When Your Kids Don’t Want to Be Catholic

kids-don't-want-catholicWhat do you say when your son or daughter doesn’t want be Catholic?

When they don’t want to go to Mass or refuse to go to CCD?

To the kids out there, do you think your parents are forcing you to be Catholic?

Obviously, this parent/child conflict over religion is a real issue.

I know because I get a ton of traffic from parents and kids searching on this topic.

The statistics are pretty telling too. The majority of millennials are absent from the Catholic ranks.

As someone who’s been on both sides, a kid wanting to drop Catholicism and a parent wanting to keep my kids Catholic–here’s my take.

One of my most searched topics

Parents come here from search phrases like “my child doesn’t want to be Catholic” or “my daughter doesn’t want to go to CCD.” The kids come at it from the opposite side with searches like “parents forcing me to be Catholic” and “my parents force me to go to CCD.”

They all land on this post about gently but forcefully nudging your kids to be active in their Faith…even when they don’t want to.

I was definitely in the “not wanting to” camp when I was a teen. In my case, there was no big spiritual conundrum.

The freedom I so longed for revolved around sex. The Church told me premarital sex was wrong, I wanted to have sex, so I just ignored the Church…and then stayed away. I wanted liberation for hedonism.

Is this brainwashing?

Some people consider forming your kids in the Faith from the earliest age to be brainwashing.

Apparently for some, this is not respecting their freedom.

From my perspective, I’m informing them about reality and enabling their freedom. I’m helping them understand that only in union with God can a person truly understand the meaning of life.

Only with grace can they reach the full flowering of their personhood.

Why don’t people talk this way about other things?

This argument is only an issue with religion.

No one lets their children decide if they need an academic education. People “force” their kids to go to school all the time. Children don’t have the life-experience to see the big picture. Parents make decisions for them.

Education is essential for kids to to grow up healthy and mature…to take their place in society.

Religion is the same. Kids need an active faith life reach full maturity in Christ and discover their mission in God’s kingdom. It’s essential they start young. Like an academic education, it can’t wait until they’re adults.

If you were in my shoes, you wouldn’t say this

If you were standing in my shoes and looking at life from my perspective, you wouldn’t say this.

I’ve had the experience rejecting religion, especially Catholicism. I’ve lived life on both sides and I can tell you–it’s much better with the Church.

Life is empty, purposeless, and bitter without it. Yes, there are rules. But if you relax and let yourself be led, you’ll realize the rules bring real freedom.

Will my kids stay Catholic? I honestly don’t know. Will I still love them if they don’t share my beliefs? Yes I will.

I won’t disown them or refuse to see them. Evangelizing my kids is not about coercion or forcing or brainwashing. I’m not indoctrinating them to do anything illegal or against their will.

I’m educating them in life…life to the full, the way I see it and know it.

Catechetical takeaway

For all of you kids reading this, I would invite you to take a second look at Catholicism the way I did. Are you so satisfied with your life that nothing could change?

Maybe you’re missing something you never really knew.

For all of you mothers and fathers out there, Catholicism is the perfect roadmap for life. There is no more complete system for explaining life and understanding how to live it well.

Tell your kids you love them and want them to be fulfilled. Tell them you know in your heart true happiness and fulfillment only comes in union with Christ. And then…pray for them.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  1. I love how you boil this complex emotional issue down into the simple truth of education. Your child can always choose to reject what they’ve learned, but depriving them of an education (in this case religious) is no way to enable them to make a truly free choice once they are mature enough to make it for themselves.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Wow, that is such a great way to say it. And, that is exactly it! You’ve said it better than me. They can’t make a truly free choice for themselves if they’re not really informed. Thanks for that comment!

  2. My oldest is a preteen and as I watch the Catholic teens and pretends around her, this becomes one of the biggest “worries” I have.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Honestly, me too lately. My oldest is a preteen as well. He’s starting to ask questions and want to understand things for himself. Soon, it won’t be that he’ll just follow because I do, he’ll want to form his own opinions. I hope I’ll be able to answer his questions well and foster a desire for him to want to grow on his own. I need to step up my game though…and pray a lot.

  3. My youngest of 5 is now 21. Four of the 5 slacked off when they turned 18 and were free to do as they liked. Right now 4 of the 5 are practicing their faith, and the last one is still a work in progress. Thank ya Jesus!

  4. Great thoughts Marc!

    I love the connection you make to education. I sometimes use similar analogies such as the fact that most kids don’t especially like going to the doctor to get a shot, or that we don’t wait until children are old enough to choose which language they will speak.

    Nicely written!

    Fr. C

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks Father! I was thinking about those as well and was going to include the one about shots but I started running long. I never thought about the language thing. That’s a good analogy as well.

  5. Joe Bigliogo says:

    “No one lets their children decide if they need an academic education. People “force” their kids to go to school all the time. Children don’t have the life-experience to see the big picture. Parents make decisions for them.”

    I face palm when I hear this over used analogy or the one comparing comparing religious indoctrination with seeing a doctor. I face palm when people continue… “Religion is the same”, because it is so thoughtless.

    It just isn’t so, religion couldn’t be more different. Here’s a more valid analogy––what if the doctors you send send your kids to made vastly differing diagnosis and called for radically opposing treatments? What if the school you could choose to educate your children taught course material that completely contradicted that of other schools? That is what the world of religion is like.

    Want to know the real difference between the diagnosis of a doctor or the education a child receives at school… and religion? One deals in knowledge while the other deals in belief. And that is why it’s not right to impose religion. And just to make it more clear… we both live in countries that have established in their constitutions freedom of religion. That means the right to believe or reject any religion we se fit.

    • Your analogies are very good but you’re just further making my point. Parents have to consider all sorts of different medical treatments and opposing medical philosophies when deciding how to best take care of their children, but it doesn’t stop them from doing anything. They don’t just throw up their hands and say, “Let’s let the kids decide which diagnosis is better for them.” They gather all the facts and make the best decision they can with the information at hand. And, the same thing happens with education. Parents have to choose which school to send their kids to and not all schools have the same philosophy. But they make a decision and that forms a child for the future. Parents are choosing to impose an educational philosophy or methodology on their children with that choice. It’s not always simply fact or science. Sometimes it does go into the realm of belief about what will be the best path to take for the kids. Parents make decisions based on what they believe will be best for the kids, and that belief will shape their children’s future.

      You’re operating under the assumption that your parents, and all Catholic parents, want to form their children in the Catholic Faith simply because they don’t know anything better or any different. But what if they had considered many other beliefs and come to the conclusion that the Catholic way of life is the best life? I’ve practiced a lot of other religions and experimented with many different beliefs, and I’ve come to know without a doubt that Christianity, Catholicism in particular, is the truth and the best way to life your life. You’re right, that is my belief, but it doesn’t mean it’s blind. It does deal in fact and a lot of rational thought. You use the word “impose” but that’s not accurate. It’s more like choosing the best option for your children that can prepare them for life. It’s choosing the best path for your children that you know and forming them for life. It’s giving them the best options they can.

      Nearly everything in life is about choice and not all knowledge is pure fact. There’s an opposing philosophy for everything and you have to make choices in what you’ll accept and follow. You follow some authority and trust them based on their expertise. You can’t be an expert in everything. You have to get the best advice you can and choose a path. Parents have to do that for their kids. And don’t tell me that devoid of any religious upbringing you wouldn’t be formed in some kind of life philosophy. You would get one from TV, movies, or commercials. Madison Avenue, movie producers, and corporations trying to get the teenage dollar are engaged in all kinds of life-philosophy formation. You’ll get someone’s beliefs no matter what you do. You’re swimming in it. You can’t escape it. If parents don’t form their kids in what they believe is the best path, they’ve just abdicated their role to someone else.

      Yes, this is a free country and freedom of religion is a basic tenant. You are free to explore whatever life-philosophy or belief you feel called to now that you’re on your own. Try them all! But I also challenge you to try real Catholic teaching along with it–stuff from Scott Hahn, Fr. Robert Barron, and Jeff Cavins. See if it doesn’t make perfect sense to you. When you engage this as an adult, you often see it differently. Don’t reject it outright because of what you learned as a kid, or because it’s the religion of your parents. That’s not rational or informed. It’s just reactionary. And, you’re certainly free to reject it if you find it lacking, but I’m pretty sure that if you really studied it with an open heart, you’d have a hard time rejecting it.

  6. Sabrina chacon says:

    Help , I’m at a loss …. My 14 year old doesn’t want nothing to do with being cathoilc 🙁 We have brought him up under the catholic faith but he has decided to venture out . I’m broken hearted . Even though he believes highly in God he stepping away from the church and talking about non denominational and evangalistism . He try’s to talk to me and I blow up . I don’t know why. It bothers me to no end . Am I afraid of what I don’t know ? I mean he believes in God and has his own relationship with him , what parent could ask for more ? I feel as if I’m ruining our relationship cause I don’t know how to deal with This. He makes statements that why do we worship Mother Mary? And it breaks me in half ……i dont want to loose him because he feels I don’t except him cause I do , I love him more than life itself and want him to know I will always b in his corner . I don’t know what to do? How do I support him ? I don’t know how ;( please help me

    • Hi Sabrina,

      From what you’re saying, it seems likely your son is getting challenged on his Catholic beliefs by Protestant friends and he’s coming up short with answers so he’s siding with them. Where else would he get the idea that we worship Mary (something never, ever talked about in Catholic circles), or that devotion to Mary is a bad thing? A lot of their arguments can sound convincing. They put them in terms unfamiliar to Catholics and so it makes our theology seem deficient…but it’s not!

      Try not to get upset. Faith is a very personal thing and it’s hard not to take it as a personal attack but it’s best to distance yourself from that. It only makes things worse. When he asks those questions, give him the Catholic answer. If you don’t know them, educate yourself on the answers to these questions. There’s lots of book and resources on how to combat the attacks Protestants make on our beliefs. Two by Karl Keating are excellent, “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” and “What Catholics Really Believe.” You’ll learn what Protestants believe, how it differs from our beliefs, how they bend the truth to make us sound wrong, and how to answer those questions. Believe me, there are very logical refutations for all their claims against our beliefs.

      14 is a tough age. He’s trying to figure out who he is and what he believes. It’s natural for him to question his childhood beliefs because they were really just your beliefs that he adopted. Now he has to figure it out on his own. That involves questioning and perhaps a bit of rebellion. When he questions, have the answers. Allow him to explore, to reason, and to understand on his own. Engage him in discussion about why he’s doubting and what others believe. Don’t waver on your belief that the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth. It does! In his teen years, you will still be the biggest influence in his life. Your faith definitely counts for something in his heart. If he gets answers to his questions, he’ll get the head part too.

      You can pull the parental thing too. You don’t necessarily want to coerce or force him to be Catholic, but he’s also bound by the 4th Commandment to honor his parents. Tell him he can investigate other Christian faiths when he’s out of the house and change if he wants to, but while he’s living with you he should worship as a Catholic because that’s what you do as a family.

      Hope that helps. Above all pray! Pray to St. Monica too. She’s the patron saint of mothers with children who don’t believe. She prayed Augustine back into the Church and he’s now one of the greatest saints in history. Her intercession is powerful. It wouldn’t hurt to hide a Miraculous Medal under his bed or something too.

  7. My 12 year old has become disruptive in CCD class. He wants to quit CCD. He does go to church and pray but cannot stand the religious education that is required for confirmation. I am a 4th grade CCD teacher the same time that he goes to his class, we are just down the hall. He had trouble with communion and was forced to go to first communion. It was his first and last time her received. We just have 2 1/2 more years plus the confirmation program (retreat, community service etc.). He was thrown out last class and now the teacher does not want to take him back unless he has a behavior plan. He is a stubborn ADD kid in most of the stuff he does not want to do.

    • Thanks for commenting Debbie. Sounds like a difficult situation. Have you ever tried doing stuff with him at home? My kids love talking about religion with me one-on-one but don’t really care for CCD classes that much. They say they don’t learn as much. I think it’s good for the interactions with peers but that’s not always the case. If you could engage him with some good books or materials at home, perhaps he would do better. It would give you a chance to share your own faith with him…why you believe what you do and why you want to be Catholic. That can be powerful for kids.

      The other thing that’s super important but doesn’t always get across that much in CCD classes is WHY we do what we do in the Catholic Church. I think the “why” is so important as kids get into the teenage years and it just gets lost most of the time. Being able to explain why goes a long way. That and understanding the big picture–how everything fits together. We’re made to understand things in coherent systems, and it’s confusing when we don’t. Often, instead of putting in extra effort to understand, it’s just easier to give up. That’s why I think understanding salvation history is so vitally important, especially for teens because they’re just starting to think that way. Hope that helps. If you’re interested I’d be willing to speak with you more about this.


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