Filipino Catholic youth of today have remained firmly rooted in their Catholic religious tradition, have believed mostly in its teachings about faith and morals, have actively participated in its normative religious services and, in their own private sphere, have sought to establish a personal relation with God.
It is therefore safe to say that Catholicism, as an organized community, has steadily provided its young members identity, meaning, values and purpose in life. It is very likely, therefore, that Catholic education and youth ministry, for the most part, appeared very responsive to the integral needs and concerns of their target beneficiaries.
— The National Filipino Catholic Youth Study 2014
Surprising but true. Based on The National Filipino Catholic Youth Study 2014, commissioned by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines, which groups 1,400 schools nationwide, the great majority of Filipinos aged 13 to 39 put great value on religion.
Consider these numbers from the CBCP-CEAP report (available at: http://ceap.org.ph/upload/download/201511/3193812473_1.pdf ).
Nine out of 10 respondents, of whom four-fifths are 13-22 years old, say religion is very important to them, with another 8.7 percent finding it somewhat important. That’s nearly 99 percent saying God is a big deal.
And 86 percent of the 2,110 respondents, who are mostly from state schools, consider themselves religious, including 38.5 percent very religous and 47.6 percent somewhat religious.
Fully 71.3 percent belong to religious organizations, among the youths polled in roughly equal numbers in Metro Manila, North Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
About 95 percent attend mass, with a third going more than once a week, and nearly half attending weekly.
Half the respondents go to confession a few times a year, with one in eight going one or more times a week.
Catholic and proud of it
To be sure, some factors may have skewed the results. For one thing, 92.3 percent of respondents have Catholic moms and dads, with another 4.3 percent with one Catholic parent. More than a third study or studied in Catholic schools. And a good number of respondents may have felt obliged to give replies showing religiosity.
Still, even if one discounts the numbers by, say, one-third, you still get hefty majorities professing adherence to the faith. Moreover, focus group discussions (FGDs) with selected groups of respondents affirmed their views. Respondents strongly agreed that they took pride in their Catholicism, saw it as important to their identity, felt a strong attachment to the Church, and identified strongly with Catholics.
For session participants, religiosity meant going to mass and other church activities. Half of polled respondents serve in the parish, and 40-46 percent attend prayer meetings, youth camps, mass sponsorship, and retreats and recollections. Four out of five respondents participate in Christmas events, with Easter and Lenten activities attracting more than half.
As for private religious practices, the prevalent ones are prayers several times a day, meditation more than once a week, weekly rosary and Bible reading, and novenas and Blessed Sacrament adoration 1-3 times a month.
I believe in God…
Okay, so Filipinos between teenage and middle age give value to their faith and regularly engage in religious practices. What about belief in key Catholic tenets?
The FGDs seem to show strong faith in core doctrines. As seen in the table of discussion group findings (pictured), in large part, respondents strongly agree with ten Catholic tenets, including God creating the universe, Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, His divine and human nature, the Blessed Trinity, the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the Holy Spirit empowering the Church, and the Sacraments.
Respondents also expressed agreement with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Last Judgment at the end of time, forgiveness of sins through confession, the need for Church membership to be saved, and papal infallibility in faith and morals. On moral precepts, the poll showed agreement with the Church prohibition against abortion, artificial contraception, euthanasia, pre-marital sex, and homosexual acts.
FGDs revealed certain nuances in moral beliefs. While believing pre-marital sex to be wrong, participants find it acceptable if “the partners intend to marry each other, that they are in their proper age, and that they freely do it for love.”
Notably, too, while backing the Church in opposing the Reproductive Health Act, discussants cited the use of contraceptives for safe sex and population control. Moreover, said the study, FGD participants “argued that the Church must not interfere or make decisions for couples especially with regard to the conjugal act.”
So is the future of Catholicism in the Philippines looking good, with coming generations seeming to show loyalty to the Church and agreement with its teachings? We’ll look at the report’s fine print and caveats in future columns. For now, let’s just say things don’t look so bad.