Study shows most Catholic students reject faith

A Perth Marist Brother who lectures at Edith Cowan University last month delivered a report that claimed almost all students who graduate from Catholic education regard the Church as irrelevant.

CLICK HEREThe Archdiocesan Record newspaper reported that Br Luke Saker's study suggested that the extent to which Catholic schools in WA are "fulfilling the reasons for which they were established - the Catholic education of students - is open to question".

The paper says that the conclusions of Dr Saker's survey of 133 Edith Cowan University students - all of them graduates of Catholic schools in WA - studying units that will enable them to teach in Catholic schools in this State, pose fundamental questions for those trying to teach students religious education.

The news comes as a revision of Religious Education texts for all students from Years 1 to 10 is close to completion, while the search has begun for teachers who will teach RE on a full-time basis. (See VISTA 2) Only 12.8% of those surveyed attend Sunday Mass regularly, even though most (55.6%) strongly agreed or agreed that their overall religious education program influenced their religious development.

The Mass-attendance figure appears to be more or less in line with figures discovered in parishes by the National Church Life Survey conducted in 2001, which indicates a serious decline after leaving school.

Mass attendance among those in the 25-29 age group stood then at just 5.6%, for those in the 30-34 group it was 7.5% and for those aged 35-39 it was 12.1%.

None of the students regularly avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; 82% rarely or simply never participate in it. For these students, Reconciliation was described by Dr Saker in his study as "the forgotten Sacrament."

On the other hand, Dr Saker reported, when students have the reasons for the Church's teachings and position on a number of issues explained to them in university classes, they often express surprise that they have never heard such explanations before.

Despite the sobering statistics, Dr Saker also found that students do not feel hostile to their experience of religious education and many feel that it enabled them grow. They also report their experience of Catholic education as generally positive.

But the problems for the Church and Catholic educators emerged most clearly in the 'litmus' test areas of acceptance or otherwise of Church moral teachings, six of which were studied by Dr Saker: Marriage and divorce The majority of students (47.2%) believed that the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and divorce was not "relevant to today's world."

The majority of students (77.4%) disagreed that the use of contraception was sinful and that every sexual act must be open to procreation.

Sunday Mass obligation The majority of students (62.4%) did not agree that missing Mass on Sunday was sinful, nor did they agree with the Church's teaching on Sunday Mass.

The majority of students (69.9%) agreed with the Church's teaching on when life begins and that the abortion of an unborn child is murder, but believed that a woman should be able to kill her child if the child is conceived by rape.

The majority of students (59.4%) did not accept that sexual intercourse outside marriage was sinful or (66.2%) that homosexual acts were sinful.

The majority of students (67.7%) agreed that the Pope has the power to make statements on behalf of the Church, but disagreed that when the Pope makes excathedra statements he speaks infallibly.

The news is moderately better when it comes to students' perceptions of what they were taught and how they felt about their classes.

Nearly 52% of students surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that their RE classes aroused interest among senior students, while 58.6% did not see their classes as a waste of time.

Just under 35% of students strongly agreed they would attend if their RE classes were voluntary. Related to students' needs While 52.7% of students strongly agreed or agreed that they gained a lot from their classes only 12.1% strongly agreed or agreed that the classes were taken seriously by senior students.

In an interview with Record journalist Jamie O'Brien, Dr Saker said he estimates that 90% of students emerging from the Catholic schools system in the state are not practising their faith.

The Bachelor of Education students had all completed at least their final two years of secondary education in a Catholic school; most had spent their entire education until university level in the Catholic system and were currently in their first or second year of teaching studies at ECU when surveyed, with a view to teaching in Catholic schools when they graduated.

Study delivers serious news for Catholic Education (The Record 17/11/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Edith Cowan University - Brother Luke Saker
Study delivers serious news for Catholic Education (The Record 17/11/05 - pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 - warning: large PDF downloads, up to 1MB)

7 Dec 2005