Our oldest children are currently 11 and 10, not yet, by any stretch, what Elizabeth Bennet called "the most trying age". Intellectual development, with it's joys and trials, is a continuum, and watching my children grow older and wrestle with ideas themselves I experience both the joy of seeing them really adopt ideas as their own, and the fear that they will someday use that intellectual ability to stray from what I believe is the path of truth and goodness.
To love someone is to want the best for them. My belief in God and practice of the sacramental life of the Church is one of the things that I think of as "best" in my life, and so naturally I want it for my children as well because I love them. And yet, as a parent, this is one of these naturally terrifying things, since no matter how much I pray, no matter how well I teach and live my faith, there is always the chance that my children will turn away from it -- for a time or for good. This would not make me a failure as a parent. After all, we are children of God, and yet we believe that the very first thing that humans did was rebel against their creator. The parent whose children leave the faith is experiencing a taste from the same cup which God drinks -- seeing His children turn away from what He knows is good, and what would, in the end, make them happy.
Perhaps it's fear of this pain, fear of being thought a "bad parent" which creates the desire to create some alternate bar of "success". This is what bothers me in the CMT article. The author writes:
The parents in these essays attended weekly mass, prayed in their homes with their children, introduced them to great thinkers in the tradition, had them involved in youth groups and community service. Some of the children grew and continued to practice the faith, and others did not. Almost every author whose children were no long practicing attempted to figure out why. Was it their failure? The disposition of the child? The failure of church leaders? The surrounding culture? The lack of friends with a shared faith? The lack of a Catholic subculture? None of these answers sufficed.I think this suggested division of hoping for a committed faith but being happy if children follow more general social values of good and evil is problematic, because it suggests a division of "good" from God. Belief in God is not simply a nice add-on to our core moral values and political beliefs. God is the source and summit of goodness.
Yet, many of the authors noted that their children who were not practicing carried with them much of their formation. They were committed to the vulnerable in their community. They took their civic responsibilities serious. They had a strong commitment to do what was good and right in their personal and professional lives. In “Passing on the Faith in an Era of Rising ‘Nones’” (a 2013 presentation at the College Theology Society Annual Meeting), Julie Hanlon Rubio asked if this was the standard by which parents might hold themselves? We might hope for a committed faith, but, perhaps, we should be happy if our children grew up to do good and avoid evil.
Having read through the Commonweal essays on raising kids Catholic, I wonder if part of the thinking here is that for many progressive Christians, their moral/political positions are held with a greater absoluteness than their belief in God and certainly in the Church. The goodness of equality, the need to fight oppression -- these are seen as truly absolute and pure. With God and with the Church, however, there is a sense of tension. The Church must reform in order to deserve it's faithful. God is in some sense in the dock over the suffering and injustice He allows, and the supposedly retrograde way His church has behaved. Rather than an act of unmerited love, in a certain progressive view the Incarnation becomes a necessary move on God's part because otherwise He would never truly understand the suffering which is humanity's. It's the least that He could do, and perhaps due to it we can forgive Him.
I think we, as humans, are drawn to belief in that which is pure and absolute -- and to the extent that people make their moral values more absolute than their belief in God or belief in the Church, people will tend to drop the less absolute faith in deference to the more pure one.