Catholic Conceptions of Faith: A Generational Analysis

Williams, Andrea S., and James D. Davidson. "Catholic Conceptions of Faith: A Generational Analysis." Sociology of Religion 57, no. 3 (Fall 1996): 273-289.

"Pre-Vatican II" Catholics grew up in the 1930s and 40s. Their formative experiences include the Great Depression and the Second World War; the institution of the Church is central to their understanding of the faith. "Vatican II" Catholics raised in the 1950s and 60s experienced a period of expectation and disillusion; they combine institutional and individualistic understandings of the faith. "Post-Vatican II" Catholics were nurtured entirely within the post-conciliar Church of the 1970s and 80s, and have the least institutional understanding of the faith. While scholars have noted a shift toward individual autonomy within many religious groups in past decades, less attention has been paid to discreet developments within the Catholic community that have abetted this trend. The social history of the post-war period as well as changes within the Church make for distinctive religious environments relative to successive generations of Catholics. A close examination of the diverse understandings of the faith held by different members of the Catholic community reveals a correlation between age and opinion, with older Catholics holding more institutional views of the faith and younger Catholics expressing typically individualistic beliefs. This research reveals that this distribution of opinion in the Catholic Church has much to do with the formative experiences of each cohort.