The survey of 701 post-baby boom Catholics, taken by Dean Hoge and William Dinges of Catholic University of America, Sister Mary Johnson of Emmanuel College in Boston, and Juan Gonzalez of California State University, Hayward, asked them what they felt was non-negotiable about their faith. Sixty five percent said God's presence in the sacraments is essential to Catholic belief, while 58 percent said Christ's presence in the Eucharist. But, only 17 percent said it is essential that only men can be priests and 27 percent that they remain celibate. Another 25 percent considered a male priesthood -- and a celibate one -- to be "important" but not essential.
The younger generation also sees little difference between their faith and other Christian denominations. Forty-eight percent said that in their main beliefs, today's Catholics are essentially no different from Protestants. Half said the Catholic Church is no more faithful to the will of Christ than other Christian churches.
One of the reasons for this seemingly lack of faith is the influences of youth media and the misconception of the public as to the dangers. The Hauppage school superintendent came under fire on Thursday after he yanked three teen magazines from the middle school library's shelves because they contained sexual content.
Paul Lochner removed the magazines Seventeen, Teen, and YM after receiving complaints from parents that articles on condom use and other sexual activity was inappropriate for sixth-grade students. "We have a right and an obligation as educators to protect the children from sexual material that we deem to be age-inappropriate," he said. While most parents supported the change, some parents as well as the ACLU, and a teacher's union are considering legal action.
The problem, said Monsignor Ellsworth Walden of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, are advice columns like YM's "Ask Anything: the Lowdown on Life, Sex and Your Bod." They "convey the attitude that sex among teen-agers is perfectly normal," said the priest, who mobilized parishioners to attend a school board meeting on Thursday that ended with a vote of support for Lochner. "There probably are good articles in there," Monsignor Walden said, "but some of them convey values that are in direct conflict with what we believe."