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.