A couple of recent polls indicate a decided recent shift to the left on social issues, and so make it evident that current fears of fundamentalism and theocracy are due mostly to the shock of increasingly radical “mainstream” thinkers that there are people who haven’t radicalized as much as they have and so act as a drag on social reconstruction.
Thus, a Pew Research Center report finds that support for premarital sex and unwed motherhood have grown rather drastically over the generations, with about 70% of 18-24s now supporting both compared to as few as 20% among some of their elders. More dramatically, support for the view that children are basic to marriage has dropped sharply among the population at large. It now occupies ninth place among the factors thought important for a successful marriage while in 1990 it was third. Material factors (money and housing) have risen substantially in the popular estimation, shared tastes and pastimes (including sex) rather less so, and faithfulness has declined in importance a bit. All in all, it seems evident that in the popular mind there has been a decided move toward treating marriage as basically a domestic partnership for the convenience of the partners. At least in popular concept, the family no longer exists as a serious institution.
Periodic surveys carried out by the National Catholic Reporter confirm in a different setting the tendency, which is the essence of the cultural left, of abolishing all institutions other than neutral universal markets and bureaucracies or at least turning them into private hobbies. NCR is an aggressively liberal publication, and their surveys are designed and presented for a reason. The most egregious example in the most recent survey is their claim that religious illiteracy is likely not a big problem among young Catholics because 18-25s (“Millennials”) report few problems explaining their faith to others. So you have to dig around a bit to find and understand the actual findings. One striking trend they do report is the tendency, especially among younger Catholics, toward the personalization and privatization of religion. For example, 63% of surviving pre-Vatican II Catholics but only 38% of Millennial Catholics “strongly agree” that the sacraments are essential to their relationship with God. Only 15% of Millennials go to Mass on a weekly basis and 95% say one can be a “good Catholic” (whatever people mean by that expression) without attending Mass weekly. Similar tendencies can be found with regard to attitudes of younger Catholics to Church moral teachings. For example, 89% of Millennials say a good Catholic could support abortion.
In the mind of most young Catholics, therefore, it seems you don’t need the Catholic Church to be a good Catholic. At the level of sociology and opinion surveys, the Catholic Church is ceasing to exist as an authoritative institution even among Catholics.