Hy tristina Odone in Washington AMERICA'S Catholic Church faces a major defection by its young members, who are flocking instead to 'evangelical Protestant groups and to religious cults, warned a report published last week.
The report, "Youth Ministry in the United States: A Survey of Youth Pastoral Work," was prepared by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for the Holy See, which is undertaking a worldwide survey of Catholic youth ministries. The 36 page document based its findings on a series of questionnaires and conferences undertaken in 115 Catholic dioceses around the country. The report stressed that although young people today seek a closer relationship to God and a return to traditional values, their local church falls short of their needs:
"Teens . . experience the Church as impersonal, inhospitable and lacking adequate role models" according to the document.
Evangelical groups, on the other hand, "because of their pastoral care and flexibility arc gaining many youths, especially Hispanics and blacks ... Catholics who find the Catholic Church not in tune with their spiritual needs."
Young Catholics are also attracted to a variety of religious cults, the report stated, because "cults place themselves where the people are hurting." Such cults offer "strong street ministry"' and emotional "outreach" through which they attract young people. Copies of "Youth Ministry in the United States" have been sent out to all US Catholic Bishops, as well as to the Holy See. Together with the findings by National Conferences around the world, the report will be drawn upon in the planning of the international Catholic youth conference scheduled for next summer. Entitled "Youth Rally and Papal Meeting," the conference is set to begin on August 15 at Santiago de Compostella, in Spain, and to draw thousands of young people front all over the globe to its five-day-long event.