From the “Surveys I Wish I Could Conduct” department: Poll every self-identifying American Catholic aged 18-35. Ask them to enumerate the Catholic Church’s five most important teachings. I know folks like Christian Smith have done neat longitudinal studies with American millennials across diverse religious backgrounds to look at faith trends in the generation. But I just want Catholics, and I want the Top 5.
So, for the comments section:
1) Does something like this already exist? Any Catholic stat nerds out there who could point the way?
2) What do you think the Top 5 would be for the generation?
3) What are your own Top 5?
I’ll chip in my own answers to (2) and (3) in a few days. I’m interested in the implications the results would have for the church; what they’d tell us about our formational efforts, including areas where we’re good and areas that need improvement; and what they’d say about this generation of Catholics at large. We might not be able to conduct a study, but I was an English major anyway, so let’s toss around some anecdotes and conjectures.
UPDATE (2/16/11): Before I take a crack at my answers, I thought I’d give a bit of background. The question emerges from my work in professional catechetical ministry the past 2.5 years. I’m afraid millennial Catholics’ understanding of the central teachings of the faith is generally impoverished. There’s most definitely plenty of blame to go around there, but I’m not as interested in that game as in learning where we stand and how we could improve our strategies and reinvigorate the message.
1) Abortion is wrong.
2) Sex before marriage is wrong.
3) Gay marriage is wrong.
4) Go to Mass every Sunday.
5) Christianity is primarily about being a good person.
These are clearly glib and overly simplistic, but I think that’s what it often boils down to.
My own responses to follow.