Is watered-down faith of #Synod2018 “worth dying for when the man with the machete shows up at your door?”

Once upon a time I remarked to The Great Roman, raising his children in this increasingly dreadful time, that lay people like him each day face problems that would make most clerics curl up in a ball in the corner of a dark room.

With that as a preface, I would like to reproduce every sobering and mordant word of William Kirkpatrick’s piece today at Crisis about the ongoing Synod (“walking together”) on youth. I shan’t reproduce it all, but I can some. Let’s see the beginning.

My emphases, comments.

The Misplaced Priorities of Youth Synod Organizers

Reading through the Instrumentum Laboris (IL)—the working document for the Youth Synod—one gets the impression that the biggest challenge young people face in life is discovering their sexuality. Fortunately, the Synod Fathers stand ready to “accompany” youth on their journey of self-discovery wherever it may lead. The bishops have particular solicitude for LGBT youth who “face inequality and discrimination” because of “sexual orientation” (48).

Meanwhile, quite a few young Christians in Africa and elsewhere have other things to worry about than their sexual orientation. Not only do they face “inequality and discrimination,” they also face machetes and AK-47s. The day before the Synod opened, 17 Christians in Jos, Nigeria were slaughtered by Muslim jihadists. A week before that, 14 Christians, mostly women, were hacked to death by Islamic militants in the Central African Republic.

They were killed not because of their sexual orientation, but because of their faith—the faith that many of the synod bishops seem eager to water down to make it more palatable to youth. One suspects they also hope to make it more palatable to themselves. The language of the IL suggests that the framers of the working document favor “dialogue” over doctrine and non-judgmental flexibility over “unbending” judgment. It’s not surprising that the synod organizers would prefer a less judgmental Church since, as Julia Meloni documents in a recent Crisis piece, many of the key players at the Youth Synod are named in Archbishop Viganò’s testimony as being complicit in sex-abuse cover-ups.

[QUAERITUR:] The question is, is the watered-down form of faith that is proposed in the IL worth dying for when the man with the machete shows up at your door? [There it is.] As a number of others have observed, the IL document suggests that the role of the Church is to listen and accompany, but not to teach. What the document authors envision is the “emergence of a new paradigm of religiosity” which is “not too institutionalized” but “increasingly liquid” (63). [?!?!]

“Increasingly liquid”? Isn’t that just another way of saying “watered-down”? It’s a characteristic of youth—especially of the male variety—that they don’t want to be tied down. And that’s the appeal of this ever-changing liquid faith. It leaves you free to float around. The synod organizers understand this adolescent predisposition and in the IL document they cater to it shamelessly.

One can’t help but wonder if they share the same predisposition. In an intervention critiquing the IL, Archbishop Chaput characterized “developed” societies as being “frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose on others.” Much the same could be said of some of the prominent prelates at the Youth Synod. They seem over-concerned with adolescent wants, and they seem eager to legitimize whatever it is that young people (from whom we have so much to learn) want to be or do.  [Could it be that they, too, have adolescent wants?]

But religion is not a free-flowing, New Age, follow-your-bliss affair. The word “religion” is derived from the Latin “religare”—meaning “to bind fast.” At some point, youth has to grow up. And growing up in the faith means binding yourself to a set of beliefs and behaviors and, above all, to Christ.  [The task of a parent, a father, is to to raise children, from birth through the stages, to growing up and getting out into the world. True fathers don’t infantalize their children.  Instead of walking together, they kick their butts out or thrown them into the drink to swim.]

Even a good many non-religious people understand that growing up means tying yourself down—to your spouse, to your children, and, often, to a 30-year mortgage. It’s not entirely clear, however, that the synod organizers understand this. A main focus of the synod is “vocational discernment,” yet, as Thomas Ascik points out in a review of IL, “the document has nothing to say, recommend, or advocate whatsoever about the prospects, possibilities, or ‘vocational discernment’ of young Catholic women concerning motherhood.”


A visual aid for the participants of the Synod (“walking together”), in honor of the Great Roman.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. dplentini says:

    The function of “fluid religion” is not just to make a watered-down religion, but one that will “flow” wherever the powers-that-be want it to flow to support their agendas: One day it will emphasize certain values considered to be politically useful; the next day other values that have better political utility. The submission and subversion of Christianity to political control was central to Luther, Henry VIII, and the rise of Protestantism generally. The Church was hated precisely because it was a parallel power that could undermine the secular authority. Paul VI’s address to the UN in 1965, in which he pledged the Church to submit to the UN, was a major capitulation.

  2. Ave Maria says:

    I cannot tell you how disgusted and sickened I am by all of this failure to preach the beautiful truths of our faith given to us by Christ, the Son of God Himself. “Discovering sexuality”? That is a demonic thing to insinuate. These men and others who promote sin and sexual confusion have souls that are in mortal danger of eternal damnation. Misleading the young is a sin worthy of the millstone about the neck and being thrown into the deep lake (of fire). This misleading goes all the way–all the way–to the top of our corrupted Church, er, false church.

  3. MrsMacD says:

    I can’t swim either. And that made me laugh!!!

  4. Anneliese says:

    I think the reference to “liquid” may mean “fluid.” As in the fluidity of gender or sexuality. I don’t think they want to water down religion or faith. I believe these people want to adjust religion and doctrines whenever it suits their purpose.

    I don’t understand when sex became a civil liberty and the main focal point of the Church. The priorities of Catholics, especially American Catholics, have become so off the mark that it boggles the mind. Why do people have to say they want to be “true to themselves” or “authentic?” I don’t even know what that really means. Why can’t people just admit that they want to do as they please without consequence?


    While I would agree that the world is becoming an increasingly nomadic place where the risk of, so to say, uprooting might make large investments in tying yourself down counter-productive, and that the way you preach to nomads is different to how you preach to the settled, it doesn’t change the almost-certainty that the weasel-words are sure to be twisted to the detriment of the authentic faith.

  6. MrsJackson says:

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I can’t for the life of me figure out the infatuation of “listening to and validating” adolescence? Strictly speaking, the neuroscience appears to be pretty solid that male brains are not fully formed until about 25 years of age and a females between 18 and 21. From a very controversial perspective, IQ is also not solidified until around those ages (up until that point it is much more fluid allowing children to conform and adapt as necessary to their situations/peers – this is not to say that they are not intelligent, just more adaptable). Why are we letting people with brains which aren’t fully developed lead/guide us? From an educational perspective (Trivium/Classical Education perspective – Grammar, Logic, Reason), children don’t reach the reason stage of thinking until their early teen’s and that takes time to develop. Years. This is also the period of time that many are being fully indoctrinated by left leaning (modernist/relativist) teachers and academics. This is also a time when these teachers/administrators/academics are enabling every whim of these adolescence especially when it comes to things of the sexual identity nature (or really anything that increases the children’s victim-hood status).

    We had a cult in my home town when I was growing up. Even as a teen it always struck me how the youth group was so active and had so many cool activities. It made you almost want to join (and many of my friends did). Then the “church” would consume the kids lives and the parents would join in so that they could get some face time with their children (they’d join the church). The recycling program was brought to the masses by the children in school being “educated” on the importance of recycling and then taking it home. Marketers have understood the importance of appealing to children for years, think about the old smoking adds, the milk adds/posters in school cafeterias, fluoride in water/toothpaste, etc. This appears to me to be a similar thing. People with agenda’s (or a complete lack of full development and ability to think deeply themselves – this is something a lot of us are lacking…I believe that to be by design – John Taylor Gatto has a good History of School’s video on youtube that addresses some of this … it’s 5 hours) making the unpalatable palatable through the children.

  7. LarryW2LJ says:

    “increasingly liquid” = not rigid

    The results of these synods remind of the memes one sees of Facebook that start out “You had one job ……..” and the photo depicts an utter failure.

  8. FrAnt says:

    I am surprised that the movie clip hasn’t been scrubbed due to child abuse and the threat of domestic abuse.

  9. JeremyB says:

    This is a question that can be asked of other modern manifestations of Catholic teaching. I had this conversation with some friends recently regarding the definition of chastity in the CCC as being ineffective in moving the will to desire chastity, even if the words are true.

    CCC 2237: Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

    While not incorrect, it is difficult to see how this is meaningful to the majority of Catholics without theological training. It is also impossible to imagine St Maria Goretti in the face of her attacker saying, “You are violating the integration of my sexuality within my person.” Once we start asking the question about what will inspire the strength of martyrdom, with God’s grace, I think we will find much of our catechesis lacking.

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  11. GypsyMom says:

    It seems that when people become illicitly sexually active, they stop maturing emotionally and their reasoning ability gets short circuited, absent some type of conversion. MrsJackson pointed out that children don’t reach the reason stage of thinking until their early teens. This is when the culture seeks to pull them into sexual activity. This would explain much about why we have a whole world of overgrown adolescents who cannot reason. That our Church leaders are complicit, knowingly or unknowingly, in aiding this is unthinkable. Lord have mercy on us!

  12. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    It is sad what people experience like what Mr. Kilpatrick mentioned about Africa.

    While this is only remotely related to what he described, people do not understand is that parts of America are not that far away from such a mob-rule scenario. The U.S. has been infiltrated by anti-Christians and pseudo-christians for many years now.

    Additionally, Leftists in America have been seething with rage for many years.

    I have written it before but never hurts to repeat: I have likely been unlawfully surveilled through wiretapped home phone, cell phone, and computers. Multiple electronic devices have been hacked. My car has apparently been unlawfully entered on multiple occasions. I was likely forcibly drugged at a Catholic Chapel and then later again at the emergency room (without my knowledge or consent). I was drawn into what had all of the appearances of a staged purse snatching. I have nearly been run off the road and nearly run over at least 12 times.

    That is mob-like behavior. It is only a few steps away from the types of behavior occurring in African countries.

    Oh, and I should mention that the harassment that is also apparently part of the surveillance may have contributed to the death of a former NFL wide receiver who was found deceased in my city. Apparently prior to his death this former NFL receiver said people were “after him”. News articles appeared to imply that he was mentally ill. But, on the contrary, he could have easily been on the receiving end of the harassment, intimidation, and other tactics that this commentator has described in previous comments. The mob-like, plain-clothed surveillors could have easily been harassing him every time he went out in public, and he may not have realized it was all pre-planned, plain-clothed surveillors with the intent to make him go crazy. Was he harassed and/or surveilled like I might be at the present time? I don’t know. But I do know that it seems that the surveillors’ goal is to intimidate one into feeling like they are trapped and to make them feel like they are crazy. And that appears to be what this former NFL wide receiver had described prior to him being found deceased.

    This is mob-like behavior – identifying a target, isolating them, and harassing them with the apparent intent of causing them grave psychological harm. It is apparent that America is not far away from what Mr. Kilpratrick described is occurring in Africa.

    But, with regards to the watered-down Faith: one has to know that as long as the form and matter required for the Most Holy Eucharist remain present within the Church wherever the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass takes place, then yes, that is worth giving one’s life for – regardless of what the heretics are saying and doing at their Walking Together events.

  13. e.e. says:

    I also noticed the absence of much discussion of parenthood in the IL, despite the talk of accompaniment and vocational discernment. The synod itself defines youth as <35. By 35, many young people have become parents! Marriage and parenthood may seem far off to an 18 year old, but for someone who’s in their 30s, marriage and children are often on their mind (even if they aren’t married yet). Surely we don’t want to encourage this kind of extended adolescence until 35+ years old??

  14. johnnys says:

    The point of watered down Faith is being able to say ‘please don’t hurt me we have the same beliefs’ when the man with the machete shows up at the door.

  15. MrsJackson says:

    e.e. my priest referred to “youth” last Sunday as up to early 30’s. I was flabbergasted. He’s in his early/mid 30’s and in charge of more then a handful of parishes. Surly that couldn’t be his language. This makes more sense now. I just didn’t understand at the time. Thank you! In mainstream 28 is referred to as the new 18. It boggles the mind. Is it Peter Pan syndrome?

  16. e.e. says:

    @Mrs.Jackson “Is it Peter Pan syndrome?”

    It seems to be that the whole (developed) world encourages this kind of Peter Pan syndrome. I shudder to think of the Church falling into it, too. Obviously the Church should notice and comment on the societal forces that tend to discourage young adults from starting families until they’re well into their 30s. In this regard, I think treating anyone under 35 as “youth” for purposes of the synod actually makes some sense — because in developed countries, there are all kinds of forces that try to keep young adults from actually growing up. (Speaking of the USA here: Student loans, for example, and their high payment burdens that lead young adults to conclude they can’t afford children; a weak labor market; lesser job prospects for those with only high school diplomas; the decline in inflation-adjusted wages for many Americans over the past 30-40 years; artificial contraception and the widespread belief that children are something that come along only when you want them…. etc.) So in this regard I guess it makes sense to treat those up to their early 30s as still youth, because they are facing many forces that try to prevent them from settling down and growing up. But the Church shouldn’t capitulate to these societal forces pushing young adults into an extended adolescence!

    I married at 25. I was told repeatedly that I was “so young.” Really? At 25? But so many people truly believe this.

  17. MrsMacD says:

    Father, you know why they didn’t mention Motherhood as an option, right? Because as St. Paul said, ‘by childbearing she shall be saved.’ And because it’s absolutely necessary in order to infiltrate the women with communist ideals to get them out of the home and into the world surrounded by worldlings that would make them feel like a freaks, so that they cave to the will of the world, acting immorally.

    As for being youths at 35, at 35 I already had nine children and six miscarriages, it made me grow up. I don’t regret it.

    For youth to listen to, how about Our Lady, she had her first child at the age of 14, while showing some little children a vision of hell in Fatima she said, “more souls go to hell for sins of impurity than any other sin.” Or the example of Our Lord who, ‘returned with them and was subject to them,’ for the next 18 years after he was found at the temple when he was 12.

    Prelates who refuse to consult scripture on the hard truths remind me of that passage in scripture,’if they will not believe the law and the prophets, even if a man should rise from the dead they will not believe.’

    God have mercy on them, and on us.

  18. hwriggles4 says:

    Were any of these organizers from the United States or Canada? I ask because they could have asked high school and college age youth (BTW, I was a full time student from 25 to 28) why they preferred to go to a regular Sunday Mass and not a “youth oriented Mass” with guitars, drums, Christian Rock music, clapping, and hugging. Several Catholic young adults today tell me they want Mass to be reverent, and not entertainment.

    Like Fr. Pacwa often says, “I like to celebrate Mass by staying inside the lines and connecting the dots.”

  19. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    It’s well known that psychologically speaking, many homosexuals are narcissistic and immature.

    In a word, adolescent..

  20. The Cobbler says:

    “It’s a characteristic of youth—especially of the male variety—that they don’t want to be tied down. And that’s the appeal of this ever-changing liquid faith.”

    I thought we young men were the ones who want the old order back?

    “…the document has nothing to say, recommend, or advocate whatsoever about the prospects, possibilities, or ‘vocational discernment’ of young Catholic women concerning motherhood.”

    I wonder how many folks here have noticed that feminists prey on the desire of adult women not to be tied down. Not that that’s necessarily got anything to do with the latest sin-odd, I just find it interesting to note given the article earlier directs criticism at men specifically.

    (Tangentially, though, a lot of young Catholic women I know are getting caught up in feminism now that the left is rebranding it as supposedly primarily an anti-rape movement that just kinda sorta carries on the side a bunch of shoddy modernistic arguments about worldviews and the nature and relationship of the sexes as part of assigning blame. I haven’t seen anyone besides myself pick up on the moral danger there; they don’t reason like Catholics anymore, and they can’t handle their once-fellow conservative Catholics even though we all are supposed to agree on moral principles — yes, including the evil of rape and the fact that by definition it’s not chosen by its victim and therefore its victim isn’t culpable. All this is just another way the left uses charged issues to impress their views upon people: agree with us, or you’re helping perpetuate horrors against women! Sorry, that was a rabbit-hole.)

  21. Ben Kenobi says:

    Well, in a sense we are already dead, and dying everyday. Is it going to be Cupich that we face to answer for our sins? No. Nor can we go and point to Cupich and say, “but this man lead me astray”, as Adam did. We know the truth. We have an obligation to suffer and to die for the Faith. What can they water down? Can they distort what was once said? The Faith exists apart from them. Cupich et al may believe that they have the dare I say “authority” to change what was handed down to them, but they are mistaken.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    An “increasingly liquid paradigm of religiosity”?

    That sounds not like a Synod document but a late night meeting of the minds in a college dormitory after a kegger. Perhaps they should have ordered a pizza instead and called it a night. Also, lava in an inferno is liquid.

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