Young adult Catholics ready for change

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Young adults still feel the "call to action," the director of the church reform organization of that name writes.

By Guest Blogger Jim FitzGerald

Next August, thousands of young Catholics from around the globe will gather for the start of World Youth Day. Many older Catholics wonder how young adult Catholics will shape the future of the church.

The reality is that young adults not only still call themselves Catholic, but that they are increasingly open to changes in the church. Whether one looks at the statistics of Catholics who, for example, disagree with the church's views towards contraception, divorce or gays and lesbians, the youngest generations are most ready for change.

Research from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that among Catholics aged 18-29, 72 percent believe that gays and lesbians should be accepted by society. This compares with 55 percent of Catholics 30 and older. Similar research is found by the Life Cycle Institute at the Catholic University of America, which has been tracking Catholic generational differences since in 1980s. Their research also shows that each generation of Catholics grows less willing to give sole authority to church leaders on moral teachings.

We see these statistics come alive in the growing number of young adults who are part of Call To Action 20/30. Formerly known as Call To Action's NextGeneration, these inspiring young adults see the suffering in our church that comes from exclusionary teachings and they are responding. They run faith-sharing communities in cities across the country, they blog about their beliefs, and they take leadership in campaigns for church justice. They are committing themselves to the church and to its change--and they are not looking to the church hierarchy for approval.

What I find most hopeful is that despite all the problems in the church today that could turn these young adults away, they still find meaning in being Catholic. There is still something about the faith that transcends the teachings they find troublesome. Young adults in this generation are willing to call themselves Catholic at the same time that they are ready to call their church leaders to greater accountability and change.

During preparations for World Youth Day this coming year, I will not only see youth on fire for the church, but I will also see youth on fire for change. And that gives me hope, not only for these young adults, but for the future of our church.

Guest blogger Jim FitzGerald is the executive director of Call To Action, a church reform organization based in Chicago. He works with young adults through the Call to Action 20/30 program (leadership team pictured).

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.