As you are reading this article keep in mind two important facts. First, a substantial portion of the teenagers interviewed for this study were Catholic. Second, at no time in the history of the Church have there been so many programs for youth, from LifeTeen to Youth Ministry programs on the parish and diocesan levels, from World Youth Day to Youth Masses (with rock music) in countless parishes in countless countries around the globe. Never before has there been such an outreach to young people, and arguably never before have so many young Catholics been involved.
Yet most of the same young people seem to lack even a basic understanding of Catholic tenets, and instead espouse a relativism expressed by the new religious slogan, "whatever".
Please pay particular attention to these words:
All this means is that teenagers have been listening carefully. They have been observing their parents in the larger culture with diligence and insight. They understand just how little their parents really believe and just how much many of their churches and Christian institutions have accommodated themselves to the dominant culture.
Nothing describes better the overall error of the post-Vatican II era than an accommodation to the dominant secular culture at the expense of the perennial teachings of Our Blessed Lord.
However, make no mistake about it. Catholic teenagers are listening and learning from both their parents and their priests. They are especially learning from those parents whose Catholicism is only a mindless and rote exercise that assuages their consciences on Sunday mornings but does little to form their lives during the week. Catholic teenagers are also learning from the juvenilism of their pastors and adult youth "ministers", who attempt and ultimately fail to pass off religion as "hip", "with it", and fun.
Young people know a disingenuous adult when they see one, and they realize the mockery these adults make of our Catholic religion, when these involved teenagers pay attention at all to what little is left of our Catholic religion at these youth rock Masses and youth ministry sleep overs. What is the use of involvement in an exercise that makes fools of priests and other adults, and makes a mockery of our august religion?
The key to making a remedy of this situation is for parents and the Church to return to Tradition. First, Catholic parents must be Catholic. They must not only strive to live moral lives, but also foster prayer in the family by praying a daily rosary, making a morning offering, praying before going to bed, praying before meals, and above all by learning their faith and passing it on to their children. However, this can not be done, in fact nothing for young people will be fruitful, until both parents and churchmen realize one very important fact from Tradition: youth is NOT a good thing!
As Romano Amerio wrote in Iota Unum:
From ancient times down to our own, youth has been regarded by philosophy, ethics, art and common sense as a time of natural and moral imperfections, that is, incompleteness. St. Augustine goes so far as to call the desire to return to childhood stupidity and folly. (193)
Indeed, "the flower of youth involves the danger of temptation." It is the responsibility of the parent to above all guide and rule the child through childhood with the goal that the child grows up. The parent hasn't been granted the paternal dignity in order to provide good things for their children or to make their lives comfortable or to make sure their children get into a good college. Parents have been granted the paternal dignity by God to accomplish the maturity of their children and thereby contribute to their salvation. The goal of the parent is to get their kids to grow up.
Parents can't do this if they aren't grown up, themselves. Likewise, parents can't do this without the aid of the Church, and this requires churchmen to be grown up, themselves. When priests and adult "youth" ministers spend their time acting like children in the hopes that such behavior will be attractive to young people, they not only appear to be fools, but as St. Augustine sums up, they are fools. This is the underlying reason for all of the religious problems and inarticulateness highlighted in the above article that so plagues America's teenagers. Because youth has been raised as some kind of ideal, a cult of Hebe, so to speak, by youth ministry programs, World Youth Day, LifeTeen and youth rock Masses, instead of being described for what youth actually is, namely an obstacle that should be overcome, teenagers are left adrift and are an easy prey to those vices that have been lifted up as virtues by the cult of Hebe, such as a detachment from the past, undisciplined intuition and uncritical acceptance.
Because young people are profoundly wounded by this juvenilism, when they reach adulthood unformed, uninformed, and immature, life's hardships and important critical decisions are either avoided by indulgence in distraction (something not lacking in our technologically hedonistic modern world), or are met with irrational emotionalism. This mass of kid-a-dolts, who are more worried about Dances With the Stars than political debate, are unable to realize the essential meaninglessness of slogans such as "Change You Can Believe In", let alone consideration of the ultimate questions of human existence. The relativism of "whatever" eventually evolves into the callous and intellectually empty "I don't care" of the kid-a-dolt.
Young Catholics are being profoundly harmed by a juvenilism among parents and churchmen that leave them unformed and unfit for mature adult lives. If modern churchmen don't stop the cult of Hebe in our Catholic churches, and return to Tradition, then most future mainstream Catholics will be little more than listless kid-a-dolts.