How “Catholic” are Young Catholics?

How “Catholic” are Young Catholics?

Editor writes…

The final Catholic Truth Conference took place in the Burnside Hotel on Saturday, 25 March, 2023.  As promised, the three talks will be published on the blog this week, on three consecutive days. The first talk, by Ellen Ward, was published yesterday here.  Below, the second of the three talks, this one on Catholic schools is available to read, with comments welcome.  Anthony (17) delivered a well thought-through reflection on the Catholic Education system, after delivering an hilarious message “from someone who loves Scotland dearly, but who cannot be with us today. The 45th President of the USA, Donald Trump”…  Share your thoughts…

Anthony Wolfenden’s Address to the Catholic Truth Conference, 25 March 2023.
“Go teach all nations…” (Matthew 28:19) – Missing in Action:  How “Catholic” are Young Catholics?


Good afternoon, everyone. I’m super grateful for the opportunity to speak about this important issue today. But first, I have a message from someone who loves Scotland dearly, but who cannot be with us today. The 45th President of the USA, Donald Trump, who says…
[Ed: at this point, Anthony launched into his fantastic mimic of Donald J. Trump, saying that Catholic Truth Conferences are just wonderful – better than any Conferences he’d attended, including those organised by Trump himself…  the mimic drew much laughter from the audience.]

Turning now to the subject of my address…  The short answer to the question How ‘Catholic’ are Young Catholics these days, is … not very!   And so, to answer the other question for today: “Where is Our Lord now?” I’m afraid He is not to be found in Catholic classrooms.

A short story to illustrate this.  At the local Catholic primary school here, the pupils were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch last week. The Head Teacher had put this note in front of a dish full of apples – “Take only ONE. God is watching!”  Further along the line was a large plate of biscuits. One of the children whispered:  ‘Take all the biscuits you want. God is watching the apples!” 😊

Although obviously this is just a joke, it does however reflect the infantile level of theology – teaching about God – that has been a feature of Catholic schools for a long time now. The joke refers to primary school pupils but students in Catholic secondary schools are clearly ignorant about the basics of the Faith.

This magazine – The Scottish Catholic – is sold in parishes at a cool £2 a pop.

This edition features several high school students writing about Catholic education and how it could be done better.  One girl (Lauryn) same age as me (17) says that just because she doesn’t attend Mass every week, doesn’t mean she doesn’t care – she cares in a different way. 😊  Conveniently, she doesn’t tell us what that “different way” is.

Kerry (16) works on Sundays in retail so she “can’t go to Sunday Mass” either but again, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. She thinks young people need to be reached  “in different ways”. Again, Kerry, like Lauryn, doesn’t specify the “different ways”. They don’t seem to know that God gave us the Church “as is” with the Holy Ghost to guide it. They think of it as a purely human organisation, which should change with the times. Yet, Kerry thinks that Catholic schools should “get back to the basics” seemingly not understanding herself that giving Sunday to worship God and avoid working is about as basic as it gets.  But don’t get the idea that it’s only the girls who don’t understand the Faith. It’s worth hearing Max’s own words – he’s also 17, and he feels very hard done by as a young Catholic in the world today.  He says…and I quote:

            My generation has its own interpretation of the Faith that may not be the same as what we’ve been taught.
I also think older people don’t understand how easy it is to get burned out
at our age,
there are so many demands on our time,
 learning to prioritise is really important. 

The above exposé about Catholic schools was published in November 2022 – around four months ago.  None of the young people in the articles seem to know what it means to be a Catholic.  The front cover of the Scottish Catholic magazine gives a list of what these young people think is “doing the Faith better” – Catholic climate change, cost of living crisis, mental health, and hope…

Yet, Our Lord didn’t teach about any of these things – definitely not in the way that they mean. He explicitly taught us not to worry about the problems of tomorrow. We are to trust that God will provide for all our needs. The young people in Catholic schools today, are doing the opposite of what Jesus taught by putting all these things first.   Our Lord said: “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these other things shall be given to you.” 

In fact, the students working on Sundays seem unaware that it is a mortal, deadly sin, to miss Mass for that reason.  Also, they are setting a bad example and even confusing their peers, and colleagues in the workplace who will know that they are breaking the Third Commandment, to keep holy the Sabbath Day.  Presumably the people they work with will know that they are Catholics and attend a Catholic school, so they have missed an opportunity to spread the Faith by refusing to work on a Sunday.

At the enquiry stage, before applying for a course in Lifeguarding, I made clear that I would not be able to participate in the Sunday classes.  Unfortunately, for that reason, they would not allow me to sign up for the course.  It’s sometimes hard being a practising Catholic, but I’ve never regretted that decision.  I was well taught that God gave us Ten Commandments, not Ten Suggestions!  This drives home to me the importance of parents in the education of their children. Also, I am blessed at being home-schooled and taught that I must act as a Soldier of Christ to show others WHERE Christ is to be found in the world today – whether it is in school or during leisure etc.

Young people today generally think that being a Catholic means when you’re at prayer or in the church building. This seems to be because they’re not taught anything different. Even prayer – they are taught to pray in times of existential crisis, whether personal or the Ukraine-Russia war, hurricanes, climate change, that sort of thing.  They don’t seem to know that they need to develop their own spiritual life, in order to come to know and please God, and that prayers, spiritual reading, attendance at Mass and Confession are essential components in the life of any Catholic. It is this observance or practice of the Faith that makes their effort to help others meaningful before God. Otherwise, it is all merely humanism, and for Catholic students, it is humanism with hymns.

Catholic educators are selling young people short because they are misleading students into seeing the Church as a kind of Charity to help the materially poor and needy, instead of God’s chosen instrument to help the spiritually poor and needy, to save souls from being lost for all eternity. That is the battle we should all be fighting as Soldiers of Jesus Christ, but this is an idea which is completely alien to young people today.  Indeed, for several generations now, Catholics have not been taught this, and so they don’t understand what the Church is really for. And so, the agents of Satan have run amok in the Church and the world. We now have “woke Catholics” who reject what the Church teaches about right and wrong, convinced that they know best. G.K. Chesterton was ahead of his time when he recognised this weakness in human beings. He wrote, and I quote:A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.” Unquote.  This is true and we see it all around us now. 

Young people in Catholic schools don’t realise they are being trapped into believing that their emotions are a good basis for making serious decisions. They are fed false teaching about truth where “your truth”, “my truth”, matter but not God’s objective truth, not The Truth.  Chesterton again: Quote…Those who leave the tradition of truth do not escape into something which we call Freedom. They only escape into something else, which we call Fashion.” Unquote.

Christ said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…”  There are not lots of Truths, although it has become fashionable to pretend that you can have your truth, I can have my truth, Harry can have his truth, Megan can have her truth, and we can just all get along.  Modern Catholics are so caught up in the business of accepting everyone’s “truth” in a misguided desire to be “tolerant” of everyone and everything, that they do not even know that there is a war going on in the Church. This is why they are not turning up for the fight.

These young Catholics in the school system are not the only ones who lack understanding of the Faith and are not turning up for the war… Catholics in traditionalist circles are also missing in action. They might be quite pious and devotional, but I can think of some who maybe could be here today but declined to join us. The idea of deepening the Faith through Catholic Action is not something they seem to have been taught.  The fact is… whether young people are from a traditional circle or a local parish and school, many, if not all of them, cannot explain the Faith to others because they don’t fully understand it themselves. They are not hearing what they need to be hearing, either in school or in sermons.

They don’t know that it is impossible for men to become women and women to become men.  They can’t explain why this it impossible. Nobody is telling them that God did not make any mistakes when He created Adam & Eve, and in something so serious, if He had got it wrong, God would have made sure we all knew we had to fix itInstead, He gave us the Church to guard and defend His moral rules.  Yet, students in Catholic schools think no differently about these modern issues, such as the “trans” movement.  Political world leaders and Church leaders, from the Pope down, seem to be allies in this attack on our very humanity – this war against nature itself.  Instead of students being taught that they are part of the Church’s army in this fight against what is a Satanic assault on our humanity, they are seeing the Church as the biggest organisation fighting for human rights and they want in on it, they want to be part of the campaigning, to help – when it’s convenient.  They have no idea of our duty to seek holiness, to become holy to get into Heaven. That’s because everybody goes to Heaven these days. Right?

Yet, as the atheist-convert Leon Bloy says: “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only real tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

Now, I don’t want everyone to go home this evening merely thinking what a wonderful, interesting talk that was about young Catholics. 😊 I haven’t said all of this to impress you, but to impress upon you, the urgency of the situation where the Faith in Scotland is in danger of becoming extinct. Somehow, we must get it across to young people that they are not being taught what the Church is.  They think they can tinker at the edges and change things to suit the modern times.  We need to remind them that one of the greatest of the pope saints, who lived in our times, the 20th century Pope Saint Pius X, once said that Our Lord taught a body of doctrine which applies to all times and to everyone. It is an error to believe that Christ’s teaching could be adapted to different times and different places. That cannot happen.  Not ever.

I’m sure we were all aware of the dire state of Catholic schools and the lack of teaching of the Faith before we came here today.  Yet, there seems to have been very little protest even from parents, at the fact that young people are being denied their heritage.  A key reason for this, may be a fear of conflict.

Parents do not relish the idea of falling out with teachers, priests and bishops which, up to a point, is understandable.  Yet, with a thoughtful, planned approach from parents and interested parties, there should be no conflict.  Given the absence of sound teaching, there is a void in the lives of students. This space must be filled with God’s grace and truth – otherwise, souls will be lost. The matter is urgent. There is no time to waste.  Each of us will be held accountable if we pass up any opportunity to spread the Faith. The famous 19th century Anglican convert, who is now a canonised saint, Cardinal Newman, warned that we would have to answer for the souls who have lived and died  in sin in our times, when we could have influenced them and prevented them from losing their souls.

Without urgent action from every one of us, I see no real hope for the future of the Catholic Church in Scotland and the wider UK, because, although Our Lord guaranteed that the Church would always exist in the world, He did not guarantee that it would remain in every place. And, as Our Lord told us, the existence of the Church in any one place, relies on the preaching and teaching of the truths of the Faith: Quote: “Go, therefore, teach ye all nations…” Unquote.  When there is no real teaching of the Faith, the Church in that place dies.

And so, it is imperative that we all resolve today to draw from the courage of our Confirmation grace, to play our part in correcting the errors which are being passed on to young people in Catholic education, because these errors are causing them to have a distorted idea of the Faith.  You, Catholic parents, do not have a choice. You are entrusting your child to teachers who do not hold to the traditional Christian Faith, and you will never be able to get these impressionable years back. Or to undo the influence of false beliefs in your child’s mind.  You must monitor very closely what your child is being taught – not only in religion lessons but in English, in History and in Science lessons as well, because errors of Faith and Morals can be found in the teaching of these subjects as well.  We must not allow our human weakness to thwart that important work of supervision and correction.  I’ve already referred to Pope Saint Pius X, above.  I will quote him now, on this matter of Catholic courage, as I draw this talk to a close:  Quote…

“In our time  more than ever before  the chief strength of the wicked  lies in the cowardice and weakness  of good men. All the strength  of Satan’s reign is due to the easy-going weakness  of Catholics. Oh! if I might ask the Divine Redeemer as the prophet Zachary did in spirit: What are those wounds in the midst of Thy hands? the answer would not be doubtful: With these was I wounded  in the house of them that loved Me. I was wounded by My friends who did nothing to defend Me  and who on every occasion  made themselves the accomplices  of My adversaries. And this reproach can be levelled at the weak and timid Catholics  of all countries.”  Unquote.

Let us not be among those Catholics.

Thank you.

Anthony Wolfenden is a home-educated student, currently at secondary school level.  He is a qualified swimming teacher, and he will be undertaking a course in April which also qualifies him as a Lifeguard.  He is working hard to complete his high school course, although he is keeping an open mind about future career possibilities. He has clear beliefs about his Faith, and about the importance of Catholic education.  This was his first time addressing a large audience, his first experience of public speaking, and his talk was very well received on the day, with one commentator emailing me in praise of the entire Conference, insisting that “The star was, of course, Anthony. What a speech and what a delivery! He was sensational.”   

Comments (26)

  • Warydoom


    Wow, what a great talk! This young man has certainly been well educated by his parents, God love them! He is all a young Catholic should be, and may he continue to inspire others.

    March 28, 2023 at 10:02 am
  • Elizabeth

    You must be extremely proud of young Anthony. His speech was excellent and clearly came from the heart. It would do justice to many a priest or bishop in fact, except, hold on, very few of them speak with such clarity of faith. He has obviously been well grounded in the faith by his family and home schoolers. I wish that speech could be heard in every so called Catholic school in the land.

    March 28, 2023 at 10:25 am
    • Josephine


      You are so right – very few priests or bishops speak with such clarity of faith. It’s just incredible to think that a 17 year old comes across as having such strong faith and being able to articulate it so clearly, and without having set foot in a Catholic school! God has blessed him! But what an indictment of Catholic schools. We should have scores of young people exactly like that, and yet nowhere near.

      March 28, 2023 at 2:06 pm
    • editor


      Yes, I am very proud indeed of Anthony – and not just because of his excellent talk. He is a great lad and I’m not just saying that because he keeps introducing me to people as his Great-Aunt 😀

      March 30, 2023 at 12:01 am
      • Margaret USA

        Dear Madame Editor,


        Instead of closing down CT 😭, hand over the reins to this young man ❤️❤️. He would be a worthy successor to you. You could be Editor Emerita. 😉

        How about it ?

        Yours in Christ the King,

        Margaret USA 🇺🇸 ❤️❤️

        March 30, 2023 at 7:04 am
      • editor

        Margaret USA,

        Your praise for Anthony is much appreciated. However, it’s not possible to “hand over the reins” for all sorts of reasons. Thank you, though, for desiring the continuation of this blog and for your confidence in Anthony’s ability.

        March 30, 2023 at 9:20 am
  • Petrus

    I was blown away, not just by the content of the talk, but the delivery too. It was outstanding. What was even more impressive was Anthony’s ability to answer the questions confidently but humbly – acknowledging his young age.

    Anthony’s impression was the best I’ve ever seen of DJT. He could have done that on TV and had people in stitches. He’s a credit to his family.

    March 28, 2023 at 10:27 am
    • editor


      I LOVE his Trump mimic – he really has it down to perfection!

      March 30, 2023 at 12:02 am
      • Margaret USA

        Were the conferences posted on YouTube ? I’d love to see them.

        March 30, 2023 at 7:06 am
      • editor

        Margaret USA,

        No – it took us all our time to get the mics working properly never mind make videos!

        March 30, 2023 at 9:22 am
  • Nicky

    What an impressive talk – that young man will go places! Really excellent stuff. There are probably many of us who would have loved to be there but just couldn’t make it. Thanks for posting the talks, that’s greatly appreciated.

    March 28, 2023 at 11:07 am
    • Laura


      I agree – Anthony will “go places” and I think one of them may be teacher-training college! We need Catholics like him with a clear vision for Catholic schools, and we need him very soon, before they all close down, LOL!

      March 28, 2023 at 3:29 pm
      • Petrus

        I only wish Anthony could go to teacher training but I think it would be a bad move. He would be hounded out by liberal monsters.

        March 28, 2023 at 4:52 pm
      • Margaret Mary


        I think the same way about teacher-training. Anyone I know who became a teacher during the 80’s and 90’s had a very hard time as students, having to fight the liberal mentality. I’m not sure what I would recommend but wherever he ends up, I think Anthony will be a real witness to the faith and probably bring others to it.

        March 28, 2023 at 8:45 pm
      • editor


        No! No! NO WAY! He’d never survive teacher training college – Petrus has hit the nail on the head. To be “hounded out by liberal monsters” would be to get off lightly! Catholics are not wanted in the Catholic Education system – trust me on this one, sadly.

        March 30, 2023 at 12:03 am
  • Josephine

    What a great talk – just to think there is a 17 year old out there who has such strong faith and the ability to share it like that, cheers me up immeasurably.

    His potential is huge, and who knows, there may be a vocation growing there. I will keep Anthony in my prayers.

    March 28, 2023 at 1:59 pm
  • Fidelis

    I agree with everyone – that is one exceptional young man. I just hope that when he gets out into the “real” world, he doesn’t cave to the culture. I don’t think so, but prayers for him anyway!

    March 28, 2023 at 2:04 pm
    • Laura


      That is always a worry with young Catholics, that they will be unable to survive the evil influences to come but I somehow think this young man will manage that just dandy.

      March 28, 2023 at 3:31 pm
  • RCAVictor

    A brilliant talk, to be sure…in fact, as DJT might have said, it was YUGE! Anthony’s teacher should be very proud (hmmm….I wonder who that teacher might be……).

    We can only hope and pray that the Catholic students who fill the classrooms and the faithful who fill the pews will be aflame with the fire of Divine Love, as this young man clearly is – rather than inhaling the smoke of “social justice,” behind which is the fire of Hell.

    March 28, 2023 at 2:54 pm
    • Laura

      RCA Victor,

      Hear hear! I could not agree more – it’s a brilliant talk from a brilliant young student. Praying for him.

      March 28, 2023 at 3:34 pm
  • Bernie

    RCA Victor,

    It’s a brilliant talk, for sure and if Trump saw and heard his mimic, he’d be sending for him on the next plane, LOL!

    Your closing paragraph is A1 – I concur, totally.

    March 28, 2023 at 3:33 pm
  • Margaret Mary

    I can imagine the atmosphere was electric in the hall, listening to such a hard-hitting talk. Well said, young Anthony – you are a credit to your family, no question about it.

    March 28, 2023 at 8:43 pm
  • Athanasius

    It was a well-prepared and delivered talk, thoroughly enjoyable from a listeners point of view. Anthony is a credit to his family and to the Church, a great example to other young Catholics. I particularly loved his Donald Trum impersonation, the best I’ve heard! It was so realistic that I might get him to phone DJT’s bank to order a huge transfer of funds into my account. Ha!

    March 28, 2023 at 9:47 pm
  • Petrus

    Margaret Mary,

    Yes, I was in teacher training in the 1990s and I had such a terrible time. I found myself constantly having to defend the very basics – like the Resurrection of Our Lord. Could you imagine the difficulties a truly Traditional Catholic like Anthony would have these days?

    March 28, 2023 at 10:00 pm
  • littlebellsofgold

    What a joy it was to witness Anthony’s talk on Saturday, not just the content the whole presentation was an absolute joy. Thank you Anthony! For those who were not present, you missed something spectacular.

    I would go as far as to say, we witnessed someone following in the footsteps of the Giants of Tradition, such as Hamish Fraser and Michael Davies. May Almighty God keep him and guide him in His ways.

    Not just in giving of the talk, I spoke to him on a number of occasions and was impressed by his humility and courtesy. I also noticed during the meal afterwards, he was enjoying the company of the some of the other young people.

    The content of his talk highlighted the dismal failure of the whole education system, not just the Catholic sector this past sixty odd years. In the discussion that followed, some teachers recounted their experience and what they have tried to do within the system. I think it is long past trying to fix things from within.

    In all aspects of life in this country, education, health, politics and of course religion, we have been failed miserably by our leaders. It is time for change (not as the others suggest!) As Chesterton ( I think) said ” Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has just not been tried!”

    The only suggestion I can think of at the moment is for us to look back at some of the marvellous Encyclicals and see if we can rescue something. How about a study group to look at Pope Pius XI’s teaching on the Social Reign of Christ the King? Only a suggestion! Only a start!

    March 29, 2023 at 12:21 am
    • editor


      You are spot on to say that “it is long past trying to fix things [in Catholic schools] from within.”

      Sad to say, there is going to have to be a real root and branch clear-out, probably after the Consecration of Russia, before we can begin to rebuild the Catholic school sector.

      I’m interested that you are thinking of ideas to get people together to learn aspects of the Faith. The study group is one idea – keep ’em coming 😀

      March 30, 2023 at 12:08 am

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