Most PH Catholic youths want Church out of political issues

Aries C. Rufo

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Most PH Catholic youths want Church out of political issues
While they strongly identify with the Church, most Filipino Catholic youths draw the line on certain political issues, like the RH law

MANILA, Philippines – When Pope Francis visits the country from January 15 to 19,  he will witness a young and vibrant Catholic youth steeped in faith but with a more  divergent view on how the Church should behave on secular matters.

The Pope would see Filipino Catholic youths who strongly identify with the Church and its teachings but draw the line on certain political issues like the Reproductive Health Law.  

The results of a 2013 survey, the second of its kind commissioned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission Youth (CBCP-ECY), showed that young Filipino Catholics could be more religious than their parents – a healthy assurance that the future of the Catholic Church is secured in the next generation.

But then, they are not passive youths who merely accept and abide by the Church’s teachings without question.

More than half of those surveyed said they disagree with the “involvement of the Catholic hierarchy on political issues,” while half disagree with the Church’s objection to the RH law.

Moreover, one out of 4 respondents disagree with the Church that the use of contraceptives and homosexual acts are “sinful” and “morally wrong.”

Table 1

Issue Disagree
Involvement of Church in political issues 55%
Church’s position on RH law 51%
Use of contraceptives as sinful 25%
Homosexual acts as morally wrong 25%


The 2013 survey was a follow-up to the 2002 survey on the Filipino Catholic youth also  conducted by the CBCP-ECY. Aimed at capturing a holistic picture of the Filipino Catholic youth, the Church used the 2002 survey as a template  in defining its youth ministry.

The 2013 survey, for its part, aimed “to foster an informed national discussion on the place and role of religion in the lives of young Filipino Catholics.”

A total of 2,110 respondents, aged 13 to 39, were surveyed, with samples from 5 regional groups – North of Luzon, Metro Manila, South of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. A 27-page survey instrument in English and Filipino was used, with majority of  respondents studying in Catholic schools, non-sectarian schools, and Christian schools.

To validate and cross results the findings, focus group discussions were also conducted for a more in-depth analysis.

The initial results of the national survey wer first presented in September 2014 at the national convention of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).

Major findings

In terms of Church teachings, the 2013 survey results showed that young Filipino Catholics have “a high degree of belief on the basic doctrines of the Catholic Church” like the Holy Trinity, the dual nature of Jesus Christ, and the virgin birth.

Nine out of 10 Catholic youths also state that they “are interested to learn more about their Catholic faith” and “can defend their faith to anyone who challenges them.”

In terms of morality and worship, almost all of the respondents agree that murder and suicide are intrisically wrong while 8 out of 10 say “mercy killing can never be justified.”

About 8 in 10 respondents also insist that “divorce should never be an option for married couples.”

Table 2

Morals Agree
Life is a gift from God so we do not have the right to take it  96%
Mercy killing can never be justified 78%
Premarital sex is wrong 79%
Divorce should never be an option for married couples 79%

In terms of worship, about 8 in 10 young Catholics say they “regularly attend mass” with 6 in 10 saying they “go to confession a few times a year” and pray the rosary regularly.

Table 3

Regularly attend mass  79%
Go to confession a few times a year 65%
Pray the rosary regularly 60%
Attend Bible study 48%
Visit the Blessed Sacrament 48%

Christmas, Misa de Gallo

The respondents also indicated that their usual companions in observing religious activities are (in descending order) friends, barkada (clique), others, mother, cousin, sibling, grandparents, and father.

Among the Catholic feasts, Christmas and Misa de Gallo (dawn masses) are most popularly observed, followed by Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday and Good Friday.

The above results offer consolation to the Philippine Catholic Church that has seen dwindling mass church attendance.

A pre-election 2013 survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that weekly church attendance among adult Filipino Catholics have plummeted to 37%, from 61% in 1991.

Moreover, the SWS survey also showed that almost 1 in 10 adult Filipino Catholics “sometimes think of leaving the Church.”

Such scenario is reflected in the 2013 CBCP-ECY survey.

While self-rated religiosity is high, 13% of respondents admit they have “entertained thoughts of leaving the Catholic Church.” Majority of them are females.

Papal infallibility

While the survey showed that a majority of young Filipino Catholics adhere to the Church teachings, some disagree on basic tenets – from the infallibility of the Pope on matters of faith, mortal sin, and hell.

Table 4

Doctrines Disagree
Infallibility of the Pope 25%
Power of priests to absolve sin 20%
Judgement Day 23%
Those who die in state of mortal sin descend to hell 21%
Purgatory 12%
Presence of Christ in Holy Eucharist  11%

Other highlights of the survey:

  • Females exhibit higher religiosity than males.
  • Older Filipino youths appear to be more religious than their younger counterparts.
  • Youths whose parents are both Catholics appear to be more religious than those whose parents have different religions.
  • The higher socioeconomic status, the higher religiosity.
  • A father’s educational attainment has higher impact on the youth’s religiosity. The survey says “those whose fathers have higher educational attainment appear to be more religious” while “a mother’s education is not a significant predictor of religiosity.”
  • Higher religiosity could translate to higher political participation.

Still highly Catholic

Overall, researchers said the survey makes it clear that Filipino Catholic youths are still “firmly rooted in their Catholic religious tradition” and that the Church continues “to provide its young members identity, meaning, values and meaning in life.”

However, the researchers suggested that youth ministers and religious educators tweak their ministry and education, and be responsive “to those who think that the Church should not be involved in politics, those who do not agree with the Church’s stance with the RH law, those who are in public schools, the unemployed, those in the lower economic bracket, those who have thoughts of leaving the church” among others.

They argued that that “any long- or short-term solutions to the problems and challenges being faced by the youth ministry and Catholic education that ignore their particular contexts or settings will miss one of the key elements that makes plans and programs appropriate, effective and sustainable.”

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