How can Catholics respond to young people’s questions and concerns about faith, science, and modern problems?
Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer thinks a new educational series called Credible Catholic can help.
“The problem of faith and science and evidence is really significant. Just invest a couple hours of your time and you’ll improve not just the faith of your children, not just their sense of transcendent dignity … at the same time they’re going to be a lot happier,” Father Spitzer told CNA July 25.
Father Spitzer is the president of the Garden Grove, Calif.-based Magis Center, which aims to revitalize Catholic and Christian belief among contemporary Americans.
The Magis Center has helped develop the Credible Catholic series, which has seven presentation modules specially dedicated to common intellectual challenges to faith. The presentations can be viewed directly from the Credible Catholic website or downloaded.
“Our hope is to turn the tide of Millennial unbelief,” Spitzer said.
Surveys from the Pew Research Center show a “steep decline” in religion in the U.S. among younger generations. Self-identified religiously unaffiliated “nones” numbered 39 percent among the age 18-29 demographic in 2016, up from 23 percent in 2006. If the trend continues, this proportion will grow to 50 percent in the next five years, the Credible Catholic website said.
Credible Catholic contends religious disaffiliation is being driven by “secular myths”: the idea that science has proven that God does not exist; the idea that suffering proves God does not exist; the idea that humans are just like other animals, made of atoms and molecules, with no proof of a transcendent “soul”; and the idea that there is no proof that Jesus was special or divine, and no proof of his existence or Resurrection.
Father Spitzer has selected seven Credible Catholic modules as essential. They deal with evidence of the soul from medical science; evidence of God’s existence from science; proof of God’s existence from philosophy; and proof of Jesus’ resurrection and divinity. Other essential topics address the question “why be Catholic?”, the nature of true happiness, and why an all-loving God would allow suffering.
The modules aim to address the stated intellectual reasons Millennials are leaving the Church.
When young people leave their faith, a significant minority give up belief in God entirely. Among this group, half do so “because of a perceived contradiction between faith and science,” Father Spitzer said.
In Father Spitzer’s view, young people are being strongly exposed to “a raft of pretty superficial arguments for atheism.”
“They’re easy to address, and there’s a ton of evidence to do it with,” he added. “Once you give all this evidence, it makes the faith look more credible than anything they might have heard from their friends in high school or their professors in college or especially on new media.”
Father Spitzer is a past president of Gonzaga University and frequent commentator on the relationship between science and religion. He has produced seven television series for the EWTN Global Catholic Network. He
In his view, young people seem particularly affected by “a malaise that is arising out of the problem of suffering.”
“The kids just can’t figure out if there is any good that can come from suffering, and why a good God would allow it,” he said. This is an age-old question, rather than a scientific problem, but “it has a really good answer.”
The Credible Catholic modules are designed with the goal that no special training is needed for them. Presentation guides aim to help a presenter lead the module. Individual guides and student workbooks are also available,
At present the Credible Catholic series is a set of 20 modules that serve in a complementary role to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The modules help explain difficult concepts and cover materials addressing issues that affect society today.
“You want to invest in your child’s happiness in moving him out of superficiality to a life of real dignity and leadership for the good?” Father Spitzer asked. “Just please, invest three or four hours in watching these modules. I swear it’ll make a difference not only to them but to you.”
Other planned programs in the Credible Catholic series will discuss faith and morals; the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults; Marriage and pre-Cana courses; Baptism; and Confirmation. When completed the modules will cover the complete Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Credible Catholic series is available for free at www.crediblecatholic.com.
By Kevin Jones/
Photo credit: NASA/unsplash