This past Wednesday evening I went with some other sisters to hear Cardinal Dulles speak at Boston College. His topic was about handing on the faith, and he had a lot of good things to say. He spoke about some reasons why it is harder today to hand on the faith, especially at Catholic universities. Among some of the reasons he listed are these:
1. Americans tend to be more pragmatic than theoretical, and aren't as interested in abstract theological reasoning. He quoted William James about the "cash value of theory," meaning that in general, Americans look more to the bottom line.
2. The flight from metaphysics. This has led weakened philosophical thinking.
3. A critical spirit, derived from the philosophies of skepticism. This view holds that we can't know objective truth anyway.
4. A widespread rejection of authority. Religious authority, especially in the Catholic Church, no longer has the same command it used to, in the sense that many people today freely reject it.
5. Cultural and moral relativism.
6. A diverse student body in many Catholic colleges, meaning that many students are not Catholic. This has led to a trend to substitute religious studies for theology. The difference is that religious studies looks at all religions from a neutral standpoint, whereas theology presupposes faith: faith seeking understanding.
He mentioned a couple more things but I didn't take notes, so this is just from my memory.
Lest this seem too negative, he also commented on positive things like the many excellent students who are studying Catholic theology and making contributions. All in all, it was a great talk and discussion afterward.