If Orange County parents are looking to a Catholic university to help their children become better Catholics, they need to take a better look.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), attending a Catholic college or university has little, if any, positive impact on a Catholic student’s acceptance or practice of his or her Catholic Faith.
The report was released to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), at a historic gathering of Catholic college presidents in Washington, D.C.
The Cardinal Newman Society, which supports Catholic students on both secular and campuses, was quick to point out the alarming findings.
“Catholics should be alarmed by the significant declines in Catholic practice and fidelity at many of America’s Catholic institutions,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS). “Everyone expects a Catholic college to be markedly different from a secular one. Students should be inspired to embrace and deepen their Catholic faith, not negotiate around Catholic moral teaching.”
The CARA study reported that:
- 31 % of students at Catholic colleges and universities became more supportive of legal abortion and that 39 percent embraced same-sex marriage (compared to 16 percent that favored pro-life and traditional marriage stands);
- only 7% increased attendance at religious services, while 32 percent actually reduced their attendance;
- 12% of Catholic students left the Catholic faith while attending a Catholic institution.
Reacting to the study ACCU president Richard Yanikoski argued that the loss of faith at Catholic colleges reflected societal trends. He pointed out that “Despite CARA’s analysis, a typical Catholic undergraduate student attending a Catholic college or university emerged more spiritually intact than if she or he had attended a public or secular private institution, but not nearly as spiritually active as would have been the case a few decades ago.”
“That’s hardly something to celebrate,” responded CNS president Patrick J. Reilly, “if the ACCU thinks it’s a happy fact that Catholics lose their faith somewhat slower at Catholic colleges than elsewhere, then they fail to appreciate the concerns of faithful Catholic families.”
The CARA study confirmed 2003 research by The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), which reported significant declines in student support for Catholic moral teaching on abortion, marriage and sexuality.
In October 2008, The Cardinal Newman Society retained the reputable Washington, D.C., polling firm QEV Analytics to study practices and beliefs of students at Catholic colleges and universities. This research reported that:
- nearly 1 in 5 students knew another student who had or paid for an abortion;
- 46% of current and recent students—and 50% of females—said they engaged in sex outside of marriage;
- 84% said they had friends who engaged in premarital sex;
- 60% agreed strongly or somewhat that abortion should be legal;
- 60% agreed strongly or somewhat that premarital sex is not a sin;
- 78% disagreed strongly or somewhat that using a condom to prevent pregnancy was a serious sin;
- 57% agreed strongly or somewhat that same-sex “marriage” should be legal;
- 57% said the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their participation in Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation;
- 54% of respondents said that their experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church;
- 56% said their Catholic college experience had no effect on their respect for the Pope and bishops.
This report drew on survey data from 34 Catholic institutions as a whole but did not identify them individually.
There are several Catholic colleges and universities like Ave Maria University in Florida and The Franciscan University in Steubenville (Ohio) that do in fact emphasize spiritual growth and fidelity to Catholic teaching. They can be found in the The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College (www.TheNewmanGuide.com).
OC parents who want their college bound children to have a Catholic education should consider this required reading.
Both the 2008 and the 2003 CNS reports can be found at www.CatholicHigherEd.org.
How Catholic are our Catholic universities?