently. We just need to act on it.
    Your in Christ,

    • RobinJeanne

      I am a cradle Catholic and come from a family of 7 kids. My parents prayed the rosary from the night of their honeymoon till my mom died in June. They always took us to church and had us in CCD or Cathloic school but that was as far as it went. % out of the 7 kids left the church in about their mid 20’s, me included but by our late 30’s early 40’s we all came back. My parents also have a deeper relationship with the Lord and they gave us a great foundation. There is always hope. Continue to grow in your faith and (without nagging) when an opportunity arises, share your love and relationship with the lord with your children.
      I like to once a year tell my wayward son… God had you, you were Baptised, recieved Him in the Eucharist and made your Confirmation, He will stay after you all the days of your life till you breath your last, He wants you back….

      • John Smith

        Thanks, good thought. Persistence and Patience!

      • Victor

        (((I like to once a year tell my wayward son… God had you, you were Baptised , received Him in the Eucharist and made your Confirmation, He will stay after you all the days of your life till you breath your last, He wants you back….)))

        So true RobinJeanne, Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation are very important when it comes to The Catholic Faith. Long story short, all our five girls got those sacraments and I must thank my father for that. He was considered a beast by some in society as to what he believed and longer story short, the only one he listened to was our priest who would visit us at home now and then.
        As a Canadian, I’ve got a lot more two cents to put in but I better stop now and if I don’t get all of my say in this world, I’m sure that with the help of Jesus, The Only Begotten Son of GOD (Good Old Dad) I’ll get my chance after death but in the mean time, we Catholics still have Doctor Taylor Marshall on our team now! 🙂
        God Bless Peace

      • Jim

        Sorry but I have to disagree with most of the commentators here. When I’ve questioned a lot of so-called “fallen away Catholics” over the years (I’m almost 80 yrs. old) I hear a different story.
        The Roman Catholic Church is supposed to be a biblically based church but not only is bible study not encouraged in most Catholic churches but many things are taught that appear nowhere in ANY version of the Bible. Just a few examples examples: 1. Purgatory (never mentioned in the Old or New Testament but possibly introduced to sell indulgences to build St. Peter’s Basilica etc.), 2. sacraments other than Baptism and the Eucharist (in addition to what are really religious expression like Confirmation), not taught by Jesus and that were not present in the beginning Christian church, 3. justification/salvation by good works over faith whereas good works should result from faith – the same order as in the Great Commandment, 4. Papal Infallibility – an idea started by some Franciscans, rejected by Pope Paul at the time, only later made “official” at Vatican 1, 5. interpretations of biblical portions that are inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching, 6. preoccupation with liturgy – form over substance – such as EMOTIONAL issues like Tridentine Mass (very little lay participation) and other things we “grew up with” rather than spiritual issues, etc., 7. Guilt just for thoughts created in us by God to ensure survival of the human race, 8………….etc. etc.
        Vatican II stressed ecumenism but the R.C. Church still states it is the “one, true, church”. In some areas joint Episcopal/Catholic, Anglican/Catholic, & others’ mass is celebrated, belying the fiction that all Catholics accept this idea.
        Christ’s “Great Commission” is to make disciples/teach the love of Christ, and teach all nations, and his “Great Commandment” is to love God and love our neighbors. Since some denominations maintained unbroken apostolic succession (bishops ordaining priests) such as Anglicans, Methodists, etc., if these “other unacceptable” churches are doing those things (witness the 5 marks of mission in the Anglican Church for example), why are they not considered by the Catholic Church to be part of the Body of Christ? Many of these denominations still recite the Nicene and Apostolic Creeds which state “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”. (“catholic” – lower case, means UNIVERSAL).
        With all due respect, if the mentioned things are critical for you, by all means use whatever brings you closer to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But please keep in mind that there is more to the Christian faith than emotionalism and ritualism.
        God Bless,
        JC (Yes those really are my initials)

    • charlie


      Thank you for your witness and your honesty. St. Jose Maria Escriva was asked how to evangelize adult children, as well as brothers and sisters. He encouraged them to ask our Bl. Lord that the lost person will find a Holy friend who will lead them back. He also said many conversions happen when someone steps over an established relational boundary in love.

      My children are still young, and I am grateful for your encouragement towards magnanimity at all times in my own life. Please pray for me and I for you!

      In Christ,

      • John Smith

        thanks Charlie.

    • KathyDRECYM

      Wow, John Smith. Yes.

  • Mary

    P.S. We cannot base our salvation on just love. Love is fickle. As so many commented below, we must KNOW the TRUTH which informs our choices and decisions, thus we gain Salvation (or not.)

    We cannot judge our Catholic Church by observing the Catholics; most “are still working on it.”

    My salvation, my Faith, my knowing, loving, and serving Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is a relationship between the Trinity and me.
    Knowledge of the Faith, (thus, Faith,) is like a mustard seed – it will grow if properly planted.
    Truth is symphonic. It will sing in one’s soul. If not today, one day – IF it is planted (Catechesis.)

  • James Finn

    Wow! Love – that’s it! That’s the same argument I made when the ICSC came to town in June trying to peddle their “Rock music is the answer to getting the youth back” debacle in my diocese. Your list:

    “Be bitter. Complain about politics. Keep a public scorecard on the mistakes of the bishops. Talk about how hard it is to have lots of children and obey the divine precepts.”

    . . . add to that “rock and roll bands” and the list will be complete. The feign exterior affectations of rock music will not bring them back. Love is the answer. Amen! (That and the Usus Antiquior, obviously)

  • August Hurtel

    Read 1st Timothy. Implement. St. Paul says women are saved through motherhood. The girls go to college instead. And you know what? THEY FEEL LOVED BY JESUS!!! They are the ones listening to this goopy contemporary Christian music.
    Obviously there’s more than just 1st Timothy, but the basic premise here is we’ve got to stop playing the modern game. This college/career track is a post-sexual revolution balloon that is about to bust. About 15% of people should go to college- by it’s very nature, academia should be exclusionary. If it is not, then it ceases to be what it is supposed to be. And we are not going to be able to pay off all those loans either.
    But to get back to the point, as one approaches puberty, one needs to see the path forward in the Church. There isn’t really a path. We don’t feel responsible for providing the next generation with meaningful work, the sort of work that one can provide for a family with, nor do we realize how vital family formation is. With the rise of singles since the sexual revolution, we’ve seen an anemic Catholic response, in some cases an affirmation of this sort of lifestyle, but when viewed statistically, as part of the larger American experience, it is obvious we are experiencing societal failure.

    Love without context is not very helpful. Nor is liturgy, for that matter. 1st comes the dirty work of having a real place to live, to understand, in a fundamental sense, that the government, academia, etc.. have no right to the seed corn (capital) that young people need to start a productive life.

  • Tracy D.

    I don’t think it is as much about finding a friendly congregation as it is both poor catechesis at the foundational levels/ages; and the fact that these kids are being inundated with a Progressive, atheistic, humanistic message (especially by their professors) their whole time at that institution of “higher” learning.

    • annmc

      That is very true and can’t be overstated!

  • Sherry Weddell

    Whoah everyone. I DON’T say that 80% of young adult Catholics are no longer Catholic by age 23!!!! Please do NOT catastrophize the reality which is bad enough as it is. Because the research doesn’t say that! What I did said in the section on young adults and religious change was “Nearly half of *all cradle Catholics who become “unaffiliated”* are gone by age eighteen. Nearly 80% are gone and nearly 71% have taken on an “unaffiliated” identity by their early twenties.” This is right out of the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey. In other words, of those young adult cradle Catholics who *have* dropped the name “Catholic” and consider themselves to be nothing, 79% have done so by age 23. But between 10 -15% of Catholic YA attend Mass every weekend, another chunk attend more casually, another group may not practice but still retain the identity or name of Catholic and another chunk have become Protestants. A 2012 Pew study found that 30% of Americans under age 30 regard themselves as “unaffiliated” or not part of any religious tradition.

  • annmc

    Yep, my kids and nephew, no longer go to church. As parent we should be praying for our kids, from the time they are born and throughout their lives. As parents we do the best we can, but the fact is that secular society has a strong pull. Their promise of riches and love is an almost irresistible bait.
    Pray that God will make up for your mistakes and failures when it comes to your children.

  • St. Benedict’s Thistle

    As an adult convert, I have to say that your post will be gladly misconstrued and referenced by many who desire the Church to mimic Protestant Evangelicalism, which is what the average Catholic parish emulates today. Although my conversion process began with my own reading of Catholic authors and the Church Fathers, it was formalized in an RCIA program run by the laity, including the Faith Formation Director who ran the children’s catechesis program as well. Basically we were taught that Martin Luther was a wonderful guy, that women should be deacons, and that one of the best ways to serve in the parish is to be a ‘Eucharistic Minister’. The CCC was not used (it wasn’t diocesan policy), and Mary’s role in salvation history approximated that of what the Protestant’s believe. I could go on, but you catch the drift.
    The youth group is run by laity with almost no priest involvement, indeed the parish is run by a deacon who has just implemented an adult catechesis program (on Sunday mornings, mind you) that is based on Max Lucado’s writings (a prominent Protestant). We have two priests who are basically ‘sacramental ministers’. I have seen the deacons (we have four), do almost everything at Mass except the consecration. The priest is almost a footnote. The description of Christ’s love that you describe as missing in our Catholic youth’s hearts has been sold to them and the adults for well over 20 years now. And go figure, the parish has lost half its souls in that same time period.
    I understand how distasteful this sort of description is to many Catholics, but it must be looked squarely in the face and admitted. The average Catholic parish is that far gone.
    Unless and until the situation I described above is fully acknowledged and dealt with, the Church will continue to lose souls. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” I think it is safe to ask this question, “What is love?” What does a proper understanding and expression of love look like in a Catholic parish? I cannot, indeed do not, believe it is merely a feeling, or even a personal relationship with God. I had that in spades as a Protestant. It is not enough. The statistics you cite tell us that much.

    • Marty

      I love my fssp parish which practices the faith as it did when I first became Catholic in 1963. True Catholic culture and catecheses is practiced here and I feel right at home as I once did. There is a “Catholic magnet” that holds me in my parish that I never felt in the other parishes.

      • St_Donatus

        I agree with you. I recently returned and ended up at an FSSP parish. The only parish where the people were truly friendly and interested in me. More importantly, the priest told me the truth without watering it down.

        Yes, some people don’t like it. They want to hear that the sinful lifestyle is okay and Jesus will forgive us even though we aren’t truly sorry for it and continue the behavior. On one side the Church tells people they can’t do this and that, and on the other hand, tell them that all religions are searching for God and are saved. If that were true, why would I want to be in the most restrictive Christian faith. It is easier to be an Anglican or other protestant. I can leave me wife, I can use contraception, I can have extra-marital affairs, I can shack up with any woman I want, I can get a divorce, etc.

        As a child I was taught how important love, respect, and charity are, and that other religions are Godly too. When I was done with CCD, I thought that all that was important was to show love, respect and charity no matter what religion I chose. I left the Church for protestant churches that were more fun, and it was more fun. I just went to Church to make friends and meet nice girls. Finally married one of them.

        What brought me back was a spiritual need for truth. The Catholic Church has it but they hide it under a basket (as Jesus said). No, I don’t mean the people at work that you would never know were Catholic unless you asked them, I mean the Church itself. As I said above, kids aren’t stupid. If it is okay to be protestant, and they allow all the fun stuff like using contraception,allowing extra-marital affairs, allowing fornication, allowing homosexuality…why be Catholic?

  • Maria Cordonnier Bremberg

    I am not sure why we are all pitting Truth against Love. My goodness, both are necessary! There is no need to place one above the other. God is pure Truth and pure Love. We should strive to let Christ work through us to bring both into our parishes. Some folks will respond more strongly to God’s Truth, some to His Love. We can have parishes that radiate the Love of God as well as provide solid catechesis in His Truth. One without the other would be less than what God really has to offer us.

    • St. Benedict’s Thistle

      Scripture tells us that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17). Or, another translation: “Therefore faith is of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

      Here Paul is speaking about the Jews, in particular and their rejection of the Faith. And I think we can take this and ponder for a moment how the Jews passed on their faith through thick and thin of Israelite history. Was it not assiduously taught? Were not the Hebrew Scriptures of utmost importance? Did not both the home and synagogue (after the temple destruction) become primary in teaching and inculcating the Jewish faith? Were not the feasts and rituals of the Jews faithfully practiced, even down to today?
      This is the practical aspect of Love, is it not? Is that what we see today in Catholic parishes?

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    I am going to answer this as a deacon, as a psychologist, as someone who has two sons, and as someone who has been my diocese’s Director of Catholic Charities and, in that capacity, have led numerous medical missions to Guatemala..

    The reasons why young people leave the Church are because of the following:
    #1 All people, but most especially young people, are looking for meaning in their lives
    #2 No person will find meaning in life through carnal pleasure, materialism, and self-aggrandizement.
    #3 People WILL find meaning when their lives (as Pope Francis says) are oriented outward – toward living self sacrificially for another.
    #4 Young people WILL find meaning when they actually go on mission. Yes, go on mission which means that they are being required over an extended period to DO SOMETHING with their faith. If you do NOTHING with your faith, it will have no meaning in your life, languish, and possibly eventually wither away and die.

    The Mormons know this quite well and have their young go on mission for a two year period.

    Some might say that you cannot go on mission until you know Christ; I say, go on mission to share your faith in some very concrete way and you will come to know Christ better.

  • donna

    reason has nothing to do with your analysis which just sounds like new age nostrums. young people leave because of theodicy and there is not ONE Catholic or Christian thinker alive today who is able to credibly respond. Ask any atheist and this is the first thing said and generally with fury and outrage that they should be told they were created evil and expected on pain of everlasting damnation to resist temptations. I am 63 and was a cradle catholic during the glory days of the Church in NYC. I have had this conversation with hundreds of individuals many in intellectual elite. I agree if one feels directly the love of Christ this becomes comprehensible but very few have direct exp. of grace.

  • breadbraid

    contraception is the problem …. get rid of it and we’ll see change

    • dariowestern

      Rubbish. Better safe than sorry.

  • Sam


    I think what Dr. Marshall is getting at is that Charity (love) is the necessary ingredient in everything we do, as St. Paul made so clear. “If I have not charity, I am nothing.”

    I am all for a renewal of tradition and Catholic identity, starting with the revival of the Latin mass. But if charity is missing in the process, we will simply more traditional pharisees.

    As a personal example, the first Latin mass parish my wife and I ever attended was dead as a door nail in the charity department. The priest was warm and friendly, but no one in the parish would talk to my wife and I, even after 6 months of attending parish functions and making an effort to be friendly. We went for the mass, but were completely put off by the frigidity of the congregants.

    We saw one couple that was obviously not of the traditional Catholic mold attending mass one Sunday scolded because their children made a peep (not a fit, just baby noises). They stormed out and I’m sure never came back. This was not unusual at this parish.

    So tradition is not enough. Yes, it is absolutely necessary that we rediscover our roots. But we MUST be charitable in the process, or we will never evangelize. We will shrivel up and die.

  • James Blazsik

    “…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,”
    Truth and love are inseparable, they go together. It’s when we separate them that we get into trouble. If we serve Christ, then we must do both.

  • JoeAllen

    I came back to Christianity when I was defeated and smashed and spit out by this world. This world is terrifying and Satanic, and makes LOSERS of us all. We must tell the young people that every story, EVERY STORY, in this life has A TRAGIC ENDING. Why do BAD THINGS happen to GOOD PEOPLE … ??? Because bad things happen to everyone. Jesus came to give every story a HAPPY ENDING. Without Jesus, there is nothing but … TOTAL DESTRUCTION … !!!!!!

  • Rumour

    My four kids were raised in a Catholic home and now run the gamut of atheist to apathetic. My grandchildren have been baptized but their father (my son) is lazy and my daughter-in-law is unbaptized. She was telling me the other day that one of the kids has expressed an interest in becoming an alter server which would push my son back to church which she has no problem with..as a matter of fact she was asking me questions about the faith..right out of the blue. My question to you all is what resources, books etc would you suggest might be of interest to my daughter-in-law? my goal being to answer questions without scaring her off. Her views at the moment are very secular and not very sophisticated, in other words she gets most of her opinions from secular media and so many of them are so bigoted and uninformed. ie she was asking about Jesus’s marriage to Mary Magdelene.
    Suggestions anyone?

    • Mary

      Rumour, there are so many wonderful books that you should get for your daughter-in-law. Scott Hahn’s books, “Rome Sweet Home” and “The Lamb’s Supper” are terrific places to start. Then look into Patrick Madrid’s books, like “Where Is That in The Bible” and others in his apologetics series. Another good series is the Beginning Apologetics set of books from San Juan Catholic Seminars. Get a good catalog from a Catholic Book Store like Leaflet Missal in St. Paul, MN and you will find a plethora of great books to instruct your children in the Faith. Good luck and may God grant you success in converting family members.

      • Rumour

        Thank you so much Mary, I will look into these.

  • Greg Lamatrice

    And why do young people, or people of any age for that matter, leave the Church? 1)Indifferent preaching from the pulpit. Pope Francis called on clergy to live what they preached. Sadly, too many priests aren’t preaching anything worth living up to. Who is challenging the faithful to elevate their lives? Who is preaching the universal call to holiness in a way that people can understand and apply to their lives? Who is calling people to Confession? 2)Unqualified catechists who aren’t living what the Church teaches. 3)Too much “personal theology” being injected into catechesis either by lay catechists or by priests and bishops. 4)An utter lack of the Name of Jesus on the lips of priests and faithful. 5)The refusal to call sin sin.

    In short, the Church, by and large, at the particular level has provided no challenge, no leadership, no example for people of any age to follow or live up to. I blame seminary formation from the 1960s-1980 and even into the 1990s.

    This is entirely a crisis of the Church’s own making and has little, if anything, to do with the Novus Ordo. To blame Vatican II is to admit to not having read the documents of the Council. The so-called “Spirit” of Vatican II is a fiction created entirely by dissenting minds who sought to undermine and destroy the Church from within.

  • JoeAllen

    Many people turn/re-turn to Christianity once they have been raped and defeated and smashed and spit out by this world. The DIRTY LITTLE SECRET is that this world is terrifying and Satanic, and eventually makes TRAGIC LOSERS of us all.

    We must somehow tell the young people that every human story, EVERY HUMAN STORY, in this world has a VERY SAD ENDING. We must tell them that BAD THINGS happen to GOOD PEOPLE because BAD THINGS happen to everyone.

    Christianity is about giving EVERY HUMAN STORY a … HAPPY ENDING. Otherwise, this world offers each person nothing but … TOTAL DESTRUCTION … !!!!!!


  • Cyclemom

    I know someone who left because of a mortal sin committed…could not forgive self, so moved on to Protestant Church.

  • flankus7

    Taylor, would you agree that even though the traditional Catholic Faith is intellectually rigorous, in terms of the natural law tradition, scholasticism as in St. Thomas, the philosophical foundations of the Church Fathers, the great Catholic intellectuals like Frederick Coppleston, etc,
    THAT most young people have never been made aware of this aspect of the tradition, and so they really do see the Faith as something sort of quaint and behind the times, and not worth really pursuing in terms of it being the truth???

  • Mom of Young Adults

    Friends, I am truly baffled.

    My husband and I were zealous converts who poured our hearts into loving our children as Christ loves us, AND teaching the the truth. I home schooled them until high school. We have truly tried to LIVE our faith, and they have told us that they see us doing so (without our prompting them to say this). They noticed us welcoming their troubled friends into our home, and trying to raise them with a sense of mutual respect, even though we parents are the authority figures. They noticed us loving them even when they did things which were disappointing. We were not heavy handed, unloving authoritarians OR spineless laissez-faire jellyfish parents.

    One was having doubts about his faith as an older adolescent. I answered every question he asked in a respectful way. He tells us some of the best people he knows are Catholic, and he respects the way we live our faith with integrity. Yet he has stopped going to Mass at age 21. An older son, also in his twenties, works on Sunday and, as far as we can tell, is not attending Mass.

    Of course we pray they will return. Of course we continue to do our best to be Christ to him and answer his questions. Yet I must say I did not expect this. I expected them to have doubts IF we were not Christ like to them, or if we never explained our faith, or if we did not do enough to foster a relationship with God… but I honestly think we did a reasonable job in those areas, and yet here they are.

    Have a lot of other parents of young adults out there experienced this?

    At what age/ stage of life do young people typically return to the Church, if they do? Is it typically not until they have their own children?

  • Belle

    OK let’s chat Taylor- I agree with you on a lot of things. This could get long too on my “disagreeing”…I am not for St. Geo. Scouts – things like THAT can drive many kids away from the church. Too much. That is one of the problems.. Catholic education, CYO etc. In a nutshell they are burnt out by the time they are adults. Over churched. It has nothing to DO with the church except that the kids are on “over kill”.
    I have heard your story, and YOU had the freedom to “look around” first and THEN join the Church. As a church musician I worked in many protestant churches when my child was young. We made the decision to let her choose. She did not go to Catholic school as the one nearby was overcrowded and not highly rated. She had friends in other denominations. As an adult on her own in her 20’s she came to the decision to join the Catholic church without pressure . She is an excellent Catholic and at times goes to mass more than I do ! She was married in the church as well and is a “traditional Catholic” none of the “new wave” group. I am the envy of all my Catholic friends with her being so “churched”.
    Now this may NOT be for everyone- and I certainly do not expect you to understand any of this not being raised “in the faith”, but this is how it is for a lot of people. Sad I agree. But this is how it is.

  • Isidore of Seville Fan

    As one of these young people attending a Jesuit school I’m astounded at the complete lack of Catholic events/activities available at the University. I see young people like me everyday who pass by our beautiful chapel everyday and don’t realize what wonders are right inside the doors! We do have a prayer group that meets every night and it has been growing even though many of the people that do go seem to only be Catholic in that Church. They swear and go to parties and do the typical college activities. I don’t know how to tell them that they should not be doing that stuff without offending them. I intend to get Lighthouse Catholic Media talks and pamphlets in the Church and Student Center.

  • Brennan

    “Youth leave the Church because they have not encountered Christ and His love. Period.”

    “Does your Church feel like a community of love?”

    Well, certainly that is correct, yet how is this instantiated? I mean, hasn’t almost the entire Church project after Vatican II been all about establishing a “community of love” in our parishes? So we hear homily after homily all about how God loves us and isn’t our liturgical emphasis much more on “community” now than it ever was? So what’s the problem?

    I am a big believer that it is in parishes where the rubber meets the road and if youth are raised in a liturgical environment like the one I go to every Sunday which is pretty typical the question becomes not why do the youth leave, but why does anyone stay? If the liturgy and its surroundings say “What’s going on up here at the altar is really no big deal, certainly not a “mysterium tremendum”” then why would anyone stay? Why not just leave or go to the local Protestant church where they do popular music much better than the Catholics and are probably friendlier to boot?

    I also believe having the traditional Latin Mass along with the devotions, music, and everything that goes along with it is a means to encounter Jesus and fall in love and desire to be with God. As others have said, we are not pure angels and what physically happens in a parish can either move us closer to Christ and love him or simply leave us to believe that we are simply going through a ceremony which doesn’t mean much. I hope this changes in more and more parishes. God bless.

    • TC33

      Agree completely.

      ‘Love’ will not attract those who are enamoured with the world and its pleasures. As for the idea of attracting them with both truth and love (as good as it seems in theory)… given modern man’s (and even more woman’s) perverted notion of love, the minute you tell them the truth they will not ‘feel’ love but intolerance, restriction of their freedoms, ‘judgementalism’, etc etc. How many people do you know who really want to hear the truth?

      I was sort of raised a Catholic (a lukewarm, non-dogmatic one…novus ordo, basically) and, having left whatever faith I had by time I was in my early teens, came back after more than two decades. (Came ‘back’ is probably misleading…for I did not come back to the NO/Conciliar Church…no Truth to be found there.) Why the conversion? First of all, by the grace of God – which I was about the last person on earth to merit. And thanks to the realization that worldly pleasures and achievements bring no (longer term) satisfaction, as well as seeing how deluded, stupid and basically evil modern “enlightened” men and societies are. And, importantly, thanks to a good, very orthodox priest and the traditional Mass. That was the initial spark; the motivation for actually properly living the faith were the writings and sermons of great saints – especially those nowadays considered nasty, judgemental, scary, negative, etc. I did not need or want to feel love(d), I needed to hear the tough message about why we are here and where most of us are heading… that was what really brought me to fully embrace the faith. The Truth, basically.

  • Lucía

    My son listens to talk radio and was enamored by a Jewish talk show host. He now denies the divinity of Christ.

  • Pingback: Keeping Our Catholic Youth Catholic | liturgy guy()


    To put the matter bluntly, many if not MOST youth are rejecting an institution that tries to DENY YOUTH THEIR CIVIL, CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL RIGHTS–ESPECIALLY FEMALES!





  • Benoit Meyrieux

    Involved for years in youth ministry, I have dozens of young people returning / coming into the Church. I must say that for most of them the decision was not born from a parish experience but rather in meetings/prayer groups. To echo Taylor, the foundational event was to encounter Jesus. Prayer, especially worship (both collective charismatic worship and eucharistic adoration) is key. Then to experience the love of believers, their joy, to hear their testimonies, really awakes a desire and thirst for truth. I have seen countless times, new converts hungry for Catholic theology, for the Bible and on fire to evangelize. And I will add that these conversions are taken place in charismatics prayer groups and that these young people love the liturgy, pray Mary and answer widely God’s calling for Holy Orders and consecrated life….



    • Marybeth

      Perfect example of living without TRUTH.

  • Pingback: A Postmodern Christianity? - BigPulpit.com()



    • Out in the Country

      Considering that the Church existed before the US Constitution and will exist long after the United States disappears from the Earth, it seems odd to compare Constitutional constructs to an institution that has nothing to do with the Constitution. One last note: Typing in ALL CAPS is what old people do. Get with the times.

  • Marie Dean

    I worked with youth and wanted to give the real message of salvation. Jesus’ love for us only makes sense when a person realizes they have sinned against God. Hey, why showed anyone accept the Crucifixion and Resurrection without a sense of the need for redemption. I was told by my superiors to only have youth events which made kids feel good. Nonsense. I knew for a fact that the vast majority were involved in drugs, fornication, and even adultery in a wealthy, top notch high school. But no one on the youth ministry team was allowed to talk about sin and the reason for God’s act of perfect love-dying for us.

    The kids leave because they have not heard the real deal, only nicey nicey. Challenge them. Put the bar for morals and virtue high and they will respond. We have dumbed-down the Gospel. When did the pagan convert? Because so many were fed up with the horror of the pagan world. They wanted to the Good News of Salvation.

    • dariowestern

      Marie, leave young people to do as they please without threatening them with the illusion of an angry, patriarchal God. As long as they don’t kill, maim or injure other people with what they are doing, that’s fine.

  • Alice

    I am troubled by this article because, at least on the surface, it is very simplistic. It is impossible to be a practicing Catholic and not encounter the reality of Christ’s love (I do not mean just feelings which are fickle). What better encounter is there than the Eucharist? Or the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
    In my experience, young Catholics leave the Church because they are ignorant of the Faith. The second question of the Baltimore Catechism, “Why did God make you?” is answered with “To know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life and be happy with HIm forever in the next.” We cannot love whom we do not know. (Even the ancient Greeks knew that knowledge came first–“know thyself”)
    Unfortunately, our “programs” to teach our youth are much like the world’s. We group kids according to age and grade and pass them through year after year regardless of what they’ve learned. Too many parents rely on one hour a week CCD to teach their kids rather than embracing their duty as primary educators. It is tragic really because our Faith is beautiful. Anyone who believes in the true presence of Jesus in the eucharist or who understands who our Holy Father is and what a gift to us or appreciates the grace received in any of the seven sacraments, like Peter, would say, “to whom else shall I go?” Regardless of the problems in the Church as whole or a particular parish, a well-formed Catholic would be hard pressed to leave.

    Our first goal as parents should be to attend to the education of our own children. After that, to teach others in some way. Everyone can teach if they put their mind to it and classrooms are perfect places to develop the kind of loving community you mentioned.


  • Stefanie Diez Huguet

    Three of my four children have left the church. One claims to be an athiest, you cannot prove God exists, so he doesn’t is his reason. The other two claim that the Catholic Churches they attend do not want them or make them feel wanted or responds to their needs despite the fact that they have tried going to several churches. So if they go to Mass it is only at Christmas and Easter and it is usually with my husband and I.

  • 4loveOfJesus

    I quit the Catholic church when I was young out of pure apathy, and rebelliousness. Play time and TV time took over my life, and I had no patience for church..People in this day and age of modern technological advancements, are too busy and distracted to have the quiet time you need to connect with God. .. I don’t think I ever really stopped believing in God, and over time God continued to work in my life. Talk about 1 set of footprints in the sand. God steered me in the right direction even though I didn’t know I was being steered. The love that God has for us is not something that can be quantitatively proved in a laboratory, just as you cannot prove that your wife really loves you.

    When you come to know God, and feel his presence in your life, your doubt leaves you. God makes his presence known to those who search for him. His love far surpasses anything that you could ever hope to experience in this world, including the love of your wife, children, and parents.

    I’m back in the Catholic faith now, and it is the best decision I have ever made.

  • Marybeth

    It isn’t because of a lack of love that the youth are leaving the church, we have been over inundated with the concept of love for the last 40+ years. It is because of the lack of TRUTH. If one does not have truth, they will float until they finally float away… Not having any substance in which to keep them anchored. Faith and logic = truth. Truth MUST be told to the youth in order to them to have an anchor and withstand the hurricane’s of the world. If they have no TRUTH, they will be overcome.
    Love is important, but it can’t stand alone. When one is armed with TRUTH, then and only then can they truly LOVE another person. Love doesn’t mean allowing “misjudgements” to go unnoticed, not discussed or over looked, LOVE means to gently make the suggestions to come back to truth. If we only focus on LOVE, then evil will be able to overcome us. Truth first is the foundation, then love, then action. That is how we save our youth.

  • Mercydivine

    Both my children attended 15-16 years of Catholic school. (was it the liberal Catholic education they received that turned them off?)
    Some information on us. I was away from the church for 14 years.(my parents were very Catholic, my husband’s weren’t) I came back when my daughter received Holy Communion (my husband returned a few years later)
    My daughter stopped going to Mass at 18 and never returned. She’s 40 now and was even married outside the Church (which devastated me). My son left after his divorce about 5 years ago but does attend on Christmas and Easter. He’s 38. (he was married in our Church by the way)…Help! How can I lead them back…..

  • St_Donatus

    Catholic youth have been taught three things in church for the last 50 years, show love like Christ, all religions are basically saved, even atheism, and Catholicism is the most restrictive and difficult of the religions.

    Response to said facts, leave the most restrictive religion and go have fun because we are all saved. Oh, and be a nice person like Christ.

    That is what I learned and I left the Church. If it wasn’t for a hard nosed ‘Latin’ Mass priest, I would still be gone. He taught me that ‘other religions are not saved’ (there is a chance that some outside the Church make it to Purgatory to be cleansed) and Catholicism may be restrictive but it gives us great happiness but only if we practice it fully.

    The Catholic Church is like a lifeboat. We are swimming in nice warm blue water but under the surface are the sharks. The fact that we don’t know the sharks are there doesn’t stop us from being eaten by them. We must get into the lifeboat to be saved.

    Of course, LOVE is a key component but I can find love in all the wrong places. I needed the WHOLE truth and the love. The love can draw me to the Church, but the truth will keep me there.

  • Out in the Country

    They leave because there is nothing there. Just like the Coyote when he chases Road Runner off a cliff in a puff of dust and then puts his hand down to realize that there is nothing there. Nothing. The puff of dust is the phrase “Jesus loves you”.

    I heard Jesus loved me in Kindergarten. I heard it in 1st grade and in 2nd grade and in 3rd grade and in 4th grade and in 5th grade and in 6th grade and in 7th grade and in 8th grade and in 9th grade and in 10th grade and in 11th grade and in 12th grade. It means nothing really. Just a semantic repeated by “catechists” that evidently were not loved by anyone so they repeat it hoping that perhaps they’ll be loved.

    Everything that is valuable and worthwhile has STRUCTURE and RULES around them. Football. Economics. Physics. Art. The Universe.

    But, not the Catholic Faith – even from the mouth of our own Pope. Yesterday we learned from the Supreme Pontiff you can get to Heaven just by following your conscience – with the definition of THAT left 100% to the ears of the listener. Yet more wishy-washy worthless words that mean nothing and confuse everyone.

    Look at it like this: If I wanted to sell you a new car, but would not describe it to you, nor let you see it, nor even test drive it, would you buy it? No. How many young adults have actually seen the Faith, lived the Faith and found out the rules and structure behind the Faith? You guessed it, practically none. And, guess what? Practically none stay in the Church. Duh.

    • You’ve explained the situation exactly as I see it. I’m coming to terms with this right now myself. There’s just nothing there. The state of the Church now, with its new direction and feel, has made me question its claims. I can’t accept god would leave us such a miserable excuse for a church here. Maybe the reformation was justified? That’s what I’m thinking. I accept the teachings on faith and morals (what the Church used to believe), I just can’t accept the teachings about the pope and the Church. By their fruits you shall know them…

  • Karen

    The reasons I returned to the Church after a long hiatus were: 1) Our Lady of Medjugorje and 2) My gratitude for Divine Mercy and God’s gifts to me (i.e. my family) despite of my sins. Many years later, I read St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul and was greatly moved by God’s extraordinary love for us.

  • Mari

    I’ve been Catholic all my life, and what I have found is knowing dogma and doctrine, experiencing Latin liturgies, and quoting the Bible isn’t what will keep young people in the church. They need to experience true acts of kindness on a consistent basis, and leadership that is both strong and humble. They will follow someone who is able to walk their talk consistently and who lives what they teach. They want to be respected and they want someone worthy of their respect.

    Jesus lived the truth He found in the Bible and the truth His Father taught Him. Jesus was Himself and shared that in all His human frailty. He truly exposed Himself and all He was to people. He was real to them without pretenses. There was no fancy car or fancy liturgical clothes. His services didn’t include beautiful gold cups and architectural buildings. He was just Jesus, a person whom even the poorest could relate.

    If we want to keep our young people, we need to be worthy of their respect and loyalty. No more judging, ignoring, aloofness, and hypocrisy. We need to offer community to them; a place to come and know they are loved and accepted because Jesus is within them. We are unable to touch their hearts in a way that they will remember. It is the Christ in us that they encounter or do not encounter. We the community are the problem.

  • Candace

    What the.youth and all of us need is reverence and awe in Christ our beloved. Kids fill their lives with noise, technology etc. do you agree we all need silence to let god talk to us. Bring holiness and good works of mercy to our kids. They need to feel gods love in looking out of themselves and look for others to help.

  • Mike

    This is so timely and I appreciate all the different perspectives in these comments. I come at this as a father of 4 kids ranging from 12-25 and as a CCD teacher for 8th graders for many years. My wife and I have raised our kids with Mass attendance at least every Sunday and encourage them for weekly Mass at least one time during week. We encourage (sometimes “force”) confession once a month. We try to do family Rosary and prayers are said each day. I don’t say this to hold us up or to sound like “holy rollers” as we have our share of sin and failure. Even with this type of home, one of the older kids does not attend Mass every Sunday, but is not completely gone away. What we have tried to do now just at home but in CCD is to teach that God really does love them. That they need to make Him the center of their lives in a relationship that should be first in their lives. To pray and to listen for Him. I have found that most of my 8th grade students are so poorly catechized by the time they reach me, Im really at the basics. And by that I mean we do teach them that God loves them, that he came incarnate as Jesus Christ to save them and open the attainment of Heaven and last and that the while the Catholic Church does not actually save them, it is the bride of Christ and teaches them the truth. I think yes love is important to them, but so is the concept of truth and that Jesus is The Truth and His Church’s message is True

  • Steve Boor


    Your statement – “Youth leave the Church because they have not encountered Christ and His love. Period. That’s the answer.” – is correct, yet in my opinion, highly inadequate.

    Would you not say that, even before you converted to Catholicism, that you HAD “encountered Christ and His love”? I am certain that you did, just as many who have left the Catholic Church do so because they truly came to Christ via some other Christian community of faith – just like my older sister did 30 years ago.

    I agree with the many other commenters that truth is just as important for becoming and/or staying Catholic as forming a personal love for Christ. Isn’t the pursuit of the fullness of truth the reason why you became Catholic after all?

    I see this as another one of the many “both/and” aspects of our amazing Catholic religion – truth & love, faith & reason, faith & works, Scripture & Tradition, etc.

    So, in that sense, I’m convinced that your answer to correcting the problem of the youth leaving the Church is highly inadequate. We certainly need to develop in our youth their love for Christ; but, we also need to convey to them the incredible treasure of truths which He has revealed to and through His Church – the Catholic Church.

    Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

    Steve B

  • defiant12314

    The only reason I haven’t left the Church is because I know that it is the One True Faith

    I’m not sure that at 25 I can still count myself as a member of the ‘yoof’, but I can tell you that being told that absolutely everything that has gone wrong in my life is my fault (somehow God escapes any blame simply by being God and his providence is infallible), that I should be thankful for a horrible life and beg God to continue kicking fifty kinds of crap out of me and then at the end thank him for doing so, and being told that I am ‘praying wrong’ isn’t exactly calculated to keep me in the Church ( BTW the people who tell me this CLAIM that they are doing it for my benefit).


  • john654

    Young people need someone to die for. His name is Jesus! STOP with the watered down BS!

  • JohnnyCuredents

    Yes, I have dealt with nieces who left the Church after a ‘Catholic’ education and encouragement in the faith at home. I’ll take one, my niece and godchild, as an example. She has bought into all the evil our society currently sells, the approval of sodomite arrangements as if they were marriage, ‘atheism’ without content (i.e. she calls herself that but has little notion of what it really means), condoning abortion because it ‘helps’ those in trouble, etc.; you name it, she endorses it.

    I have tried reasoning with her but have had no noticeable success (my attempts were direct, actually writing her e-mails and a long (several page) letter. What is curious is her response, and that of others in her situation: total silence. She simply does not answer, refuses to engage in a conversation in any way. And she uses the same tactic with her mother (her father died several years ago).

    Dr. Marshall, it is impossible to have a conversation of any kind with someone who simply refuses to talk. Since I believe this is not the case only in my extended family, could you suggest what to do when we hit ‘a wall of silence’?

  • Marianne Johnpillai

    Here are some of the reasons young ones give me: boring homilies, Holy Mass means nothing to them and ” does” nothing; music is not like that in the fundamental churches, community spirit experienced in the fundamental churches and not in Catholic church, “Now I really know who Jesus Christ is” , Was not lead to this in the Catholic Church…. to name a few!

  • Jakie

    They have not heard of Catholic miracles (e.g. Fatima and Lourdes) so there’s no proof of His existence. The Catholic Church is so ecumenical that it refuses to teach children it’s own teachings—so they switch to another faith that gives them content instead of just national humanitarian volunteer movements later. They do not believe or know the Catholic Church’s arguments for infallible tradition. They have no idea that the set of teachings the Catholic Church believes was founded 2000 years ago instead of by schism from a Protestant denomination that’s more entertaining.

  • Fred

    And they will know we are Christians by our love………….
    Fire and Brimstone and pushing non biblical (vatican made) rules will not get people to pursue a relationship with Christ. Love, forgiveness and humility are key examples that people need to see true Christians living every day. When they see and experience the serenity of humble Christians, they sometimes reflect and wish their lives could be “serene”. I believe it is at those times the Holy Spirit goes to work on them. Once they start asking questions, then the Holy Spirit works through those answering those questions….the beginning of the relationship…..

  • realist

    In my experience, the hard part about trying to stay Catholic is marriage. I’ve had really bad experiences trying to date a Catholic female. It seems like there is a strong demographic pattern of young Catholic women who prefer Non-Catholics – like the “forbidden fruit.” After 100% rejection rates spanning well over a decade I gave up in 2011. The last time I got rejected I felt like Jim Carrey in that movie “Dumb and Dumber” when he said “So you’re saying there’s a chance!” after getting shot down.

    I feel traumatized by the extreme one-sided rejections. I read a pyschological study of trauma and learned that the brain starts new neural pathways to survive the trauma. In my case, the new neural pathways seem to have given me a genuine desire to (1) give up on Catholic girls without getting mad or sad and (2) move on by dating the women who truly do want to date. In my case, that would be Protestant women – some of whom are extremely beautiful southern belles. So now I have a Protestant girlfriend – a beautiful blonde woman from the Deep South or the “Bible Belt” of Protestant Churches.

    I still consider myself Catholic but don’t expect to have a Catholic marriage. But I do want my children to be raised Catholic. I watched a footall game at St. Thomas Aquinas HS a year ago in South FL – they beat the #1 nationally ranked Manatee HS. I’d love to have Catholic children go there someday. I am 100% convinced I don’t have what it takes to have a Catholic wife (after ridiculous rejections). But I know I can have a Protestant wife but still have Catholic children and stay Catholic in that way. It’s the only compromise I could find.

    I put up with a lot to stay Catholic. A lot of guys just leave in situations like that. I blogged with one guy who said his Catholic wife got pregnant for another man. There are horror stories out there in Catholic dating and marriage. So people leave.

  • Brett Page

    Sexual sin and divorce. There you have it in a nutshell. Why young people are leaving the Catholic Church in their droves. The almost pathological focus on matters sexual. Nothing about social justice. Wealth distribution (watch the arms get crossed when you raise that with middle class American ‘Christians’!) Or talk about an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Or call for the abolition of the death penalty (some believe the right to life ends at birth). These are the things which the young thirst for leadership for but sadly never receive it from Catholic leaders. They’re too wrapped up in abortion, birth control, a male-only priesthood and anti-gay issues. Jesus said little about sexual morality. Even less about a male only priesthood. But he said lots about charity, mercy, compassion and tolerance. Things you never hear Catholic leaders talking about. Or read about on pages such as these.
    God bless.

  • CTK

    Some of the reason is the way that it is taught. Children in lower grades need fun activities. I enjoyed teaching Sunday school. The Director of Religious was like an old judgmental nun in the 1950s. I need not teach anything that was not true Catholic teaching. The textbooks were also watered down. I would call the companies when I found legitimate mistakes in doctrine.The companies were glad that I did.Some leave because of the attitude that those raised in a Catholic school are better than those who are not.

  • George

    Different people leave for different things. I initially left because christianity seemed to me hard to believe and too complex. Catholicism takes christianity and turns it into a massively complex set of ideas and terms, that it is just so hard to tell what is real and what is not or how things tie together. Jesus made things simple, spoke to people in parables and in their mother tongue. The church seems to go in the opposite direction, almost like a church that is in love with itself; Jesus didn’t speak latin and he didn’t write mega complex documents to explain things to people. To avoid looking “too Protestant”, the emphasis of catholics is on the tradition and not on the Bible as much. The tradition side basically is used many times to explain away any catholic inconsistency with the Bible or any strong stance the church may have on something for which the Bible doesn’t really comment on much or at all.
    However, later I did believe in Jesus, and when I went back to Catholicism found myself completely surprised by how much Catholicism has added to what is in scripture. Catholicism has taken tradition and placed it at the same level as the Biblical scripture, to top it off, then concepts like natural law(pagan Aristotelian philosophy) have entered into the Canon via Thomas Aquinas. The church takes strong positions on things that are not in the Bible, such as: contraception(Sin of Onan interpretation is bizarre; reading comprehension seems lacking here), The Virgin Mary as “Queen of Heaven”, praying to Mary for intercession, the Rosary(invented by Peter the Hermit in 1100), ascension of Mary, Eternal Virginity of Mary(even though the Bible clearly states Jesus had brothers), and many more. The first thing I did was to start reading the Bible and the problems started showing up right away.
    The next thing in catholicism is that many churches do not feel like a community. Many catholics are usually older people, and they are usually not very versed in the Bible and will quickly start pointing you to all sorts of church documents other than the Bible as soon as you ask for an explanation for something. This is insulting to my intelligence, and a total turn off. I think of the Bereans every time this happens.
    The last thing I think that is a turn off is that the Catholic church is in denial. Lots of catholics leave the church, the mass is very dry, baptism is a super long process due to RCIA(once a year), parishes are not very vibrant, priests are old and so are most of the parishioners, and many more signs that the church is in decline. So if a fisherman goes to sea, and comes back with very few fish, but others come in with full nets, who is to blame, the sea or the fisherman? In catholicism it seems, they just blame the fish and dwindle away.

    • Leen

      What I had to realize and you need to think about is, There was no “Bible” for almost 400 years. What were they doing for those 400 years? If it’s truly “Where does it say that in the Bible”? There would have been a Bible to refer to those first centuries. There were scattered letters here and there, very little, if any, access to them, very few who could even read them. Jesus never said, “Do nothing, wait for the book to come out, then wait over a thousand years for a printing press and then a few hundred more for the general population to become literate so they can read and interpret for themselves… I say that from the bottom of my heart. He established a Church, a teaching authority. The scriptures, the new testament speaks of, were the teachings from the Torah, there was no Bible in Jesus’s time. If you understood the Mass it’s all scriptural, if it’s boring, you need to dig deeper. It’s not entertainment. Read Scott Hahn’s, Rome Sweet Home, watch the Journey Home, or The best of The Journey Home on EWTN. Read Thoughts on the Journey Home. There’s so much out there. If your parish is dry, be the one who isn’t, get something going.

      • George

        You are right, “sola scripture” doesn’t make sense from a historical point of view. However, no scripture (i.e. only catechism) also doesn’t make sense. I saw a lot of Catholics that are even kind of weary of anyone quoting the Bible lest he be an evangelical. That is a victory for Satan; having christians weary of others that quote the Bible too much.

        I actually have tried to help my parish by volunteering my time and money to create a group. The priest that said he wanted this, almost never had time to help with anything at all and even I had a hard time to make any type of human connection with the guy. I had to basically almost drag him to key events, and he wasn’t that busy, it was just of lack of pastoral desire. I have seen this way too much. The RCC has very few priests, but they are so concerned with managing money and properties that tending to the flock comes only if there is time after dealing with all this administrative stuff. Then they wonder why people don’t come, come to what? The Eucharist? Fine, people show up for an hour throw in a dollar into the collection and run out of the church when mass is over. You have no idea who the people sitting next to you may be, fellowship is almost non-existent and the parish is a zombie. The priests lock themselves away in the castle most of the time. Maybe that is why Jesus himself said that the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to lay His head. Jesus was homeless, and stayed wherever he could, He didn’t live in castles.
        The Orthodox church is thee Church as far as I can tell. They are the only ones that stayed true to the teachings of the early christians. The catholic church has strayed and gone against tradition. In the 3rd and 4th century, the RCIA was instituted to among other things, make sure that greek philosophy didn’t corrupt christianity. But the roman catholic church allowed greek philosophy into the church teaching on the 13th century with Thomas Aquinas and others. The catholic church strayed from christian tradition and uses philosophy to try to read the mind of God, and that was expressly forbidden by St. Paul’s revelation that we should not let anyone lead us away from christianity using philosophy. It’s all in the Bible and the tradition.

        So from a Biblical point of view there are problems with church teaching, and from a tradition point of view there are also problems. When the the schism with the Orthodox happened, it wasn’t that they were trying to make changes, it was the Roman catholic church that was making changes. And the Roman catholic pope was the one that first excommunicated their patriarch.
        So no matter how I look at it, the roman catholic church is no longer the one true church. the orthodox church is the one true church and the catholics are apostates from traditional christianity.

  • Notre Dame Grad11

    I love Texas. It’s a great state. In regards to Catholicism and young people, just from my observation it seems like the “bad boy” type really appeals to many Catholic girls raised in strict Catholic families. Selena Gomez is a modern example. She is a beautiful young woman who was raised Catholic over at Grand Prarie. But dating a nice Catholic guy seems to be the furthest thing from her mind. She instead chose the ultimate “bad boy” type – Justin Bieber. The bad boy types can inflict a lot of damage. Selena has gone into rehab. I am curious as to how the Catholics want to address this pattern. It’s very common in my opinion – a young beautiful, intelligent Catholic women totally falls for the “bad boy” type while being completely without desire for dating a nice Catholic guy. It’s a tragic irony but VERY common.

  • 12thNight

    Children do not remain Catholic because- their mothers become aware of the overt discrimination of women by the Church and stop taking them to CCD.

  • Fr. A

    The New Evangelization presupposes that there is an “Old Evangelization.” The OE consists of assumptions, approaches, methods that don’t produce results. The FOCUS missionaries use the language of win, build, send. These are the incremental stages that Jesus put his disciples through. As a high school chaplain I can’t help but see that the majority of kids in our Catholic schools, while wonderful people, haven’t been won over to Christ. Meanwhile we spend the majority of our efforts in the schools to building them up. Sherry said recently at a conference that we are attempting to build the second and third story without having a first floor (Win– a personal encounter with Jesus). I think the New Evangelization is about us reassessing our approach. If these students haven’t been won over, what are the effective tools that facilitate an encounter with Jesus of Nazareth? The tools that have helped me facilitating encounters with Jesus are being able to: lead a person in prayer, share how Jesus has made my life better and happier today, and sharing the Kerygma in a concise way to the modern ear. I think these tools can be expanded to include a bunch of other things like deliverance ministry, impartation, helping people on the spot receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, healing prayer, etc… What’s around the corner are Catholic manuals with concrete methods to produce results and ministerial internships (e.g., having my lay leaders join me when I visit the sick and homebound to practice praying with them before I offer the Sacraments).

  • Craig

    the people are leaving the MOTHER of HARLOTS!!

    They see the great evil in her!


    The end is coming for her and she shall pay for the blood of the saints she has killed

  • Ex Catholic

    I am not a young person, and I was not raised Catholic. I became a Catholic, after being raised with no religion, at age 20 after meeting my Catholic boyfriend. We married in the Catholic Church and faithfully attended church for 20 years. I even sent my two oldest children to Catholic school for 6-7 years each and taught there myself for 6 years. But at age 43 I have left the Catholic Church and may never go back. I left because I can no longer bear the extreme judgement of the people. In the school, my son was bullied, brought on by the principal himself, who looked the other way, along with the priest, whose homilies were so dry and boring as to be unintelligible. The other Catholic teachers and staff would gossip maliciously and bicker, saying cruel things about others. Our librarian, a highly regarded Catholic pillar of her community, scared the kids to near tears if they defied the dress code in the least little way. She terrified a young autistic girl so much the little girl refused to go to the library. I had to leave the school finally, and put my kids in public school, where they thrived and made friends. But the final straw was my mother in law, another pillar in the local church, who publicly volunteers her time to the church and gives large sums of money, yet in so many ways puts down her family, makes little biting comments, steals things and lies, then tries to cover it up. She tried to make me feel terrible for wanting a tubal ligation so I would not have deformed kids in my 40’s, because the operation is not endorsed by the Catholic Church. The sight of a Catholic Church makes me sick now, and I do not wish to associate with the self righteous, judge mental bigots who call themselves Catholics.

    • Dear Ex Catholic,

      I hope that your experience does not keep you from seeing that there are good people in the Church along with the bad people. I’ve been judged and have experience many negative things in the Church.

      But I have also met many lovely people who have helped me, encouraged me, and carried me when I was all alone.

      As Fulton Sheen once said, “The best argument against the Catholic Church is the Catholics themselves.”

      At the end of the day, I’m not Catholic because I believe there are good people in the Church, I’m Catholic because that’s where I find the love and mercy of Jesus – and that’s the most important thing for me.

  • jpct50

    It is not the “warm fuzzies” it is always catechesis. I have spent years in OCIA and adult catechesis and believe me, if someone truly knows what the Church teaches, regardless of what they encounter from their fellows at the parish, they will not stray. Every person I have talked to who has left the Church for another “faith community” has been woefully ignorant of doctrine. If you know what the Eucharist is then you will repeat the words of St. Peter in the Gospel of St. John 6: 68!

  • michelle

    I have found lack of instruction and charisma and unveiled faith to be the biggest problem, along with zero programs in my local parish for my age group. We’re forgotten, no longer fitting in teen ministry, not part of the seniors groups. ?..where are ppl my age? I cannot find them, I’m 29 and only sticking around by the grace of God. If I was a reader and a seeker, i too might have left. Ewtn and Catholic answers practically saved me from leaving.

  • michelle

    In short, it’s lonely to be twenty something and Catholic. But no one else has the body and blood of christ.

  • Leen

    For me the path to return, after over 30 years of protestantism, was truth. The reason I left the Catholic Church was the lack of joy and love. The joyless, grumpiness invalidated what was I was taught through all those years of Catholic School. I rarely saw true faith and love being lived out. I knew that love was a commandment and a teaching of the Church but I rarely saw it in action. The walk rarely matched the talk. So it made everything seem fake. After years of questioning and studying, the truth led me back. Part of the truth, the full faith, is Love, the love we are commanded to give. I now make it a point to smile, to care. It’s not fake, love isn’t an emotion we have to wait to feel, love is a verb, an action word. It’s also a commandment. Our Lord knew it was important. So smile, care, show love, even if it hurts, you’ll get used to it. If anyone in this world should have love and joy to share it’s those who profess the faith! So make that extra effort to attend a study or function at Church, maybe you will be an encouragement to someone else, that extended hand, that smile during Mass, or kind word on the way out, might be just what someone needed. “Encourage one another…” 1Thess 5:11 “The greatest of these is love”.

  • cececole

    As a catechist, who has taught in parish religious education programs for over 20 years (and this past year taught 3 classes in 2 different parishes)–my observation is not that these young people fail to encounter Christ and His Love in the church, but in their homes. They have little contact with the church community. I don’t need to look at statistics to know what a small % of families make weekly Sunday Mass a habit or celebrate Mass EVER. Lack of prayer in the homes. An overall lack of passing on the Faith by the primary teachers of children–their parents. I teach 2nd grade (First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion preparation). Half of the students started the year unable to pray the Our Father and Hail Mary. My son knew both prayers at 5 yo (as I would bet yours do). At catechist workshops we are reminded that we may be the only person of faith the child comes in contact with. My prayerful hope every year is that the seeds we plant will bear fruit. Yes, there are wonderful faith-filled families and it is a joy to see them. But the majority drop their children off with us and expect us to inject them with faith in 80 minutes a week when they don’t do much if anything to model or teach the faith the rest of the week. There is a certain genius in Pope Francis and his comments about the importance of families. In our archdiocese, Confirmation is celebrated in 6th grade and that is when parish religious education programs end so even that weekly connection to the Church is lost. My parish celebrates Confirmation usually in February–a majority of the children do not even come back to class to finish out the rest of the year in our program.

  • jm

    I agree with those who say that the “loving community” isn’t necessarily the answer, however, I don’t think that bringing back the Triditine Mass is our only salvation either. That being said, we, as a Church, do need to reinstill the sense of mystery in the Mass. But why do people leave? I believe that it is due to poor catechesis. Those who leave have absolutely no idea what they are leaving. Ever sit through a CCD class? My son is being “prepared” for his First Holy Communion, and the class is a joke (I know this because I sit through every class, as painful as that is). Fortunately, we homeschool, so most of his instruction takes place at home. If your knowledge of the Faith consists of one hour weekly sessions that impart minimal information, and utilize a comic book as your textbook, why would you take your faith seriously? And if your parents aren’t going to Mass anyway…

    Our priests also need to be unafraid to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I fear that too many of our pastors are a little too concerned with not offending anyone.

    Finally, our educational system doesn’t enourage children to seek knowledge. Our educational system teaches children to regurgitate facts that have been “spoon fed” to them. Why is this important? You can not grow in your faith if you are not willing to investigate it for yourself. No one can “spoon feed” you the faith. It is something that, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you must seek out, investigate, and pray for…mostly on your own. I can’t spoon feed you Church documents or Encyclicals. You must have the intellectual curiosity and desire to pick them up and read them. The public/private school system, for the most part, squashes this intellectual curiosity at an early age.

    A “loving community” would be nice, perhaps. But I firmly believe that those who leave the Church do so because they don’t know what they are leaving.

  • T.Procopio

    “The truth of libertine atheism is the perception that existence has an intrinsic destination of enjoyment, that life itself is made for satisfaction. In other words: the deep kernel of libertine atheism is a buried need for beauty.” (Alberto Methol Ferre, philosopher friend of Pope Francis I.)

    Fr. Robert Barron, the Rector of Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Chicago, a theologian and great communicator of the faith, has lately taught that in the New Evangelization we must “lead with beauty.” Fr. Barron says that postmodern man might scoff at truth and goodness, but he’s still enthralled with beauty. He says that beauty is the arrowhead of evangelization, the point with which the evangelist pierces the minds and hearts of those he evangelizes. (Most Reverend James D. Conley, STL)

    Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi.

  • Mary Healey

    I would rather read about “Why does anyone leave the Catholic Church? Not just the youth! Adoration of Youth is a secular value and should not be encouraged in any Church that professes to voice the message of Christ. I honestly believe that if younger people found older people being valued for who they are, and not how much $4 they own it would make a difference in their attendance . To be brief, if the values of a secular society are what drives a Church it will NOT keep any person who meditates and wants to follow Christ. It will keep those who need to feel “safe” or those who can purchase$ a position of esteem or favor etc. etc. the same as in the secular world.

  • 51franco

    In my thinking people don’t need to understand the meaning of life, what they really need is to
    know the experience of being truly alive. Many people exist but are desperate for a spirituality
    that will let them experience life. The young leave the church because have righty determined
    that the Cathedral is little more than a meeting house built to a vain end as it now stands.
    It is simply not leading the youth to anything that help their hope for a better world to be realized.
    What they receive instead is dogma and scandal playing itself out in the public eye, Would not they be wiser to dare to seek God without mediator or veil?

  • Drake

    “Youth leave the Church because they have not encountered Christ and His love.” Or maybe they leave the Vatican 2 false church because it’s not Catholicism? They also leave because they are of ill will and most likely have not been taught well. Have you evaluated the state of “Catholic” schools today and compared them to those before Vatican 2? I am 26 and went through these schools up through college. Almost everyone I grew up with who was a friend has lost their faith. They lost it because the novus ordo Vatican 2 teachings do not oppose the world and are not unapologetically pro-Catholic. Sports have gotten into the Catholic schools as a main focus rather than the rosary. There has been a total sell-out to monetary gain vs. standing up for Catholic principles. Even a local Byzantine priest (under apostate Rome) admitted that this focus on sports has become idolatrous. This is why I think the sedevacantist response (or some variant) is the only honest one. The Vatican 2 teachings are not sustainable or Catholic and will implode, as we are seeing. I personally asked multiple “priests” about setting up missions to draw new people in and all of them said that was too “aggressive” and “what we’re supposed to do is pray”. But this is not what Catholic Action books say. Catholic Action supported missionary efforts by the laity with bishop approval. But, according to the false ecumenism of Vatican 2, why does anyone need to convert to be saved? And so no missions get set up, because it is an impossibility, it is superfluous, it is “arrogant” to do so (St. Patrick missed the memo). Young people need the older catechism prior to this new garbage CCC version, need a regular and ordered prayer life, to fast (college kids/adults) as were the traditional norms with every day of lent and Ember days, etc., and so on. Every sort of modern revolution, from dress to music to sexual revolution, have gotten into the Catholic youth’s habits, and it’s a very little leap to discarding the faith once they have all kinds of anti-Christ/non-Catholic cultural habits. Doctor, Vatican 2’s insanity is the problem! The main thing that started me in the traditionalist direction was comparing old photos of my college with the present day – find a “spirit of Vatican 2” college to do it with. You must also notice that the Vatican 2 leader’s words line up exactly with [other] enemies of the Church. Setting aside considerations of Vatican 2, how many young or old go to mass in a state of sanctifying grace after having confessed such sins as pornography use, or contraception, or so on?

    The whole thing is like a nuclear bomb went off in the spiritual world!

    Pray, pray, pray! I pray God shows how to respond to the Vatican 2 fiasco!

  • Sedohr Derf

    Reason for Leaving the Catholic Church—Pedophile Priests—The Catholic Church is morally bankrupt. It claims to be PRO-Life, but has no respect for the lives of the children that it molests. The Catholic Church has paid out over $2.2 Billion in sexual abuse settlements, and estimates are that there are possibly 100,000 victims of sexual abuse by priests in the US. Insurance underwriters have started to refuse to insure the church for sexual abuse. In the end that can only mean that they will have to sell assets, close parishes to continue to pay off lawsuits against them. One visit to a Catholic Church gives clear evidence that those in attendance mass are old, the young have rejected the Catholic Church. The day of reckoning will come some time down the road, when the old die off, and there is no one to take their place. Is the end they will cease to be the Moral Compass they once were, They will in effect committed Institutionalized Suicide

  • Mimi Thebo

    Calling in from the coalface of children’s liturgy and school governance. I feel too many times, when we have the chance in a Catholic school or in children’s liturgy, or on retreat, to speak about Christ with young people, we just can’t resist moralising a bit, too.

    We tell our children that Jesus is for everyone and that he came for sinners on one side of our mouth and then start the ‘being good’ talk with the other. Soon, we are telling girls that to belong to the ‘Catholic club’ they need to cover up their cleavage and keep their knees together. We start weighing in with advice and direction on emptying the dishwasher and chastity.

    And what happens is, our children, who grow up in today’s society, who have sexual encounters and don’t help their mothers and fathers, who might not see their fathers (I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to scream ‘stop!’ when one of my colleagues talks about ‘mum and dad’ as though all of the children have both), decide that they are ‘bad’. Then they feel guilty and in pain, because they feel separated from the Christ we have taught them successfully to love.

    Yes, children need to know what the church teaches is the best way to live. But they need, far more, to be told that they are accepted and loved by Jesus Christ and His Holy Church – that this is a club where they are ALWAYS welcome. Even the week after they read Neitzsche in Western Civ and went too far at a frat party.

    So, yes, the love of Christ will keep our children coming to Mass. We need to stand out of the way and let them have full access to it.

    Love you all,

  • My daughter who is 21 left the church at 19. Her reason was that she didn’t feel God there. My response was not very good. I just told her she really needed to think about what she’s doing. She refuses to go to church with us when she comes home to visit. She’s away in College and doesn’t think very much about her faith anymore. We use to talk about God and church with no problem. Now I feel like I don’t know her anymore. We always argue. She doesn’t wanna come home anymore. I don’t know what to do. Please tell me what I should do.

  • Ktb

    Hypocrisy. Youth today want to SEE adults practicing the faith—-and SO many are just flat out lying hypocrites. Period. I have 2 that don’t attend mass for this very reason—and our parish has a 99% drop out rate by high school graduation. I am a convert—so I see it very clearly.

  • Karina

    I know a lot of people that have stopped going to the Youth group at my church. We all started out about 6 years ago, but the priest there has changed so many things that makes it hard to feel welcomed and not judged. He is creating an “exclusive group” that has “more responsibilities” than “the rest of us” but all I see is the priest is picking favorites from those who try to be “christian”. It makes me really angry that this priest doesn’t see why so many people have left this group, and almost all have stopped going to church all together. Even the deacons daughter refuses to go to the group because of the way he treated her. Maybe some of the issues are the way youth groups or other programs are structured, or maybe its just that the priests don’t connect well with the youth. I myself have thought about going to a different catholic church in town, even though I’ve been going to this church since i was little. I think there might be a huge gap between the people in charge and the youth.

  • Chris Johnson

    Yeah, I’m with Sherry on this. The article needs to be amended to reflect the statistics. The blog is misrepresenting the statistics to an extreme amount and I’m really disappointed this is still not fixed.

  • Sean Samuels

    I think part of the problem is Catholic Education, particularly Religion Class. It took this beautiful faith that we have passed down for many centuries and it made it about getting a good grade. Our faith is something that one can have no matter what their life is like. It doesn’t matter whether you succeed or fail. It’s a part of your life. Kids growing up in Religion class aren’t really being showed that. You can’t connect to God by studying for a test.

  • mikecan

    I can say for me was the lack of catechesis. I returned back to the Church in 1987 (27 yrs old) but that was during my search for truth and even then I did not find it until I was challenged by a fundamentalist protestant. It took me searching and reading books from Karl Keating from Catholic Answers.
    Now I am involved in youth ministry where I try to teach young adults on what the church actually teaches and at the same time challenge them to think. Sometimes I feel like the kumbaya youth groups have done a great disservice in replacing truth with love. I agree with love but to love someone is also to share the truth.

  • Dan Knight

    No. Only one solution exists: Believe it. …. The reason the Church is hemorrhaging members is that too few actually believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Mother, the Church, the angels, saints, and of course all the forces of darkness who oppose them. Leadership and programs and self-help groups and support groups are nice – and no one should nay say those good things, but they will not stop the melt down unless people believe.

    Below Nathan Barontini wrote:

    1) God exists.
    2) Christ is God.
    3) The Catholic Church is the One True Church.

    Hello: That’s it in a nutshell. Every Catholic leader needs to say it. Every Catholic priest needs to preach. Every Catholic needs to believe it! The rest is icing on the cake.

    If you have but the faith of a mustard seed, you could move mountains. The Church is chock full of believers, but we have too many unbelievers filling too many roles. … And disparaging young people for leaving doesn’t help.

    Just sayin…

  • Concerned Catholic

    It really bothers me that this article has not been amended to reflect the true statistics that the author of the book cited in this article actually gave. When looking for Truth, if something like this is not fixed, it is difficult to believe anything else by the author would be credible. I hope it is merely an oversight, but an amendment to this article would be highly recommended–for both the crediblity of Taylor Marshall, as well as the credibility of Sherry Weddell. (Many who read this article will not delve into the comments to discover all the facts. Some may assume Sherry got it wrong, and not bother to check her book to see that this is NOT what she wrote.)

  • Boatman

    I have read a number of the post here and there seems to a draw back to the past via the Latin Mass. The Catholic people have changed. The social climate has changed greatly and peoples attitudes to what’s acceptable. Things that were black and white before are a bit greyer now for example.. a man I know is married with 3 children, his wife decided that she was bored and wanted ‘new love’ and went off and found a new partner. This man is now in his early 40’s. What is is to do ?? Is it God’s plan that he should remain alone for the remained of his earthly life.. seems a bit cruel for a God who loves us greatly. Another example… the use of birth control…it doesn’t make sense to ignore the use of birth control if you have decided that you have had yoiur family… I suggest that few Catholic observe this particular rule..I believe that we have an all loving God..who showed how much he loves us giving us Jesus…Love God and love your neighbour..Do not Judge..

    • Dominique Navarro

      “Most people today want a religion which suits the way they live, rather than the one which makes demands upon them. Religion thus becomes a luxury like an opera, not a responsibility like life” ….Cardinal Fulton J. Sheen You talk alot about what most people want and what they should be able to have and do….but is that what a life of faith in Christ is about? What we want, what we think we deserve? Does not sound life the life Christ lived for “us.” If he is our example then how is doing what we feel like doing to satisfy our own wishes and desires doing that? Happiness is found in doing His will and discerning it rather than doing what floats our boat.

  • The Church is far too lovey-dovey as it is. There’s too much of this hippie nonsense. That’s why we’re leaving in droves. We can’t deal with this hysterical, hyper-feminine, sentimentalism.

    Vatican II and what came after was all about “feeeeeeelings” and love. Look at the massive collapse of the Church since then. By their fruits you shall know them…

  • dariowestern

    It’s because the churches have abused their power over children which is the reason why young people are turning away from organised religion and reading the Bible for themselves (something that the Catholic church does not allow).

  • deserwest

    I am not now nor have even been “catholic”, nor do intend to be, ( I am LDS) nonetheless I share your concern about the incredible numbers of young people leaving your faith. Because I see no meaningful difference between the priesthood claims to authority of many major sects, I conclude that most must be exchanging their faith for nothing. My reasoning is simple, even if the catholic or any other faith had in fact guarded and preserved the original teachings, it would still not be sufficient to guide the Church today. Because you all subscribe to the doctrine that canon has been closed, what remains is the only logical conclusion that can be reached, they are leaving to go nowhere new. Reform without revelation is essentially just spinning it or embellishment of some age old obscure point of alleged doctrine. If I was catholic I would be particularly annoyed at the doctrine being presented on this site, to the effect that the church is the body of Christ. In recent times as in the past, without belaboring the point, there have been many coercions by authority, those being deemed by Augustine as lawful acts. By extension, Christ then becomes the author of your unjust mistakes, because He is the leader of the Church. What the catholic church did to heretics is ungodly and while it can be explained away a different age, there still lacks the element of persuasion in your ways. I suspect you have lost hearts and minds long before you lost members. Your basic mindset notwithstanding many attempts at ecumenicism, is that you in infallible and every other faith is wrong. The irony is that so long as you all hold onto your belief that you are the central authority in all religious history, there is very little you can do other than to hold onto your past status. I would suggest than an alternate mindset, rather than trying to recapture past glory, you all focus on what it is that I admire in some many ordinary catholics, they give great service to the needy The church is the members, you have somehow forgotten that., . .

  • Dominique Navarro

    The reasons why youth leave the faith are many, and while it is not inconceivable that for some it is because they are searching for love and cannot find it at their place of worship, I do think that the exodus has more to do with the generally apathetic disposition of so much of the youth today. There’s is a life of overstimulation and they reject much of what does not stimulate in some way. I believe it is a mistake to try to change truth to suit the current trends and fancies. Until the 1960s the Liturgy had remained, for the most part, unchanged. What changes that were made came about organically for the most part and provided for more clarity. What we have seen in the past 50 years has been unprecedented. It is not a coincidence that along with these drastic changes, and, forgive me but to some extent, a dumbing down of the liturgy and church teachings, we have witnessed a greater exodus rather than a rebirth or recharge of the faith. Love as Christ teaches is a love of compassion, forgiveness, mercy, but it is also a love of responsibility, selflessness, and most importantly sacrifice. It is not about feeling love so much as doing love and giving love. I have been told by several pastors of parishes that “first we build community then the belief and embracing of Christ will come.” It seems to me that is backward. What is this community building founded on? And if it is founded on anything but “the rock” of a Love of Christ then how can we expect it to stand the challenges of the ages and time? No I think we need to stop worrying about trying to bring people back, about recruiting and inviting people, and we should be focussing on the spreading and witnessing of Christ’s truth and the truth of His Bride Holy Mother Church. “Many are called but few chosen.” Matthew 22:14 In the end it is not us who bring people to Christ but it is individuals who chose Him. We can only be an instrument of his Truth if we first believe it with our whole mind, soul, and strength, and live it daily. It seems to me it is incredibly prideful to assume that we have control over who accepts the Truth and who rejects it.