Scottish young people’s Letter to a Synod bishop

The UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, has the text of a letter signed by 107 “young people” (18-35) in Scotland, to Archbp. Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland.

Some of their statements are, I think, not what the riggers … organizers of the Synod want to hear.

The full letter to Archbishop Cushley.  My emphases and comments:

Your Grace,

We write to you in advance of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. As young Catholics across Scotland, we would like to express our hopes and concerns for the future of the Church in this country.

In some of the discourse surrounding the synod, we have noted a trend of suggesting that difficult aspects of the Church’s teaching, in matters of morals and matters of faith, need to be downplayed, or even put aside, in order to be relevant to people’s lives and sensitive to their difficulties. Some even imply that priests who hold to orthodox teaching are out of touch with the lives of lay people, and of young people especially. However, it is in fact this line of thought that is utterly in contradiction to our lived experience. What made us become and/or remain Catholic, against ever increasing cultural pressure, are those aspects of the faith that are uniquely Catholic, not things that can be found in social clubs, in NGOs, or in political parties. What matters is precisely the Church’s claim to truth; Her liturgy and Sacraments; Her transcendent doctrine, communicated in teaching but also through beauty and goodness; Her understanding of the human person, laid out so powerfully for the modern world by St John Paul II; [whose body of teaching this pontificate’s Team seems bent on erasing] and Her moral teaching, that while so very challenging, also offers the only path to true joy and human flourishing as we see in the lives of the saints. These are the things that convince us that here is something worth the sacrifice, something good for us and for every human being.

Young Catholics are inspired by the heroic virtue espoused by the Church, in opposition to the cynicism and pessimism of postmodern culture. A faith that merely legitimises the habits we would otherwise have anyway is simply not worth it. Far from being “out of touch”, it is those priests who proclaim orthodox teaching in its fullness with joy and courage who have brought the light of Christ into our lives, and really offered us His Mercy – the remedy for a broken world, which does not pretend human brokenness is irremediable, but truly heals and gives the grace we need to live new lives of virtue. To those priests, we are unendingly grateful.

Sadly, far too few young people have encountered this fullness of the faith lived out visibly and confidently. A young Catholic father in America recently wrote to Archbishop Chaput [He’s that guy whom Francis warned against in his conversation with Archbp. Viganò.  He’s the guy who dared to raise his voice in the last Synod and who has commented on the Instrumentum Laboris of this Synod.] that “The disastrous effect that Beige Catholicism (as Bishop Robert Barron aptly describes it) has had on my generation can’t be overstated.” (“From the Heart of a Young Father”, Charles Chaput, First Things, 18th  April 2018). God has, in His mysterious ways, providentially and gratuitously blessed us with encounters, pastors, and formation that many of our peers have not had. [The implication is that there are not enough priests of the kind they describe.  Why is that, I wonder.] We desperately want to share this great gift with so many lapsed and non-Catholics among our family, friends, and colleagues, who have not rejected Catholicism but a poorly-understood shadow of it. If the synod is to bear fruit, it is with this task that it must help us.

We need to ensure that our local Catholic communities are permeated with a Catholic worldview, and unashamed that such an orientation is very different from the prevailing cultural trends. The sacramental life, beyond just Sunday Mass, needs to be obviously and visibly the foundation of Catholic existence. We must draw on our rich heritage to ensure the liturgy is celebrated with beauty and splendour [Like the stick Francis carried at the opening of the Synod?] so as to reveal and draw us into the profound mysteries taking place. We need to see the various vocations lived out fully and joyfully, with parishes and dioceses forming a living iconography of faith, so that we can discern God’s will for our own lives, not in isolation but in an ecclesial context.

Young people need the chance to get to know our priests as priests – not just as administrators, nor presiders rushing from church to church, nor again merely as pals, but as fathers, whose fatherhood is rooted in their sacramental identity as men called and set apart to absolve and to offer the Holy Sacrifice. [Set apart?!?  Like… yikes!… clerics?!?] Young Catholics find priests who live their vocation to celibacy faithfully and joyfully to be highly credible witnesses to the joys and challenges of life in Christ.

The Church must be proactive and not merely reactive in facing the crisis affecting marriage and the family. To a large extent, Catholic married life has come to be treated as little different from secular relationships. Our economic and social structures are based almost entirely around a presumption of contraception, and this makes it extremely difficult for any couples who live faithfully according to God’s commandments. So many of our generation are living with the consequences of broken families, and this has engendered a cynicism about marriage. However, these young people have never been shown an alternative and therefore the Church has a great opportunity and obligation to clearly, confidently, and joyfully proclaim the truth about marriage. Young Catholics have a right to hear these truths at a local level so that our parishes are consciously supportive of the vocation to holiness in married life. This is vital since it is firstly in the family that vocations are fostered and it is on this foundation that an authentic renewal of Catholic culture and the life of the Church will be built.

There is no doubt that discovering and living out one’s vocation is very difficult in the modern world, as indeed it has been in every age. However, we know that God’s grace is enough for us and we hope and pray that a renewed faith and confidence in this will suffuse the Church and inspire young people to discern and live out their vocations faithfully.

Entrusting the synod to the intercession of St John, youngest of the Apostles, we assure you of our prayers.

Yours sincerely in Christ,


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Ah! That was like a breath of fresh mountain air. :^)


  2. Luminis says:

    Beautiful indeed! Hopefully someone in Rome is listening .

  3. Dan says:

    Let’s hope our youth in these United States take example from this. I know many involved with the focus group across the country and I think most are very sound Catholics. I would think they could have several hundred signatures in short order.

  4. barryaltarserver1985 says:

    That is a fine letter and hope Archbishop Cushley acts on it. Sadly, apart from the honourable exceptions of Bishop Davies of Shrewsbury and Bishop Egan of Portsmouth, it appears as if the majority of Bishops of England and Wales do not seem concerned either by this Synod or by The Present Crisis. Burying their heads in the sand, as usual.

  5. hwriggles4 says:

    Priests and bishops need to take a letter like this seriously. The generation born between 1983 and 2000 has seen the repercussions of the “God loves you I am glad “, the “feel good pop psychology “, and the “lovey dovey touchy feeley huggy kissy” mentality that was prevalent in Catholic and Protestant youth groups in the 1970s and 1980s. This is why their churchgoing parents only have a 5th grade level education in their faith.

  6. John V says:

    Well, if they sent the letter directly to the Archbishop before he left, they don’t have to worry about it not being delivered to him in Rome, as happened with that batch of books at the last Synod.

  7. teomatteo says:

    I took my family to Philly some years ago, not to see the Pope as much as my desire to support Arch Chaput. I will not forget seeing them in tje popemobile on that sunday afternoon. How i wished the one seated would succeed the one standing.

  8. Simon_GNR says:

    My first encounter with Catholic culture as a 19 year old student was very much of the “ ‘lovey dovey touchy feeley huggy kissy’ mentality that was prevalent in Catholic and Protestant youth groups in the 1970s and 1980s” but, when I went to a Mass for the first time I was able, by God’s grace, to see through all that and get a real glimpse of true holiness in the reverent, but not traditional, way in which Mass was celebrated. Perhaps many young people these days need things other than the Mass to see God’s majesty and holiness, but it worked for me.

    I like what I’ve read about Archbishop Chaput. He seems really sound and I wish there were many more bishops like him. Many of them seem to want just a quiet life, never putting their heads above the parapet to challenge the secular, materialist, atheistic norms of modern Western society. Whatever else Christ promised his apostles, he certainly didn’t promise them a quite life!

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