By John Carey CLEAR evidence of the Church's failure to get its message across to teenagers is the most striking feature of the Westminster archdiocese's report to the National Pastoral Congress, published last week.
It showed that most young people knew next to nothing about Christ or the Christian gospel and that they were disenchanted with the institutional Church.
The report has been put together by the archdiocese's Congress co-ordinators from the responses to its extensive preparatory programme over the last 15 months. The conclusions about young people are mainly drawn from more than 2,000 replies to a letter written by Cardinal Hume to all fifth and sixth formers in Catholic schools.
The report says bluntly: "The overwhelming majority (of young people) revealed an almost total lack of understanding of the Person of Christ, and his message and his Church: there is a repeated cry that Mass in the parish is boring and there is an indifference to the doctrines and moral teachings of the Church.
"This must raise serious questions about the effectiveness of the religious education given in our Catholic schools and at home, and about the fact that so much of our parish life and liturgical life does not touch the lives of so many of our young people in any way."
According to the report most young people have aims based on ''sound humanist values which have only an accidental relationship to Christian teaching". Such values include happiness, a family and security.
"Catholicism is regarded as a moral code of behaviour and a cheerful "acceptance" of Christian belief goes hand in hand with rejecting all the doctrinal and moral teaching they do not like with a widespread indifference to the sacramental system," it says.
Almost all Westminster's 204 representatives to the Congress attended a meeting last Thursday night in which they heard Cardinal Hume stress that the five
day event in Liverpool in May was only part of' a long process of spiritual renewal which had to be undertaken in the parishes.
"The National Pastoral Congress must start in the parishes to end in the parishes," he said.
The representatives were told to study the whole report carefully so that they were fully acquainted with the views of the people whom they would be representing. The report details the views from each area of the archdiocese as well as those put forward by organisations, the religious orders and other individuals.
All the delegates will come together again at London Colney in March for more detailed discussion on the Congress agenda.