A number of recent studies have focused on the religion of emerging adults, those who are roughly 18-29 years old and are making the transition from being teenagers to adults. Some of these findings and thoughts about Catholic emerging adults were shared at a recent conference:
Sociologist James Davidson, professor emeritus at Purdue University, said young Catholics “distinguish between the Catholic faith, which they identify with and respect, and the Catholic Church, which they are less attached to.”
Quoting a wide body of research, including his own, Davidson said eight of 10 young Catholics believe there are many ways to interpret Catholicism and they grant more authority to their individual experience than they do to the magisterium.
“They stress the importance of thinking for themselves more than obeying church leaders,” he said. “Instead of simply embracing church traditions and teachings, they tinker with them. They distinguish between abstract beliefs and principles that they think are at the core of the Catholic faith, and more concrete norms and codes of conduct that they consider optional or peripheral.”
In essence, Davidson said, “they believe that doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Mary as the mother of God, Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist and the need to be concerned about the poor are more important than teachings such as the need to limit the priesthood to men, the need for priestly celibacy, the church’s opposition to artificial birth control and its opposition to the death penalty.”
Catholic young adults are not immune to the complex encounter between the church and popular culture, said participants in a panel discussion on “Sex and the City of God.”…
There is some more interesting stuff here. These discussions sound very similar to the findings of Soul Searching and Souls in Transition: emerging adults are less interested in organized religion but are still spiritual even as this spirituality looks more like “moral therapeutic deism” and they question traditional (or conservative) stances of the church toward social issues.