NCRep’s John Allen on the Pope’s annual address to the Curia

My friend the nearly ubiquitous Mr. John L. Allen, Jr., the fair-minded former Rome correspondent for the ultra-lefty National Catholic Reporter has a good article on the today’s annual "state of the Church" address by the Holy Father to the Roman Curia.

Let’s have a look, with my emphases and comments.

Pope defends World Youth Day, environmental concern
Posted on Dec 22, 2008 10:29am CST.


It’s Vatican tradition for the pope to deliver a sort of “Year in Review” address to his staff in the Roman Curia each December, and over time these speeches have come to play two roles – one overt, the other implicit. The first is to give the pope a chance to frame how he’d like the year to be remembered; the second is to subtly defend aspects of his activity or teaching over the last 12 months which may have raised eyebrows, or set tongues wagging, in his own house.

This year, Benedict XVI used his annual address to the Curia, delivered the morning of Dec. 22, to highlight two such elements of his track record in ’08: World Youth Day, and his growing emphasis on environmentalism. [It seems to me that environmentalism is rapidly becoming the new world religion.  Interest in the environment, when not rooted in a Judeo-Christian understanding that God created the cosmos from nothing, serves only to dull the truly spiritual sense man has written into his being as God’s image.  It is a distraction from a true encounter with mystery, which requires a different level of responsibility.  We need a sound Catholic eco-theology] He suggested that both pivot on a core Christian doctrine: the role of the Holy Spirit["… et renovabis faciem terrae…" ]

In a vintage twist, this consummate cultural-critic-cum-pope even enlisted Friedrich Nietzsche in his defense.  [Doesn’t surprise at all.  Joseph Ratzinger can develop amazing staring points for his reflections.]

Also in connection with the Holy Spirit, Benedict touched briefly on the intrinsic bonds linking Christ, the Spirit, and the church — a point with important, though in this case unstated, implications for Catholic theology.

World Youth Day

World Youth Day, of course, is among the more universally acclaimed innovations of Pope John Paul II. Yet some more traditionally minded Catholics have their doubts, wondering if the feel of the event is more secular than sacred – if sponsoring a “Catholic Woodstock,” as WYD is sometimes dubbed, offers too much of a concession to the “spirit of this world.” Other critics grouse that World Youth Day fosters a cult of personality around the pope. Both criticisms have, at times, been heard within the halls of the Vatican itself.  [I have these concerns as well.]

With the election of Benedict XVI, some expected that World Youth Day would be “dialed down” several notches. Last July, however, Benedict XVI traveled to Sydney, Australia, where the massive crowds, upbeat pop liturgies [GHAGHCH!] and rock star-style adulation were generally of a piece with the John Paul era.

In his address to the Curia, Benedict reflected at length on World Youth Day.

“The phenomenon of World Youth Day is becoming ever more an object of analysis, in which people are trying to understand this form, so to speak, of youth culture,” Benedict said. [I am one of them.] “Australia had never seen so many people from every continent as it did during World Youth Day, even on the occasion of the Olympics. Before, there was fear that such a massive turnout of youth would disrupt the public order, paralyze traffic, make daily life more difficult, provoke violence and lead to drug use. All that turned out to be unfounded.” [Indeed that is a point in favor of WYD, isn’t it.]

“It was a festival of joy – a joy that, eventually, swept up even the reluctant. In the end, no one felt disturbed. Those days became a festival for everyone, and it was only than that it become clear what a festival really is – an event in which all are, so to speak, outside themselves, beyond themselves, and precisely because of that, with one another.” [Note the theme of interconnectedness.  The Holy Father also spoke of the environment at WYD.]

Benedict laid out the traditional critique of World Youth Day – one that he knows well a few of his own lieutenants are, at times, inclined to share.

What, therefore, is the nature of what happens at World Youth Day?” the pope asked rhetorically. “What are the forces which run through it? Fashionable analyses tend to consider these days as a variant of modern youth culture, as a kind of rock festival with the pope as the star. With or without faith, these festivals would be more or less the same thing, and in this way the question of God can be taken off the table. There are also Catholic voices that cut in this direction, seeing the whole thing as a big show, perhaps attractive, but ultimately of little significance for the question of faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. By that account, these would be moments of joyful ecstasy, but at the end of the day they leave everything as it was before, without influencing one’s life in a deep way.”

Benedict then proceeded to take the critique apart.

That analysis fails to explain the uniqueness of these days, and the special character of the joy they create, their capacity to create communion,” he said.  [hmmm… pretty subjective?]

“First of all, it’s important to take account of the fact that the World Youth Days don’t consist just of that one week which is visible to the world,” Benedict said. [A fair point.] “There’s a long path, exterior and interior, that leads to it. The Cross, accompanied the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage through the nations. [Right.  But this is not very publicized.] The faith, in its own way, needs to be seen and touched. The encounter with the Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the Cross for us[This has been at the core of my own theological approach to liturgy….]The encounter with the Cross awakens in the intimacy of the young people the memory of that God who wanted to become human and suffer for us. We also see the woman that He wanted as his mother. The solemn days are simply the culmination of this long journey, with which the young people meet one another and move together towards meeting Christ.”

“In Australia, it wasn’t an accident that the long Via Crucis through the city becoming [WYD is still developing] the culminating event of these days,” the pope said. “It expressed anew all that had happened in the preceding years, and pointed to Him who brings all of us together: that God who loves us all the way to the Cross.”

“Thus, the pope is not the star around which everything turns. He is totally, and solely, the Vicar. [NB: Vicar of Christ… not of Peter.] He points to the Other who stands in our midst.”

“In the end, the solemn [? … ugh] liturgy is the center of the gathering, because in it everything happens that we can’t accomplish on our own, and for which we are always waiting,” the pope said. “He is present. He enters in our midst. Heaven is opened, and this makes the earth luminous. This is what makes life joyful and open, and what unites us one with another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival.”  [I am waiting for WYD liturgies to become truly solemn, in a deeper sense than just "important".]

“Friedrich Nietzsche once said: ‘Success does not lie in organizing a party, but in finding people capable of drawing joy from it.’ According to Scripture, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), and this fruit was absolutely palpable during those days in Sydney.”  [subjective… but fair, I guess.]

“Just as a long journey precedes World Youth Day, a succeeding path is also derived from it,” Benedict said. “Friendships are formed that encourage a different style of life, and that sustain it from the inside. These great days have, not last, the aim of inspiring such friendships and nurturing places of life in the faith in the world, which are at the same time places of hope and of lived charity.”  [Time will tell.]

The Environment

In a similar vein, reflection on the Holy Spirit also led Benedict to underscore the Christian concern for the environment.

Faith in the creator Spirit is an essential component of the Christian creed,” the pope said. [Creatio ex nihilo set us apart from all other religions.]  “The ultimate basis for our responsibility towards the earth lies in our faith regarding creation. It is not simply our property, which we can exploit according to our own interests and desires. It is instead the gift of the Creator, with certain intrinsic rules [This "rules" point might be a good point of differentiation from secular or gnostic environmentalist types.] that offer us an orientation we must respect as administrators of creation.”  [Interesting…  another theme is, perhaps, mediation.. our secondary role, … Pope as Vicar of Christ, we are stewards.  It is about us, but not about us.  There are logical distinctions to be made.]

The pope insisted that the church must get involved in today’s environmental debates. [I agree.]

“Because faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the church cannot and must not limit itself to transmitting only the message of salvation to its faithful,” Benedict said. “It has a responsibility for creation, and must express this responsibility in public.”  [This is a key to what Pope Benedict is trying to accomplish in his pontificate.  The Catholic Church and her faithful must have a voice in the public square on all those things touching also the human experience.  But in order to have something to contribute, we have to know who we are and what we believe and we must live it.]

At the same time, Benedict clearly distinguished the church’s approach from secular environmental movements – insisting that concern for tropical rain forests and the church’s traditional pro-life commitments, including sexual morality, are indissolubly linked.

[The church] must defend not only the earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to all,” he said. “It must also defend the human person against its own destruction. [In the Christian vision, man is at the summit of material creation and not separate from it.  The materialists and gnostics too often oppose man a creation, as if we were opponents.] What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected.”  [He spoke of "rules" and now of "order".]

“Here it’s a question of faith in creation, in listening to the language of creation, [Interesting.  The Pope seems almost to be saying that the Logos echoes in creation, and we can discern its language.  Sure there are therefore rules and order.] disregard of which would mean self-destruction of the human person [because we are going against ourselves] and hence destruction of the very work of God,” [who created ex nihilo] the pope said. “That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’ in the end amounts to the self-emancipation of the human person from creation and from the Creator. [Excellent.  Part of the order, with the rules that come from order, in the "language" the Divine Logos as the one through whom all things were made, includes real differentiation.] Human beings want to do everything by themselves, and to control exclusively everything that regards them. But in this way, the human person lives against the truth, against the Creator Spirit.”  [There must be a submission to reality or we do ourselves harm.]

“Yes, the tropical forests merit our protection, but the human being as a creature merits no less protection[more, rather] a creature in which a message is written which does not imply a contradiction of our liberty, but the condition for it,” the pope said.  [Interesting.  The image of God in is is a "message".  We are back to language.  What comes to mind is the language of the human genome, the codes in our fabric.  But there is a language, a logos in its deepest sense, behind the codes.]

On that basis, Benedict offered a defense of traditional marriage and Catholic sexual morality[Because here the differentiations and complementarities come together.  Keep in mind the folly being discussed at the UN.  The Holy See reacted that that and the secular press went after the reactions.]

“Great Scholastic theologians defined marriage, meaning the lifetime bond between a man and a woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator instituted and which Christ – without changing the message of creation[There it is again: "message" of creation.] then welcomed into the story of his covenant with humanity,” the pope said. “This witness in favor of the Creator Spirit, present in the nature of this bond and in a special way in the nature of the human person, is also part of the proclamation which the church must offer. [In the public square!] Starting from this perspective, it’s important to re-read the encyclical Humanae Vitae : [40 years after…] the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against treating sexuality as a kind of consumption, the future against the exclusive demands of the present, and the nature of the human being against manipulation.”

Christ and the Church

Later in the address, Benedict offered two other implications of faith in the Holy Spirit with important implications for Catholic theology: the Holy Spirit, he said, cannot be separated from Christ or from the church[Is this happening?  I don’t mainstream Catholics consider the Holy Spirit as much as, say, charismatics do.  But is there a "separation"?]

In that regard, Benedict quoted his great intellectual patron, St. Augustine: “Do you too want to live in the Spirit of Christ? Then be in the Body of Christ,” meaning the church.  [A pneumatological core of a Catholic eccelsiology? Related to Christology in what way?  Is the Holy Father proposing looking for a link in the language of creation itself, the mesage of creation?]

In recent years, the Vatican has sometimes accused some theologians working in the field of inter-religious dialogue of pressing the idea of the Holy Spirit’s presence in non-Christian religions too far, as if the Holy Spirit acts apart from any explicit connection with Christ or the Christian church. While non-Christians may be saved, [Right… this is soteriological…] Vatican authorities have insisted, that does not mean they are not in some sense “oriented” towards Christ and the church – a point, they have suggested, with important consequences for Christian missionary efforts.

Excellent work, John.  Good summary.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. A Random Friar says:

    That “GHAGHCH!” in your comments sounds like it hurt. Someone get Fr. Z a bottle of fine single-malt to help clear the throat. :) [Yes… indeed. That’s a good idea. I can provide a list….]

  2. John says:

    I’m sorry, but this implication that the WYD liturgy produces “joy” is utter nonsense. In my opinion, it is equivalent to saying that “community,” in the Novus Ordo sense, is equivalent to “Communion.” Joy is the result of infused contemplation, the inner union with God – not the result of any external comradeship (no matter how delightful)at a celebration. Joy is not emotional exhilaration; to imply or assume that is to completely degrade the idea of “holiness.”

    If the Holy Father wishes to highlight the Via Crucis as some sort of counterbalance or redeeming factor to the “Catholic Woodstock” aspect of WYD, I would then like to know how the Via Crucis is celebrated. With solemnity and reverence and adoration? In other words, is it Catholic?

    Finally, regarding the Church and environmentalism, I wish the Pope would more clearly and emphatically distance himself and the Church from the “global warming/climate change” fraud, while he is setting forth the rules and the order inherent in a Catholic view of ecology. Has he done this anywhere else? Apparently not, since numerous bishops are jumping on this horrific totalitarian bandwagon without a word of reproach from Rome.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    I very much enjoyed the Holy Father’s words on WYD. I have never attended one myself, but know many people who have, and I watched this past year’s events live on EWTN. The Stations of the Cross was very moving and excellently done.

    Let’s face it… this is a new tradition in the Church… begun with John Paul the Great and continued with Pope Benedict XVI… it’s going to take a while work out all the kinks. No one just sat down and wrote a Missal centuries ago. Piece by piece, brick by brick… the abuses and problems will be corrected in time. Many people grow in faith at WYD and they are forever changed. Deo gratias!

  4. Krampus says:

    I’ve been to a few WYDs over the years and in my opinion that article doesn’t really address the issues. Sure, I think most people would admit that WYD is an extraordinary event and that good comes from it, but this is in spite of the more scandalous elements. Calling it Catholic Woodstock is hardly fair; people come to WYD with love and faith not for debauchery. But, even at my first WYD (which was before I found my way to traditional Catholicism) I found myself having to ignore the more unfortunate and disedifying aspects of WYD. Rome during the year 2000 was much better than Toronto, but both could have been better. At every WYD I’ve participated in I had experiences that would be worthy of that “Novus Ordo Watch” website. lol.

    I suppose my position is simply that WYD could be much better and that perhaps Rome could oversee things more like they did for the Pope’s Mass in New York (in contrast with the D.C. Mass). But I suppose it goes beyond just the Mass (I could produce a long list of WYD privations and perversions if I really thought about it), but the Mass would be a good start. I’m not even talking about “radical” traditionalist sensibilities – the Canada WYD had goofy liturgical dancers, hoards of EMs sloppily distributing the Holy Eucharist from baskets, et cetera. I can’t imagine that any orthodox Catholic would approve of such things. If I had teenagers I don’t think I could allow them to attend such a thing in good conscience. The fact that the Pope is there makes matters worse because it gives the impression that whatever antics take place are sanctioned by the Vicar of Christ… Are they?

  5. In a vintage twist, this consummate cultural-critic-cum-pope even enlisted Friedrich Nietzsche in his defense. [Doesn’t surprise at all. Joseph Ratzinger can develop amazing staring points for his reflections.]

    Not only: the case to which John refers is sheer rhetorical genius, a masterwork. PBXVI quotes from Nietzsche in such a way as to show that the aphorism works only if the Christian understanding of order is true – thus exposing N.’s parasitism without directly engaging him – disarming the standard-bearer of “nihilism” without firing a shot – beating him at his own game – what have you. In sum, vintage PBXVI.

  6. Make that “masterstroke”

  7. John says: “I wish the Pope would more clearly and emphatically distance himself and the Church from the “global warming/climate change” fraud,…”

    John, perhaps the Holy Father, who is a wise and brilliant man, doesn’t consider global warming and climate change to be a fraud. “Johns” of the world beware! By refusing to take seriously the challenges of environmental change conservatikve Christians run the real risk of abandoning this increasingly compelling issue to neo-pagans who ignore God and place a baby seal above a human being in the order of things.

  8. Justin says:

    Fr. Z – the papal WYD liturgies are different compared to how they were under JPII. I don’t see how John Allen, fairminded though he may be could fail to appreciate that – in fact though he may write for a left-wing newspaper, he sounds like a disgruntled traditionalist when he suggests that nothing of substance has changed in WYD Sydney compared to how they were under the previous pontificate.

    How many RC churches in the world have the Introit and Communio of the Mass sung to Gregorian chant as was the case at the WYD, or a motet by TL Victoria, or have a full orchestra led by a traditional schola of men and boys supported by a proper trained choir for the larger pieces?

    I think apart from the Gospel procession, the main closing Mass of WYD08 was solemn and for this TV viewer it inspired a sense of hope to see such grand Catholic liturgy played out on such a scale for the young, many of whom have never seen such a feast before.

  9. Steve says:


    ‘Global Warming’ since renamed ‘climate change’ is a fraud. It’s unimportant what the pope thinks regardless of how wise and brilliant a man he is. What is important is what the scientific evidence shows. The data shows that there is no man-made global warming (actually there has been no warming since 1998) and the climate change the earth has experienced for years is nothing more than Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer.

  10. Baron Korf says:

    World Youth Day is a unique thing so it is hard to judge. We can and should hold it to strict liturgical rubrics, but elsewhere in its expression things are less clear. We sometimes forget how radically different the Church is from the world. I volunteer with the teen ministry at my parish and hearing the way they see things often shows me just how far they have to travel. Some see religion as the monks on Monthy Python walking around in droning tones, whacking themselves on the head with boards. To them its one big buzz-kill, and in a generation raised in a purely experiential society that seeks to avoid pain, cost, and boredom, that is a barrier to entry. These energetic pilgrimages can sometimes bridge that gap and get them thinking that “Maybe it’s not all doom and gloom” and get them started. And there are worse people to have a cult of personality grow up around than Benedict XVI, because if they really listen to him, he will lead them to Christ.

    There is always room for improvement (sometimes BIG improvements) in every expression of Catholicism, WYD definitely included. It is a powerful tool that needs cleaning and shaping, but a tool none the less. I think it will always be a battle to do it right, but it will be a net gain for the Church.

  11. Jordanes says:

    David O’Rourke said: John, perhaps the Holy Father, who is a wise and brilliant man, doesn’t consider global warming and climate change to be a fraud.

    Obviously. It’s also obvious that wise and brilliant men, and quite a lot of popes, even the wise and brilliant ones, have been wrong about a lot of things. Climate science is not one of St. Peter’s charisms.

  12. Jonas says:

    Interesting. Here is the strait message, which was published in Reuters-Yahoo report. It reads as follows:

    “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

    The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality “a deviation, an irregularity, a wound.”

    The pope said humanity needed to “listen to the language of creation” to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”

    Thus, this message also speaks about destructive character homosexuality. It would be interesting to know, if there is a strait comment by pope himself in his speach.

  13. As a participant in World Youth Days 2002, 2005 and 2008 — the last two as a chorister with the traditionalist Juventutem delegation — my perspective is somewhat skewed towards matters musical/liturgical.

    I share the concerns that people have expressed on this board thus far; however, I am also convinced that progress is being made, especially liturgically. Yes, the closing Papal liturgy was another cornucopia of disjunct elements; however, Gregorian chant, polyphony, and organ music were more prominent elements this time around. Seminarians who served at the Papal Mass, some playing significant roles, were raised in Australian Latin Mass communities. Cardinals Pell and George played prominent parts with the Juventutem liturgies and devotions — the former with Vespers, the latter with the Rosary — in both 2005 and 2008. Pilgrims not affiliated with Juventutem filled an inconveniently located church away from the Sydney CBD to learn Gregorian chant.

    A brief story: after my experience in 2002, I was completely turned off by all things WYD. I went to Juventutem 2005 primarily for the music; in fact, if it weren’t for Juventutem I never would have gone. What I got out of it were international friendships whose powerful witness to the Faith is humbling, inspiring, and challenging. I have a photo from Duesseldorf of five of us. Of the five, two are seminarians — one with the FSSP; the other with the ICRSS; one is a postulant at Le Barroux; one is getting married next year. And then there’s me.

    Did we have fun? Absolutely; I remember six of us choir members going to a lounge in Duesseldorf to drink and relax. (We were all of age and behaved quite well, if that is of concern.) But did we work hard and pray hard? I like to think we did.

    I bring that story up to make a point: as far as the examining the motivation for people to attend events like World Youth Day, in the end, one cannot examine people’s motivation on their behalf; this task rests ultimately with the pilgrim himself, regardless of the help he seeks or receives to accomplish the task. It falls to people with the responsibility to inform the prospective pilgrim about proper motivation and preparation; even here, though, it’s up to the pilgrim to do something with that information.

    I’ve not been on the Paris-Chartres pilgrimage, but if what I’ve heard about it is accurate, it would be a very good thing to have that kind of atmosphere permeate future World Youth Days.

    (If people wish to read my on-the-ground perspective of these events, they are welcome to do so here. I stand by every word, embarrassing and unedifying as some of them may be — especially regarding Toronto 2002.)

  14. “NB: Vicar of Christ… not of Peter.”

    The use of the title, “Vicar of Peter” has a proper place within the Christian Tradition, which was used during the first 700 years of Church history. When properly understood, it certainly does not in any way exclude the equally venerable title since the 8th century, “Vicar of Christ”.

    The Pope is most certainly Peter’s vicar. He is not Peter in his person, but rather serves in the office entrusted to St. Peter by Christ Himself. That office was in fact to represent the patoral care and leadership of Christ the Shepherd to His brother bishops. To act in His Name and with His authority in the midst of the bretheren; in short, to be His Vicar. To see both dimensions of his vicarious ministry inhering in the same office should bolster faith in the Pope’s Petrine ministry, and not be perceived as a threat to it.

    The Pope is Peter’s Vicar and Peter was Christ’s Vicar, ergo the Pope is CHrist’s Vicar as well.

    It is like those who say that “the Rock” must be either Christ, the Faith or Simon Peter. Can they not, somehow mysterious, be all three at the same time, albeit in distinct ways?

    In ICXC,

    Fr. Deacon Daniel

  15. John says:

    Thank you, Jordanes, and I couldn’t disagree with you more, David O. The global warming hoax (which was changed to “climate change” because the globe is now cooling off) has nothing to do with saving the environment. It has to do with taking more taxes out of your paycheck, further sapping the sovereignty of the world’s nations (esp. the USA), and enriching the pocketbook and “prestige” of the most corrupt institution on the face of the earth: the UN.

    Every single one of the well-paid charlatan Al Gore’s hypotheses has been refuted, many times over, esp. the lie that increased carbon levels cause increased temperatures. Don’t fall for this nonsense and do some research please.

  16. John says:

    Regarding “global warming,” forgot to thank Steve as well (3:32 pm)

  17. TJB says:

    Maybe the joy that BXVI talks about at WYD is subjective, but isn’t the other viewpoint subjective also? Traditionalists tell us that WYD has a “secular feel” to it or it seems more like a rock concert than a religious event. Aren’t those views subjective also? Obviously that is how some traditionalists have experienced WYD, but the analysis is still based on their experience. Its subjective. The Pope tells us that joy was “absolutely palpable” at these events. Im sure he’d be the first to acknowledge that hes being subjective, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
    If its OK for traditionalists to tell us about their negative, subjective feelings about WYD, isn’t it OK for the Pope to share his positive, subjective feelings about the same event?

  18. Dear John,

    There is quite a bit of not only legitimate, but necessary criticism to be levied against the “global warming” and “climate change” doomsayers.

    The HF’s considerations can be (I think ought to be) read as part of the critique.

    Whatever the truth regarding climate change, it is abundantly clear to me that man has recently exercised rapacious tyranny rather than responsible dominion over creation.

  19. finch says:

    North Americans account for about 5% of the world’s population but they use about 35% of the world’s energy resources. My household (4 people) in the European Union used exactly 327 kw/h in the last 60 days, according to my recent electricity bill. In contrast the average American household uses 1840 kw/h every two months. Clearly there is no excuse for the mass overindulgence and scandallous waste of the average American household.

    I have been in the US a number of times and I have always been scandalized by the waste of energy I seen and complete lack of regard for the environment, even among recent immigrants. Another thing that shocked me was how fat Americans are. About 70% of the people I seen in NYC were either overweight or obese. It was a much higher proportion in the mid-east and south of the country. The portions that are given out in American restaurants or fast food outlets (which are everywhere!) are enormous. SUVs were absolutely everywhere. Even small households, who clearly have no need for one, were using SUVs and huge trucks. I played soccer with a few kids in a NYC suburb and most of the kids could hardly run. European kids are definitely fitter, and healthier on average. Clearly there is also a problem with obesity in Europe (especially in the UK) but it’s nowhere near the American extent.

    The disgusting waste of energy in America needs to be rectified. Not just to cut carbon emissions, but the massive dependency on foreign imports is a security risk, and not just for the US. It helps prop up odious regimes in the middle-east, not well known for their treatment of Christians. Covering your ears and whinging about a religion of environmentalism is not only ignorant, it is downright selfish and disregarding of the rights of other nations but your own, who must also survive on our planets finite and ever-decreasing natural resources.

  20. Dear Finch,

    It seems to me that your final paragraph makes some valid points. Unfortunately, I almost never got to them because I was too angry at your first two paras. I live in Europe, and if I wanted to, I could make a list of European social ills that would appall Americans.

    I am not going to do that, however.

    Why not direct the energy you wasted in the spent, hackneyed, vitriol of the first two paras, toward developing the criticism in the third?

  21. leo says:

    the BBC is whipping this up to Pope anti gay rant having read the speech i cant see the ‘saving mankind from homosexuality is more important than saving the rainforest’ which is currently displayed on the television screen , needless to say they are not transmitting the urbi et orbi on christmas morning

  22. Andrew says:

    Fr Z, a good commentary of John Allen’s very objective analysis of the Holy Father’s address to the Curia.

    Can I ask however, have you ever been to a World Youth Day?

    I hope I have not misunderstood you, but the way I interpret a particular comment of yours, you are saying that when Benedict said after an outline of a typical negative analysis of the WYD phenomenon by some, “That analysis fails to explain the uniqueness of these days, and the special character of the joy they create, their capacity to create communion”, this is pretty subjective.

    All I can say from having been accredited media at WYD, is that Benedict’s analysis was spot on regarding this peculiar element of the phenomenon, and it was exactly my experience during the 10 days I was in Sydney too for this.

    It was like during this week, a spirit descended on the place, transforming the gay capital of Australia into an oasis of prayer of love, which is what I think Pope Benedict means when he talks about communion.

    The dog eat dog society that in my country we have become so accustomed too disappeared, and the love was so extraordinary it affected ordinary Sydneysiders.

    As a Christian, I saw this as the Holy Spirit overshadowing the metropolis. Bus drivers went beyond the call of duty, and dropped of passengers at their temporary homes. At places like Starbucks Coffee, cakes were baked and handed out to the kids for free.

    Some police said that after 20-30 years on the job, they had never seen such good behavior among the young people, and never in their lives had they seen people compliment them for doing their job well.

    In the media room where I largely worked out of, an Italian TV station lost its ability to transmit audio back home. Their rival station over there came to their aid, employing their own technicians. One of them said to me, “Normally we would not bother with anything like this, but for some the reason the atmosphere is so different here”.

    I could quote many other anecdotes, but I believe this is what the Pope means by the joy (that believe me everyone felt) creating communion.

    Of course, beautiful liturgies aren’t WYD’s strength, although the Mass the Pope celebrated in St Mary’s Cathedral was so reverent.

    The final liturgy on Sunday unfortunately made some allowance for moronic island dancing (perhaps the Vatican feels that when a papal Mass is conducted overseas some allowance has to be made to inculturation) but by and large this Mass was an improvement on ones held at previous World Youth Days, with more Latin than normal, a Benedictine altar arrangement, and the Pope distributing Holy Communion in the traditional way. (At least the dancing happened early in the Liturgy of the Word).

    Australia is a very secular country, and religion is regarded as private business. But you would not have known it all those days I was there. Who ever heard of having perpetual adoration for instance at the Sydney Opera House?

    At the “Sleepout Under the Stars” the Blessed Sacrament was housed in three tents, and young people were praying in front of it all hours of the night.

    The Stations of the Cross with the landmarks of Sydney as the backdrop, were an unforgettable experience, that many regarded as the highlight. (The following day the front page of all the papers was a photograph of “Jesus on the cross”).

    I talked to many people who were employed in different areas impacting on WYD, wanting to know their reactions, and all of them said they had never seen anything like this. One boat operator said to me (confirming Benedict’s cited words), “this was the Olympic Games times ten.”

    Once again, I hope I have not been unfair here, but you had to experience those days to believe them. I know that some of the previous examples are beyond the theme of communion, and you would wholeheartedly approve.

    I pray confirming the words of Cardinal Rylko on the Sunday, that the “new Pentecost has started in Sydney, and will spread throughout the world”.

  23. Ohio Annie says:

    energy consumption needs to be seen as a function of production. the US has a much higher ratio of production than any other country, hence the energy consumption.

    and yes, we have a lot of food because we are very good at producing lots of food cheaply. and eating same.


  24. RBrown says:

    In recent years, the Vatican has sometimes accused some theologians working in the field of inter-religious dialogue of pressing the idea of the Holy Spirit’s presence in non-Christian religions too far, as if the Holy Spirit acts apart from any explicit connection with Christ or the Christian church

    NB: The Filioque

  25. Ygnacia says:

    ““Just as a long journey precedes World Youth Day, a succeeding path is also derived from it,” Benedict said. ”

    A fruit of the Sydney WYD:

    Cardinal Pell Notes Vatican Thumbs Up for Xt3
    Catholic Social Networking Site Keeps Growing
    SYDNEY, Australia, DEC. 22, 2008 ( A social networking site that grew out of July’s World Youth Day in Sydney has brought Vatican attention and approval, says the city’s archbishop.
    Cardinal George Pell, who has his own profile page on, returned from Rome with news of the Vatican’s support and encouragement.
    “ provides young people with news, resources, events, charity projects, advice and interactive pages — all within a safe environment,” the cardinal said.

    The whole article:

    The website:

  26. Christopher says:

    I was present at WYD 2002 and WYD 2008. I remember WYD 2002 being a distinct springboard into considering “vocation.” I am also aware of it as a spring board for a number of other young men in seminary, currently, as well. But, it is clear and apparent that all of us has taken steps far beyond the initial experience of WYD, but not one divorced from it. In my recent past experience of WYD 2008 SYD, I had the opportunity to again be with young people, though this time not as one of the peers, necessarily, as I am now past the teenage years. However, I do take the commentary of these youth as representative of the work of the Holy Spirit in our diocese. These young adults were in love with the opportunity for catechesis and daily Holy Mass, esp. at the local catechetical sites.

    Unfortunately there was a youth movement present at the sessions. The group was fantastic, but the sobriety due for reverence in the sanctuary was not present as well as it ought to have been (turning it into a stage before Mass) and there was some dance numbers [not really liturgical dance] present near the end of each Mass. Nonetheless, to my surprise, these youth did not enjoy any expression of liturgical dance during the Mass and found antics before hand a bit offsetting. But, it did not embitter them against the spiritual exercises and good which they experience in the Mass or catechesis. Even more they thoroughly enjoyed the speaker sessions during the day, the pilgrimage to St. Mary’s and a number of other opportunities of blessing.

    One of the young women in the group (just graduated high school) commented well- in which a few others also found agreement: “Having been to both NCYC and WYD I have to say that NCYC is like a “‘Yay, Jesus!’ Feast” but there’s something a litte bit more to WYD… a little more substance.”

    May God bless you.
    Holy Mary protect you.

    In ICXC,

  27. Christopher says:

    In that regard, Benedict quoted his great intellectual patron, St. Augustine: “Do you too want to live in the Spirit of Christ? Then be in the Body of Christ,” meaning the church. [A pneumatological core of a Catholic eccelsiology? Related to Christology in what way? Is the Holy Father proposing looking for a link in the language of creation itself, the mesage of creation?]

    – I think this is very much founded in the thoughts which the Holy Father once expressed as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in “Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: Church as Communion,” in regard to the priest and who he is.

    May God bless you.
    Holy Mary protect you.

    In ICXC,


  28. PuxaXixon says:

    “…Other critics grouse that World Youth Day fosters a cult of personality around the pope…”

    At times, I wonder of some’s “cult of personality” around Father Zuhlsdorf. (Not a put down, just an observation of some posters.)

  29. John 6:54 says:

    It seems to the MSM has completely garbled the Pope’s words in the span of 24 hours. If I read about one more “Gay Right’s” group being “outraged” by the Pope’s comments I might gag. When does the rest of world get to be “outraged” in return and have it’s outrage be published on a daily basis in the AP & Reuters about the degridation of the world’s moral compass?

    Satan is working overtime lately to use the homosexual community to take a gigantic swip at the Catholic Church in the near future. I trust in God’s words about the gates of hell not overcoming the Catholic Church but its going to get real ugly in the next 10 years. St. Michael the Archangel Pray For Us!

  30. Jane says:

    World Youth Day was a very joyful time in Sydney. My parish was one of the hosts for the catechetical instruction (for Polish pilgrims.) I was fortunate to be present at the closing Mass at Randwick.

  31. Antiquarian says:

    Now, I have never been to a World Youth Day (not being remotely “eligible”) but I have seen reports of the less-than-inspiring liturgies that have occurred at some of them. And while that is a genuine concern, I think His Holiness touches upon an ironic response to WYD from some–SOME- traditionalists.

    There are some who claim, on the internet and elsewhere, that the Extraordinary Form will eventually supplant the Novus Ordo because of how many young people flock to it, and how the young are abandoning the “Conciliar” Church. Some of these same commentators then shriek and wail and moan about World Youth Day, where thousands upon thousands of young people joyfully participate– and many do so reverently.

    I do not want to generalize– there are real concerns about the liturgies at WYD that trouble me– but I am bemused by the unintentional irony in some of the criticism.

  32. I have often thought of WYD events as a means to bring the heart and head of Rome to the youth of the world. The heart of Rome is the message of the Gospel. Its head is obviously first and foremost, Jesus Christ, and secondly its bishop. The ancient title “Apostolic See” underscores the missionary nature of this See, and not simply of its primatial authority among the churches. WYD makes Peter a missionary to the world’s youth, and not a “prisoner of the Vatican” as they used to say. WYD participants in many ways make their pilgrimage to Rome vicariously (in every sense) through the Roman Pontiff. In his person and by his presence with the flock of Christ, the “seat” is brought to them and made a platform for the good news!

    What is more, this “ingathering” of the nations of the earth into a single, Eucharistic assembly, is a visible manifestation of the Church’s instrinsic catholicity, and is an eschatalogical foreshadowing of that great and awesome day of the Lord, the Second Advent.

    It is also a type of “mini-Pentecost, and those who leave WYD seem to come back changed: more spiritually attuned and grounded, as well as more missionary in their outlook. I read all the time about the number of youth who are now considering a vocation to serve in the Church as missionaries, priests, deacons, monks and nuns as a result of attending a WYD.

    I have had many friends who have attended a WYD, and personally look forward to attending one day in person. I also hope that the liturgies reflect more the glories of the Latin Catholic tradition, in keeping with the Pope’s “reform of the reform.”

  33. TerryC says:

    One important aspect of WYD, especially for young people in much of the world today, is the opportunity to just see so many other Catholic youth.
    I have never been to WYD, but take our parish youth to the Franciscan conferences, as well as diocesan conferences. In my U.S. mission diocese almost every young person to whom I minister is surrounded by Protestants every day in their life at school and play. Many feel they must hide their faith under a bushel basket. To go along to get along. I think I am not exaggerating to say that to some extent its not really even Protestant Christianity, but secularism that is the real environment they live in.
    Some of those who are strongest in their faith still despair that they are alone in their journey. The chance to meet and talk and worship with thousands their own age is a strengthening thing. And with today’s technology they can carry on those bonds when they return home.
    I see the Holy Father pulling WYD liturgy back to a more reverent standard, but like the liturgy of all the Church this will take time.

  34. joy says:

    I attended WYD in Denver ’93. What impacted me the most was the clear universality of the Church. It felt like the whole world was Catholic. During that time, crime in Denver disappeared. The wacky environmentalists that predicted that WYD would wipe out all the indigenous prairie dogs were proved wrong. Even though there were quite a few dumb/heretical things going on, much more that was not prevailed: 24–hour adoration, confessions being heard almost constantly, the joyful faith witness of youth from all over the world, the presence and message of the Holy Father, common courtesy!, a real experience of God speaking to His people, a real message of hope was given and addressed to the youth that they were not just the future of the Church, but its present.
    There has been real improvement of WYD over the years. I think BXVI will continue to work on its improvement by not dumbing down the message and by challenging youth to respond to their full potential as committed members of the Body of Christ, in love and service to the Truth. By its fruits it will be known.

  35. joy says:

    BTW, since ’93 I’ve gone from leading the guitar ‘folk’ Mass to becoming a member of our parish Schola and the Latin Mass committee.

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