When the faith is lived within a deeply relativistic culture, the fathers wrote, membership of the Church can be "accompanied and sometimes replaced by ideologies or by the cult of success in professional and economic terms, with a view to material self-fulfilment."
"In Christian communities we sometimes risk proposing, even without intending it, an ethical and therapeutic theism, which responds to the human need for security and comfort, rather than a living encounter with God in the light of the Gospel and in the strength of the Spirit."
The synod fathers echoed the recent work of Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame.
In his book "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers," Smith argued that the dominant religion among American teenagers is "moralistic therapeutic deism," in which God is understood as a benevolent creator who, while wanting people to treat each other well, is generally uninvolved in their day-to-day lives.
This impersonal conception of God, Smith said, means that the "central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."
Recognizing that the fullness of human fulfillment comes from an authentic personal experience of the living God, the synod fathers said that authentic communities of faith were needed to lead people out of moral and religious relativism.
"If it is true that life is awakened solely through life, it becomes clear that young people need to encounter Christian communities that are truly rooted in friendship with Christ, who leads us to the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit," they wrote.
Such communities do exist, the synod report said, and that the active presence of many young people in the Church was an essential sign of life and the Church's "present and not only her future".
"Young Catholics are not merely on the receiving end of pastoral activity: they are living members of the one ecclesial body, baptized persons in whom the Spirit of the Lord is alive and active," the fathers wrote, highlighting the work done by many youth in catechesis and liturgy, caring for the weak, voluntary work with the poor.
The syond report stressed that a lived reality of community was an important part of fostering an active faith and effective evangelization, noting that "movements, associations and religious congregations" within the Church offered young people particular "opportunities for commitment and co-responsibility."
"In various contexts there are groups of young people, often from ecclesial movements and associations, who are actively involved in the evangelization of their peers through a transparent life witness, accessible language and the capacity to establish authentic bonds of friendship," the report said.
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"This apostolate makes it possible to bring the Gospel to people who might not otherwise be reached by ordinary youth ministry and it helps to mature the faith of those who engage in it."
At the same time, the report conceded that there were still cultural barriers to overcome within the Church, highlighting "a certain authoritarianism and mistrust from older people and pastors" who could "struggle to share responsibility."
The synod fathers particularly noted the frustrations of many young people in the Church concerning the role of women, saying that many "clamour for greater recognition and greater valuing of women in society and in the Church."
"Many women play an essential part in Christian communities," the report said, "but often it is hard to involve them in decision-making processes, even when these do not require specific ministerial responsibilities."
The synod fathers said that the absence of "the feminine voice and perspective" was something which "impoverishes debate and the Church's journey."
"The Synod recommends that everyone be made more aware of the urgency of an inevitable change, not least on the basis of anthropological and theological reflection on the reciprocity between men and women."