The Synod on youth holds particular interest for me since I have spent a great portion of my priestly ministry teaching high school and college students, as well as seminarians.
Pope Francis’ claim that youth unemployment is the worst societal evil is patently false. I think, objectively speaking, that the murder of defenseless unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs is a far greater evil. Pope Francis pushes for open borders, spearheading a papal campaign with the aid of Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro for illegal immigrants to come in droves to the shores of Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. This phenomenon, however, is a contributing factor to youth unemployment. Open borders and mass illegal immigration aggravate the unemployment situation – driving local youth (many of whom are quite talented and well educated with several diplomas/degrees in hand!) to flee their native lands in order to seek employment elsewhere.
For decades, young people have been suffering from broken home life, the breakdown of traditional marriage and family life. So, how does Communion for the divorced and remarried help young people gain a greater appreciation for the permanence of marriage, of the indissolublity of the marital bond? On the contrary, as far as sign value goes, doesn’t this aberrant practice cheapen the value of the Sacrament of Matrimony in the eyes of young people?
Failing to correct liturgical abuses at the parish and diocesan levels also serves to diminish a young person’s faith; to dull his or her sense of the sacred; to obfuscate the great allure of the mysteries of salvation celebrated, memorialized, re-lived and perpetuated in the sacraments, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And what about the insipid preaching of clergy based on false notions of mercy and misplaced compassion? How are such homilies and sermons a true impetus for young people to examine their consciences in order to have timely recourse to the Sacrament of Penance?
What is this Synod going to do to address these concerns?
Pope Francis has suggested that we can legitimately take Martin Luther’s advice to “sin fiercely but believe even more fiercely” (“pecca fortiter sed crede fortius“) – because God is always going to forgive us. Or, that we can likewise believe that the souls in Hell will be annihilated rather than punished for all eternity (a statement attributed to a private conversation the Pontiff had with his good friend and frequent interlocutor, Eugenio Scalfari, the elderly atheist editor of La Repubblica) – then what would be the point of speaking to young people of a “sense of sin” that would move them to tap into the Church’s life of sacramental grace?
Young people crave clarity in every aspect of their lives. They get so little clarity from their lax parents and teachers, from the left-wing media, from the ephemeral entertainment and fashion industries. But shouldn’t they expect clarity from their bishops and priests (their pastors) and, above all, from the Successor of Saint Peter who is supposed to be the rock (the visible foundation stone) on which the Church is firmly built, that Church which Saint Paul termed “the pillar and bulwark of truth”?
Given the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, the McCarrick scandals, the Viganò testimonials (which seem quite credible and which have not been refuted in any substantive way), what credibility does the hierarchy have vis-à-vis young people? Was this not the substance of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s letter to Francis, urging him to postpone this Synod? Should not the Church’s hierarchy, starting at the Vatican, get its own house in order before giving young people advice, let alone marching orders, about how to maintain their own households?
However, since that approach has been discounted, then we should try at least to address real problems and offer genuine solutions.
Young people come from situations of great flux: ever-evolving technology that can depersonalize them in chat rooms and on various platforms of social media; disintegrating family life; sexual mores untethered from the demands of the Gospel and the natural moral law; real uncertainty about their future as individuals and as members of an integrated, sane and welcoming society; increasing levels of poverty or, in some cases, an illusory attachment to accumulated material wealth; growing unemployment; the real temptation to become sex slaves to satisfy strong drug and alcohol addictions.
Don’t these young people need the stability of the Church and her rock-solid, timeless teachings—as well as the example and prayers of the saints—to help anchor them in their true selves during these perilous times that seem like ever-shifting sands beneath their feet?
Young people tend to react to reality first with the heart, following the impulses of its ever-changing emotions and feelings. The Church, on the other hand, provides them (or should provide them) with a steady and balanced synthesis of faith and reason to meet the challenges of their times without having to go to certain mental, emotional and spiritual extremes. The challenge of young people to preserve chastity in a sex-saturated society where pornography is all-pervasive is likewise a challenge for the Church to lead young people along the high road to Christian perfection, rather than along the low road which is one of constant capitulation to one’s disordered desires (concupiscence) and burning lusts, be they of a heterosexual or homosexual nature.
The Evil One always sets snares for young people in the area of chastity. The Devil is always ready to see young people welcome idols into their lives. One such powerful idol is sex without love and responsibility; sex that does not recognize the inherent goodness of the human body and the nuptial significance of human sexuality, of the total gift of self to one’s spouse as taught by St. John Paul II in the “Theology of the Body,” wherein the body is treated as it really is—the temple of the Holy Spirit—bought at the inestimable price of Christ’s Most Precious Blood, and not a disposable toy or gadget.
By-products of a sinful world steeped in moral relativism such as gender ideology, the LGBTQ movement, and extreme forms of secular feminism are not the things of God and Heaven. They are base! None of those realities, as Fathers James Martin and Thomas Rosica fail to appreciate, prepares young people for life with the saints in light, for what is unclean cannot enter into God’s all-holy presence.
Teens are hormonal. Hormones, like feelings and emotions, mutate—and do so frequently. They are unreliable measuring sticks of goodness, truth and beauty. The Church, on the other hand, is by her very nature “conservative.” The “Magisterium” preserves (“conserves”) the unchanging “Depositum Fidei” (Deposit of Faith) and faithfully transmits it to each successive generation of believers. The Pope is in a privileged position as the head of the Magisterium. Liberalism (so fought against by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman throughout his life) and the papacy do not go hand-in-hand. The Catholic Church should be the most counter-cultural institution on the planet, her fundamental attraction being that of a living sign of contradiction to a secular society that rejects the Cross of the God-Man as foolishness and weakness.
The Church would cease to exist if she were merely to conform her perennial teachings to the populist opinions of a sinful world (however globalized, diverse and tolerant it claims to be!), whose ready accommodation of young people is aimed at their corruption, not their sanctification and salvation. Of all people, the Pope and the bishops in communion with him must be the most aware of the great dangers that such secular accommodation poses to the flock of Christ, especially to young people who are the most tender of sheep, the most easily persuaded by the Ancient Enemy to wander into territories hostile to everything that is truly profitable to them not just in the here-and-now—but in the life of the world to come where the only work in which the souls of the saints is fully employed is that of perpetual adoration of the Lamb once slain who now lives forever.
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