Church in Europe


According to a report on sociological and ecclesial aspects of Spanish society, recently published by the Sociology Office of the Archdiocese of Madrid, the Church is valued in third place, after the family and educational institutions.
    According to the report, between 1970 and 1989, one fifth of Spaniards have gone from being religious to being indifferent and atheist. However, their atheism has lost the militancy it had in former times. In spite of this, 25% of Spaniards say they are practicing Catholics; 32% say they are nominal Catholics, 19% are indifferent or a-religious; 58% agree that there is something sacred about man; and 31% have had experiences or sentiments of the sacred.
    The report, which was published by the Madrid weekly "Alfa y Omega," reveals that for almost twenty years, the number of those who consider themselves practicing Catholics has remained stable; the same is true for those who say they do not practice or are a-religious, and who constitute 19%. The lowest index of religiosity is found in industrial and urban areas.

Four Generations
    Of those born before 1944, between 3% and 7% reveal they are agnostic or atheist. In the second generation, those born between 1944 and 1963, the group that predominates is that of Catholics who are not very practicing; among these, the group of agnostics and atheists is consolidated. The third generation, the one known as that of "change," those born between 1964 and 1973 are marked by the secularization of society. Those who are indifferent or distant religiously predominate over practicing Catholics. It is, probably, the most religiously alienated, conflict-ridden generation to date.
    The fourth generation, which includes those born after 1973, is characterized by a consumer society: 38% of the youth say they are agnostic or atheist. Among them, the sense of sin is virtually absent, which does not mean that they are lacking in ethical norms, but these are secularized and weak.
    The teaching received in schools belonging to the Church, most definitely has an effect on greater religious practice, but only if it goes beyond the stage of grade school. But what most predominates in society is " la carte" faith. Faced with death, a "feel-good," "light" culture tries to lessen its dramatic dimensions, but the fact is that both believers and unbelievers want a religious ceremony for their funeral.
    Almost 70% of youth say they do not belong to any religious association. The sports clubs alone attract more people than the Church's associations. There is growth in the percentage of those who affirm that the Church gives an answer to man's spiritual problems and of those who say it has an important task in the formation of an attitude of solidarity with the third world (77%); in attention to the marginalized and the poor (70%); and with a somewhat lower percentage, in the formation of conscience against genetic manipulations of the human being, against abortion, euthanasia, unemployment and the arms race.

Attitudes of Youth
    What the youth are most concerned with, according to the report, is earning money (46%). Only 10% are "very concerned" about religion. Nevertheless, almost 38% of youth are integrated into religious life in Spain. Values such as peace, justice, and the defense of human rights are some areas where youth reflect greater conviction than their elders. However, they reveal a marked moral permissiveness in other areas of conduct: divorce (83%: the national average is 70%); premarital relations (62% as opposed to 28%); extramarital relations or adultery (45% as opposed to 28%); abortion (64% as opposed to 49%).

10:41am 13/4/99 / Zenit


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