Matt C. Abbott
Prayers for Andrew Greeley; Study paints bleak picture of Catholic higher education
By Matt C. Abbott
November 9, 2008

In recent years, I've been a vocal critic — perhaps the most vocal critic — of Father Andrew Greeley.

Despite that, I was saddened to learn of his serious injury suffered in a freakish accident on Nov. 7. The same kind of accident could happen to a loved one of mine, and I would be terribly upset if it did.

Also, it's easy to gloss over the fact that our clergy and religious — even those with whom we strongly disagree, or who have hurt us in some way — are in great need of prayers, particularly in these tumultuous times. I know I don't pray enough for them.

So say some prayers for Father Greeley — and for all the clergy and religious.

And please say a prayer or two for me (and my loved ones).

Considering there are relatively few orthodox Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S., I found the following news release, from Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, of interest.

    'A groundbreaking survey of Catholic college students published by the Cardinal Newman Society's (CNS) Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education finds that most students on Catholic campuses reject key Catholic moral values and tenets of the faith, and significant numbers engage in pre-marital sexuality activity and the viewing of pornography.

    'The study was released in the wake of Tuesday's presidential election, just as many commentators are looking for reasons why the Catholic vote broke the way it did in such large numbers for a pro-abortion candidate.

    'It is the only known nationally representative survey of students at Catholic colleges and universities. CNS released a report five years ago, drawing on data from 38 Catholic colleges collected by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. That study found that students' support for Catholic teaching on abortion, gay marriage and other issues declined over four years at a Catholic institution.

    'For the current study, CNS commissioned QEV Analytics, which conducted an analysis of the Catholic vote for Crisis magazine prior to the 2000 presidential election, to conduct the random survey of current and recent students at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, all between the ages of 18 and 29. QEV President Steven Wagner, a former researcher for the U.S. Information Agency, has conducted studies for several federal agencies and the National Center on Additional and Substance Abuse (CASA).

    ''Most respondents say that the experience of attending a Catholic institution made no difference in their support for the Catholic Church or its teaching or their participation in Catholic Sacraments,' Wagner writes in his report.

    'Key findings clearly demonstrate that large numbers of students at Catholic colleges and universities are in clear conflict with the Catholic Church:

    • Nearly 1 in 5 knew another student who had or paid for an abortion.

    • 46% of current and recent students — and 50% of females — said they engaged in sex outside of marriage.

    • 84% said they had friends who engaged in premarital sex.

    • 60% agreed strongly or somewhat that abortion should be legal.

    • 60% agreed strongly or somewhat that premarital sex is not a sin.

    • 78% disagreed strongly or somewhat that using a condom to prevent pregnancy was a serious sin.

    • 57% agreed strongly or somewhat that same-sex 'marriage' should be legal.

    • 57% said the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their participation in Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation.

    • 54% of respondents said that their experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    • 56% said their experience had no effect on their respect for the Pope and bishops.

    'In April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI, recognizing the reality on many Catholic campuses, told Catholic college presidents gathered at The Catholic University of America that the Catholic faith must permeate all aspects of Catholic campus life.

    ''Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?' the Holy Father asked the college presidents. 'Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold. From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary 'crisis of truth' is rooted in a 'crisis of faith.''

    'The entire CNS study, 'Behaviors and Beliefs of Current and Recent Students at U.S. Catholic Colleges,' is available online at CNS commissioned the study as part of its Love and Responsibility program to encourage Catholic values on life, love and marriage on Catholic campuses.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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