Catholic Families in Crisis: New Study Finds Catholic Homes Are Spiritually Bankrupt.

The Church teaches that family life is the basic unit of society and that as the family goes, so goes the Church.  If that’s true, then we should all buckle our seatbelts, because we’re in for a bumpy ride.

I am honored to serve on the board of Holy Cross Family Ministries, the organization that carries on the legacy of Servant of God, Fr. Patrick “the family that prays together, stays together” Peyton, CSC. and promotes both family prayer and family well-being throughout the world. HCFM recently sponsored a first-of-its-kind study through the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown on spiritual health of the Catholic family  The results paint a sobering picture.

Every Family is an “Irregular Family”

At the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, there was much talk of the need for new approaches for engaging “irregular families.”  Certainly, such families require special assistance, but at the time, I asserted that I felt this approach, though rooted in good intentions, was both naive and misguided because it presumed that all the other Catholic families were somehow “regular” and doing just fine.  This latest study provides a disturbing look at how dire the situation for so-called “regular” Catholic families truly is.  In truth, only a tiny minority of Catholic families–including regular Church-going  families–appear to be confident in their ability to make their Catholic faith come alive at home.

I’ll be sharing different results from this study over the next few days, but to give you a sense of the State of the Catholic Family allow me to offer a few glimpses at the results of the data.

Mass Attendance

Only 22% of Catholic families attend mass weekly.

Only 18% of Catholic families with an infant attend mass weekly.

Larger families do a slightly better job with mass attendance but still, only  33% of families with 3 or more children attend mass every week.

Religious Education

68% of Catholic parents do not have their children enrolled in any type of religious education.  Only 8% enroll their children in Catholic grade schools, 3% in Catholic high schools, and 21% have children in some type of parish-based religious education (i.e., “CCD”).

When faith education is considered in light of Mass attendance, 42 percent of weekly Mass attenders having a child enrolled in parish-based religious education (though NOT Catholic school) compared to 27 percent of monthly attenders.   But, of course, that means that almost 60% of the most committed families (weekly mass attenders) do not have their children involved in religious ed of any kind.

Many people believe that cost is a serious impediment to enrolling kids in Catholic schools.  This would not appear to be the case insofar as only 14% of families in the upper middle class income bracket ($85,000+/yr) send their children to Catholic school.

Family Prayer

About 36% of Catholic parents say they pray daily but if it is true that the family that “prays together stays together” then Catholic families are in serious trouble.

Only 17% of Catholic parents who pray on their own also pray as a family.  An additional 7% of Catholic parents say that they don’t pray on their own, but will join in if their family is praying.

While about 50% of Catholic families eat dinner together daily, only 13% of Catholic families say they pray before meals every day.


What Does It All Mean?  WAKE UP, CHURCH!

There is much more to the study, and as I mentioned above, I’ll be sharing more over the next few days.  In fact, I’ll be sharing more over the next few months as CARA/HCFM publishes three more reports based on the data they’ve collected.  In the meantime, what this all means is that we, as a Church need to wake up.  It means, that the kids are NOT all right.  It means that Catholic family life is NOT OK.  Most importantly, it means that we, as a Church, need to stop assuming that the families in the pews have been equipped to live and proclaim the gospel and that whatever other ministry we may do, we need to allocate resources to shoring up our own spiritual house, because it is falling down around our ears.

What Can We Do?

In light of this study, every single one of us needs to commit to living out the 5 Marks of the Catholic Family .  We can respond to this crisis of faith in the Catholic family, but only if we learn to start bearing a full and vigorous witness to the Catholic difference in our own lives.  What are you waiting for?  God has great plans for you!  It is time to be up and building!

To learn more about living out the fullness of the Catholic vision of family life, check out the following resources from the Pastoral Solutions Institute…

Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids (COMING AUGUST 2015!–Sophia Institute Press–PRE-ORDER NOW!!!)  Raising faithful kids is a possible mission for Catholic families.  This book exposes the latest research on what it takes to pass the faith onto your children.  Discover how to make your faith the source of the warmth and love in your home.  Celebrate uncommon closeness to Christ and your kids.  Get more out of your prayer life and the sacraments.  Learn how to give your kids a “discipleship heart.”  Let grace COME ALIVE in your family!

Parenting With Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids–Discover faithful ways to respond effectively to the challenges of each age and stage of your child’s life and create they close, loving, joyful family God wants for you!

Then Comes Baby:  The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First 3 Years of Parenthood–Parenthood should be a celebration!  Discover how find a healthy balance that enables you to meet your needs, baby’s need, and maintain your marriage as well.  This book can help you enjoy your new addition to the fullest!

Beyond the Birds and the Bees:  Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Children--You CAN raise moral kids in an immoral world.  Be Not Afraid!  This book shows you, step-by-step how to respond to difficult questions, overcome challenges, and build character in your kids that enables them to make godly choices in every part of their lives–even when you’re NOT breathing down their necks!