Conscience First, Tradition Second

A Study of Young American Catholics

By Patrick H. McNamara

Subjects: Religion
Series: SUNY series in Religion, Culture, and Society
Paperback : 9780791408148, 221 pages, February 1992
Hardcover : 9780791408131, 221 pages, February 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Foreword by Joseph H. Fichter, S.J.



Part I

1. From Ghetto to Suburbs: The Decline of Devotional Catholicism

2. "According to My Conscience": Young Catholics and the Rise of Selective Catholicism

Part II

3. Social Class and Social Viewpoints: The St. Martin's Senior Survey

4. "Selling More than Telling": Portraits of Seniors and Their Teachers

5. "People Nowadays Put Religion on the Back Burner": St. Martin's Graduates in Their Late Twenties


Appendix 1. Variables, Coding, and Frequencies

Appendix 2. Independent Variable Impact on Two Social Sensitivity Measures by Two Time Periods

Appendix 3. Crosstabulation Tables for Bivariate Analysis





For this study of American religion, the author surveyed over 2000 Catholic high school seniors during a fourteen-year period, exploring changes in religiosity and attitudes toward the recent teachings of the Church. Fifty-four of these people were resurveyed eight and nine years after graduation, probing whether and in what direction their viewpoints had shifted.


"McNamara is on the cutting edge of a growing concern in the study of religion--future directions in the Catholic Church. His study is one of the few to use hard data to address the attitudes and practices of Catholic youth in the post-Vatican II church. Other analysts will refer to this study for a long time to come." -- James D. Davidson, Purdue University

"I like this book a great deal, in part because of the careful work McNamara has put into it and in part because so few studies in the sociology of religion follow successive cohorts. This is truly innovative and it deals with an important topic. Finally, I like the rich testimony reported in Chapter 5 from the graduates of a decade ago." -- Phillip E. Hammond, The University of California at Santa Barbara