Profile of Roman Catholic Youth in England and Wales

The Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed) has recently launched a preliminary report on the beliefs, practices and attitudes of Roman Catholic young people in England and Wales during the course of its first national congress, held in London on 27 February.

CYMFed was set up in 2009 as an umbrella body for 32 Catholic dioceses, religious orders and organizations working with young people in England and Wales. It is endorsed by the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Entitled Mapping the Terrain: Discovering the Reality of Young Catholics, the eight-page document can be downloaded from:

The report is based upon an online survey administered by nfp Synergy in August 2009 to a sample of 1,000 young people aged 11-25 (but disproportionately aged 15-19) who either self-identify as Catholics (62%) or who attend Catholic schools/come from Catholic families (38%).  

The picture which is revealed is of a stressed and misunderstood generation whose faith is diverse, complex, multi-layered and often unorthodox. The authors of the report rationalize this in terms of ‘the tireless ability of young people to hold conflicting principles in tension’.

Headline findings include:

  • Although believing in God is ranked as an important aspect of being a Catholic by eight in ten, only 35% of self-identifying Catholics and 22% of all Catholics affirm an orthodox belief in a personally involved God
  • Of those aged 15-25 and describing themselves as Catholic, 54% recognize the importance of a Catholic going to mass regularly, but only 37% claim to go to mass or another religious service monthly or more frequently (with 17% never going) and just 16% say that going to mass is important to them personally
  • Commitment to orthodox Catholic beliefs and practices falls sharply across the age bands, with those aged 11-14 being most devout, 57% of whom believe in a creator God who is personally involved in the world, and 64% attend mass regularly  
  • 43% of self-identifying Catholics consider that religions cause more harm than good, 36% that people should keep their religious views to themselves to avoid hurting the feelings of others, and only 22% approve of somebody trying to convert another person to his or her religion
  • 83% of respondents describe the Catholic Church in terms of a cluster of adjectives such as authoritative, boring, cautious, conservative, established, exclusive or traditional

CYMFed has indicated that a fuller report on the survey will be published in autumn 2010, to include comparative national and denominational statistics.

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