Young American Catholics

Who are they & what do they want?

I do want my life to be a committed one," wrote Daniel Callahan in his introduction to Generation of the Third Eye, a collection of autobiographical essays by "younger" Catholic intellectuals published in 1965, as Vatican II drew to a close. For Callahan, authentic commitment entailed dedication to "the church, to my work in the church, to the world which Christ came to redeem." At the same time he identified himself as a member of "a generation which, cut loose from many of its roots, from the nurture of old traditions, looks constantly into itself." The central motif of Generation of the Third Eye was the "Journey toward Maturity" (as Francis E. Kearns’s essay was titled), part of which-to judge from many of the introductory blurbs-involved the progression from Catholic college to secular graduate education. The truly mature Catholic now sought to reconcile the claims of authority and tradition with a newfound freedom that only the irresponsible would evade. Young people were being asked to revive the church. For these "new Catholics" the church itself would become the arena in which generational drama was played out, and it seemed for the first time that the whole world was watching.

American Catholic history since 1965 could be read largely as a convoluted sequel to Generation of the Third Eye, but the narrative seems to have finally exhausted itself in efforts to make sense of the experience of today’s "...

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