Do Catholic universities produce better Catholics?

A recent study by the Georgetown University Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) surveyed Catholic students to find out.

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) interpreted the study to say that attending a Catholic University has, “little, if any, positive impact on a Catholic student’s acceptance or practice of his or her Catholic Faith.”

The CNS, already not  our biggest fans, pointed out these findings at a recent conference of Catholic university presidents held in D.C.

“Everyone expects a Catholic college to be markedly different from a secular one. Students should be inspired to embrace and deepen their Catholic faith, not negotiate around Catholic moral teaching,” CNS President told The Examiner.

Some of the highlights of the study:

  • 31 % of students at Catholic colleges and universities became more supportive of legal abortion and that 39 percent embraced same-sex marriage (compared to 16 percent that favored  pro-life and traditional marriage stands)
  • only 7% increased attendance at religious services, while 32 percent actually reduced their attendance
  • 12% of Catholic students left the Catholic faith while attending a Catholic institution.

The survey relied upon surveys from 34 Catholic colleges and universities, however, the specific institutions were not named in the study.

2:00 p.m. update: Mark Gray from CARA emailed Vox to note that the article linked to in this post expresses “the unscientific and subjective view of the Cardinal Newman Society/Patrick Reilly.”

11 Comments on “Do Catholic universities produce better Catholics?

  1. Perhaps, the better question is: “Are Catholic universities really Catholic universities anymore?”

  2. I am a co-author of the study mentioned in this post. CARA did NOT find nor have we ever said that “attending a Catholic University has, ‘little, if any, positive impact on a Catholic student’s acceptance or practice of his or her Catholic Faith.’”

    This is Patrick Reilly’s rather selective and inaccurate take on the results.

    In the study CARA did NOT conclude that Catholic Universities are making students “less Catholic.” Anyone interested should read the article which was just published in Catholic Education:

    There are both positive and negative findings for Catholic colleges. Mr. Reilly has chosen to only highlight those that fit his narrative. The full reality can be seen in the article.

    Mark Gray
    Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate
    Georgetown University

  3. Seriously, VOX? Couldn’t you have gone to the source of the study first before republishing CNS’s crap? Instead of just slapping the CARA logo on there, couldn’t you have least verified the information with CARA? SHAME!

  4. Why does this not surprise me?

    Jacob Marat
    Center for Applied Research in the Apostate.
    Georgetown University

  5. Mr. Gray,

    Thank you very much for posting the full study. Reading it, I note that the researchers examined many measures of belief, not just the right-wing points the CNS advocates. Here are the Catholic positions on the issues that were polled (devoid of some nuance, but presented for the sake of simplicity)

    1. Anti-Abortion
    2. Anti-War (except as last resort) and Pro-Arms Reduction (inc. nuclear disarmanant and anti-land mine)
    3. Anti-death penalty
    4. Anti-discrimination and pro-affirmative action
    5. Pro-gun control
    6. Anti-same sex marriage (and pro-heterosexual marriage)
    7. Pro-social welfare & progressive taxation
    8. Pro-alleviating global poverty
    9. Pro-church attendance
    10. Pro-prayer
    11. Pro-reading Scripture

    In evaluating the survey, in addition to the results mentioned (trumpeted) above by the CNS, the researchers found that “Catholic students at Catholic colleges and universities were more likely than Catholics at other types of colleges and universities to move toward the Church’s teachings on general statements of social justice.”

    The survey also pointed out that attitudes toward taxing the wealthy and affirmative action lagged behind Church teachings. 42% of Catholics their junior year believed that the wealthy shouldn’t pay higher taxes, and 43% disagreed with affirmative action in college admissions. In comparison, 44% thought abortion should be legal.

    Of course, the Cardinal Newman Society doesn’t mention this as one of the ills. Patrick Reilly isn’t lamenting the vast numbers of Catholic college students who disagree on the Church’s position on affirmative action or progressive taxation. Or celebrate the fact that, during college, “25% of Catholics on Catholic campuses moved closer to the Church in agreeing that the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns.”

    Hypocrisy at its finest.

  6. And to round out, this quote from the conclusion:

    “Yet even with the data limitations of this study we can conclude that we have not found any evidence, short of movement away from the Church teachings regarding affirmative action in college admissions, that Catholic colleges and universities are systematically making students “less Catholic.” Also, other results of the CSBV survey not included in the analysis above indicate more broadly that students self-identifying as Catholic at Catholic colleges and universities remain profoundly connected to their faith in their junior year.”

    This seems in marked contrast from the lede above, “The study found that attending a Catholic University has, “little, if any, positive impact on a Catholic student’s acceptance or practice of his or her Catholic Faith.” The phrase is not in the original report.

  7. And on almost every measure, Catholics colleges did better than their non-Catholic peers

  8. In conclusion, the CNS is full of self-important gas bags who are no better qualified to speak for the Catholic Church than Al Qaeda is.

  9. So, in other words, both Georgetown U and the listed study are celebrating the fact that most US Catholic colleges are providing graduates who, at best, are proposing a stubbornly liberal interpretation of Catholic teachings, never mind what the whole teaching of the Church–per the Catechism–really says.

    So, when you finish congratulating yourselves, could you please let me know when you intend to provoke this nation toward a genuine Catholic identity? I mean one that truly honors ALL peoples and ALL views, rather than merely the most insistently politically correct ones?

    We can’t expect this nation to act on any genuinely Catholic principle while colleges and universities insist that they’re doing a great job by graduating VERY mediocre Catholics!

  10. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic HS, have two degrees from Georgetown, and I’d rather eat sandpaper than “provoke this nation toward a genuine Catholic identity.”

  11. Pingback: Vox Populi » Twuesday Tweetacular: The season to be jolly?

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