The young Catholics who ‘joyfully embrace’ Church teaching
Sarah Mac Donald reports in The Tablet: Link to article: https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/15745/the-young-catholics-who-joyfully-embrace-church-teaching?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Tablet%20weekly%2009%20August%202022&utm_content=Tablet%20weekly%2009%20August%202022+CID_891f7016e216d0522b07a09deea37e53&utm_source=SxTabNews_v1&utm_term=Sarah%20Mac%20Donald%20reports
Concerns have been “the acceleration of Catholics leaving the Church with young people being driven out in droves”.
The National Pre- Synodal Assembly took place on Saturday 18 June 2022 in Athlone and Clonmacnoise.
A letter sent to the Irish Synodal Steering Committee by 500 young people insisting they do not want Church teaching to change has been described by a priest involved in the Diocese of Killala’s synodal listening process as “not a view that is generally representative of young people”.
Fr Brendan Hoban said the letter was “spectacularly out of sync” with the results of other surveys. He said the synodal approach meant all voices have to be listened to “but it doesn’t mean that all voices deserve equal attention. Context is important.”
One of the letter’s organisers, Maria Bridges, told the Irish Catholic newspaper that young Catholics feel they have been excluded from the synodal process in Ireland and the Church had not sought their opinion.
“As young faithful Catholics we fully accept and joyfully embrace Church teaching and practice, and do not wish for Church teaching to be changed or reformulated,” the letter states.
Speaking to The Tablet Fr Hoban said: “There are very different views on a great variety of issues today in the Catholic Church.” Referring to 500 signatures, he highlighted that 356 replies were received from young people in the Diocese of Killala alone. “There was no perceptible difference between the youth replies and the adults in terms of Church teaching,” he said.
The Mayo priest noted that the reports from the 26 Irish dioceses were remarkably aligned with each other and generally “surfaced the same priorities that needed to be dealt with”. He added: “It would be a pity if the clear and obvious findings were undermined by small numbers of marginal, special interest groups.”
Separately, representatives of Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) have made a submission to the Synod Office in Rome following a series of gatherings of worldwide by representatives from Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australia/Oceania.
Common concerns expressed in the gatherings were “the acceleration of Catholics leaving the Church with young people being driven out in droves; the dysfunctional governance of the Church with far too many bishops regarding their roles as autocratic in nature seeking little or no engagement with the people of the Church for whom they are pastorally responsible”.
Other issues highlighted were the exclusion of women from administrative and ministerial roles and official teachings rejected by the sensus fidelium regarding sexuality and reproduction.
In a statement, CCRI said that despite cultural and regional differences, “we are in full consensus that these reforms are essential for the sustainability and future of our Church”.
The young Catholics who ‘joyfully embrace’ Church teaching
From now on could we all observe a rule of never referring to ‘church teaching’ without specifying which ‘teaching’ or ‘set of teachings’ is being referred to? And challenge editors not to accept blanket pieces on ‘church teaching’ that do not observe this rule?
Given the size of the Catechism and the ever-expanding pronouncements of churchmen on the entire range of human concerns – not to mention the ‘cancellation’ of Limbo just a few years ago – who nowadays can credibly claim a detailed grasp of the whole of current ‘Catholic church teaching’? The phrase on its own is about as useful ‘as global government policy’ or ‘current scientific opinion’ or ‘the totality of things known by the dogs in the street in Ballina’.
I am not forgetting that not too long ago Joe O’Leary opined on these ACP pages that the phrase ‘church teaching’ used on its own in this way is nothing other than code for ‘church teaching on sexual morality’ – or that in February 2022 it was reported that Pope Francis gave the CDF a new remit to study the issues “posed by the progress of sciences and the development of society” – and that in the wake of that there was speculation this could well involve a new look at LGBT+ issues. E.G.:
Just how much confidence could anyone have that the 500 young Irish people credited with ’embracing church teaching’ by the Irish Catholic are even aware of that? The fiction that the church has never, and can never, change its ‘teaching’ on anything springs eternal – as a necessary component of Good Old Catholic Chauvinism – and the ’embracing’ of the latter is still a thriving industry.
Let’s not forget either what Ireland’s Seán Fagan insisted upon when it comes to ‘teaching’: it hasn’t even happened until someone has learned something. Only when our Irish Church leaders have explained why they do not publish research on how much ‘church teaching’ has been learned by the alumni of our Catholic schools will we know just how much teaching is actually happening. Until then the ’embracing of Catholic church teaching by Ireland’s youth’ will be about as credible a construct as the ‘hundreds of thousands of Irish teenagers who will never in 2022 agree to miss weekly Mass – to the growing consternation of the Gaelic Athletic Association, now in rapid decline!’
Very well said, Sean. Since 2015 the pall of neurosis hanging over the church has been removed, and the CDF’s mutterings hold little weight under Pope Francis. Cardinals now say the kinds of thing that Sean Fagan was persecuted for saying. These young people who embrace church teaching are like those who love the Tridentine Mass: their zeal is misdirected, as they act out an archaic script assuring them of true blue Catholic identity. The Catholic tradition is vaster and richer than they realize and provides them elsewhere with what they are looking for. And that tradition is visibly, palpably undergoing transformation in the current opening up to vaster horizons in science and the religions.