"There's the bad news for Commonweal readers, and we may as well get right to it: Just over half the young people raised by parents who describe themselves as “liberal” Catholics stop going to Mass entirely once they become “emerging adults”—a new demographic category that means either prolonged adolescence or delayed adulthood, defined here in Young Catholic America as ages eighteen to twenty three.
But now, let’s put that sad trend in perspective: The picture isn’t all that much better for the children of “traditional” Catholics. Although only a quarter of those young adults say they’ve stopped going to Mass entirely, only 17 percent say they’re going every week, and in general, their allegiance to church membership and participation seems nearly as faded as the kids of so-called feckless liberals.
Only 7 percent of these young adults who might have turned out Catholic can be called “practicing” Catholics—if “practicing” is tightly defined as attending Mass weekly, saying that faith is extremely or very important, and praying at least a few times a week. About 27 percent are at the other end of the spectrum, classified as “disengaged,” meaning that they never attend Mass and feel religion is unimportant. In between these two poles is a complex landscape of the marginally attached—perhaps willing to identify themselves as Catholic, attending Mass sporadically at best, and in general living life with their Catholic identity as a more dormant, if not entirely irrelevant, force...
It should be no surprise to observant parents that 61 percent of even the “practicing” category of unmarried emerging adult Catholics report that they have had premarital sex, with 60 percent of those having had sex within the past month—only slightly lower than the percentages reported by much more marginal Catholics. In interviews, even churchgoing young Catholics acknowledge they have major differences with the church’s “unrealistic” teaching in this area. (Surely it’s also one of the reasons younger Catholics are less likely than ever to present themselves at a parish for Catholic marriage.) It’s an impasse of a magnitude that all the New Evangelization and Theology of the Body workshops in the world seem unlikely to resolve anytime soon.
DOES ANYTHING "WORK" in the face of all this data suggesting that nothing does? The authors point out that marriages where both partners are Catholic are more likely to produce children who stay at least marginally Catholic; that fathers’ active involvement in religion is particularly helpful; and that Catholic schools do make it slightly less likely that a graduate will completely abandon practice in later life. Yet even these factors seem to operate on the margins in terms of statistically proven effectiveness. As a parent, you’ll finish this book feeling as if, even if you do everything right, the odds are way less than 50-50 that you’ll see your children turn out as Catholic as you are..."