Essay: The researchers behind Young Catholic America underestimate young Catholics' understanding of some very basic Catholic issues.
We have asked about attendance at a Catholic school or college several times since we began this series of studies of American Catholics. The questions were included in 1993 and 2005 as well as in this 2011 survey. The results have been very consistent with what we know about access to Catholic education over time. In general, pre-Vatican II Catholics had relatively good access to Catholic education: About four in 10 attended a Catholic elementary school, one in four attended a Catholic high school, and one in 10 attended a Catholic college.
A lot has changed in parish life in a quarter-century, yet American Catholics are still predominantly attached to territorial parishes headed by a priest pastor. The model is being stretched and transformed, however, by tremendous demographic changes in the Catholic population. Church leaders are struggling to keep up.
In the years since we began this series on American Catholic laity, the Catholic population in the United States has increased by more than a fifth. It continues to grow at about 1 percent a year and even conservative estimates project that Catholics will top 100 million by the middle of the 21st century. The Catholic population is becoming more culturally and linguistically diverse as well, influenced by immigration from predominantly Catholic countries around the world.
The Catholic church teaches that in the consecration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’ ” This is a key doctrine of the faith and a teaching that sets Catholics apart from most other Christians.