“The Catholic Church in Spain is on course for becoming “a sect” asserted sociologist Francisco Carmona yesterday.
Speaking during the presentation of a report entitled “Youth and Religion in the Year 2000”, Carmona affirmed that the trend shows Catholic following to be in decline in the country both numerically and in sociological terms. The study, which was carried out amongst young people aged between 13 and 26, the majority of them college or university students still living in the family home, provides evidence that only approximately 5 percent of those interviewed adhere to traditional Catholic teaching and practice, above all “in matters of sexuality”. Francisco Carmona believes that current relations between young people and the Church are not healthy. Only one in three people researched declared themselves to be practising Catholics, one in every ten claimed to attend Mass on Sundays and “only 10 percent of these fine, young Catholics believe that the Church offers ideas and values to act as a guideline for life”. These figures are in stark contrast to a study undertaken in 1960, when, according to Carmona's research, nearly all the young people interviewed in the 13 to 26 year age group identified themselves as practising Catholics (95%), a little over half never missed Mass on Sundays (58%), and a similar percentage of this section of the population were engaged in some kind of activity related to the Church; up to 10 percent had considered taking the priesthood. In 1999, it could be seen that significant change was well on the way when a different set of researchers showed that 35 percent of young people confessed to being practising Catholics, 32 percent non-practising and 33 percent announced their atheism, agnosticism or their indifference to religious belief. While the image of the Catholic Church is seen as an institution which defends traditions and values, is dedicated to helping the poor and needy, and a good educator of children and adolescents, 50 percent of young people today don't relate its scale of values to the rest of life. The long-term study reaffirmed the “traditional reproach” that is made of the financial wealth of the Church and comparing 1992 data with that of 2002, it could be seen that judgement had hardened to the point where young people quite clearly stated their belief that bishops have a better lifestyle than the average Spaniard; 43 percent said the same about town-based clergy and 32 percent made similar comments on village priests.