‘Complex Catholicism’ report offers valuable insights for youth workers

Bishop Hudson with Camino House team, Stephen Davies, Danny Curtin
and Matthew van Duyvenbode

Over 70 representatives from Catholic youth organisations and religious orders attended the launch this week of ‘Complex Catholicism’, an new study from the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed) and strategy consultancy Camino House, into the shifting dynamics in the faith and life of Catholic young adults in England and Wales. Bishop Nicholas Hudson was present at the event at Romero House, Southwark, representing Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

In advance of Pope Francis’ Synod on Youth this autumn, the research released on 12 June 2018 , highlights shifting dynamics in the faith and life of Catholic young adults in England and Wales. The ‘Complex Catholicism’ report includes comparisons with the findings of research conducted for a similar study, ‘Mapping the Terrain’, in 2009. Online polling conducted by Research Now on behalf of CYMFed and Camino House in September-October 2017 involved 1005 young Catholic men and women aged 15-25.

The results show a decrease in agnosticism and atheism of 7 percentage points over an 8 year period (from 49% in 2009 to 42% in 2017) and an increase in those attending Mass regularly of 11 percentage points (from 25% in 2009 to 36% in 2017).

The study also found:-

Around 10% more young adults in 2017 are likely to have experienced stress across a range of factors than the comparable group in 2009.
Female young Catholics are more likely than their male peers to have felt anxiety in the past week on every factor measured, most notably ‘about how I look’ (79% female vs 54% male) and ‘about having enough money for myself / my family to live on’ (66% female vs 50% male)

Young Catholics in 2017 are much more likely than those in 2009 to view ‘helping others’ as both an aspiration and an expectation of their life – despite showing little change in charitable activity, volunteering or campaigning.

Female young Catholics say that they have taken more action on social issues in the past year than their male counterparts, whilst young male Catholics are more likely to say that they attend Mass (either regularly or irregularly at 82%) than females (71%).

The research also highlights issues around young Catholics’ willingness to identify as Catholic/Roman Catholic, beliefs about Jesus, and maintaining contact with young Catholics through life transitions. It also finds a huge array of spiritual experience amongst young Catholics, with 10% claiming to have sensed the presence of an angel.

In addition to the report itself, a further document, ‘A Detailed Typology’, is designed to help all thosem working with young adults to apply insights from the ‘Complex Catholicism’ research. This tool describes 12 ‘types’ or characters who symbolise major groups of young people and young adults found through the research. Picturing these young people – their preferences, hopes, aspirations, beliefs and behaviours – can be a really powerful way of extending your knowledge about the young people you’re already in contact with, and expanding your horizons to encompass those you’re not in touch with yet.

Both documents can be downloaded from the Camino House website and CYMFed. Hard copies are available to order. The data tables can also be accessed from Camino House by request.

Clare Lewis