When I first heard about the Pre-Synodal Meeting of Young People a few weeks ago, I felt some trepidation. Who exactly were these 300 representatives who would be speaking for all the young people of the world to the Bishops? Will they speak of my concerns about the way the Church presents itself in my milieu? Do my concerns even count at all, being a married mother over 40? Or will they reflect the talking points I’ve seen a hundred times from certain neo-traditionalists (those who don’t see Vatican II and subsequent developments as an authentic part of the Church’s tradition) that what young people really want is a return to Latin Mass and “clear” moral teaching (without conscience or nuance muddying the waters) and a general pushback against “modernism”?
Apparently the neo-traditionalists wanted to see that very message adopted in the report of the meeting, because as soon as the final document (entitled “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”) came out, there was a profusion of articles and social media memes attacking it as supposedly not representing the true voices of young Catholics. The attacks were so fierce one might think that the document had suggested changing moral teachings on key issues, admitting women to the priesthood, and a proliferation of “clown Masses.” But anyone who reads this document honestly could not find any such suggestions. Indeed, its critical last section recommends connecting with young people not only through social media and experiential encounter, but also through Eucharistic Adoration and contemplative prayer, and beauty in music, visual art, and architecture, and states:
“The Church must adopt a language which engages the customs and cultures of the young so that all people have the opportunity to hear the message of the Gospel. However, we are passionate about the different expressions of the Church. Some of us have a passion for “the fire” of contemporary and charismatic movements that focus on the Holy Spirit; others are drawn towards silence, meditation and reverential traditional liturgies. All of these things are good as they help us to pray in different ways.” (Part 3, Section 13)
Thus the priorities of neo-traditionalists are very much affirmed as good means of evangelizing young people; they simply aren’t presented as the only means. Moreover, nothing in the document suggests changing Church teachings. The third paragraph even clarifies: “It is important at the outset to clarify the parameters of this document. It is neither to compose a theological treatise, nor is it to establish new Church teaching. Rather, it is a statement reflecting the specific realities, personalities, beliefs and experiences of the young people of the world.” And those realities, personalities, beliefs and experiences are very much presented in terms of their great diversity, neither minimizing nor elevating different and even conflicting perceptions.
If there is one constant and organizing theme in this document, it is the celebration of diversity, not in a simplistic way that calls for “quotas” for different “identity groups,” but in appreciating the infinite variety of human persons and the strengths each can bring to the Body of Christ, as well as mixed-faith communities. “We should not fear our diversity but celebrate our differences and what makes each one of us unique,” the document pleads. The unspoken subtext is that the Church has not been handling diversity very well in the experience of young people. (more…)
Lillian Vogl is a woman of many facets. Professionally, she is learned and licensed in law and finance. Politically, she is a long-time activist for justice who is currently the Chair of the American Solidarity Party. Spiritually, she is a lifelong lover of the Divine and student of Scripture, Catholic by choice, mystic by election, and blogs at www.beyondalltelling.com. Personally, she nurtures the flourishing of her husband, two children, and friends with all the beauty and structure of a good compost heap.