Vatican youth meeting notes that some want changes to Catholic teachings

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican-hosted conference of some 300 young people meant to advise Catholic bishops on the needs of youth today has acknowledged that some in their generation want the church to change its teachings on so-called “polemical issues” such as same-sex marriage and use of contraception.

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In a final document issued after a weeklong meeting in Rome, the young people also called on the Catholic Church to better include them at all levels of its global community and noted women are “not given an equal place” in church leadership.

“The Church must involve young people in its decision-making processes and offer them more leadership roles,” the youth say in their document, issued March 24 after six days of encounter intended to help prelates who will gather in Rome in October for a Synod of Bishops focused on the needs of the rising generation.

“These positions need to be on a parish, diocesan, national and international level, even on a commission to the Vatican,” state the youth. “We strongly feel that we are ready to be leaders.”

The final document for the pre-synod meeting, divided into 15 sub-sections over 16 pages, takes a generous tone: calling at points for a more welcoming, open and merciful church.

It is also noted by its direct approach: while written with a deep infusion of Catholic theology and spirituality, the youth do not cite excessively from church documents and instead speak freely about issues they see affecting them.

“Today’s young people are looking for an authentic Church,” the youth say at one point. “We want to say, especially to the hierarchy of the Church, that they should be a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community.”

“A credible Church is one which is not afraid to allow itself to be seen as vulnerable,” they suggest. “The Church should be sincere in admitting its past and present wrongs.”

The young people address church teachings on same-sex marriage and contraception in a section of the document on how youth today are searching for meaning in life.

“There is often great disagreement among young people, both within the Church and in the wider world, about some of her teachings which are especially controversial today,” the text states. “Examples of these include: contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, marriage, and how the priesthood is perceived in different realities in the Church.”

“What is important to note is that irrespective of their level of understanding of Church teaching, there is still disagreement and ongoing discussion among young people on these polemical issues,” it continues. “As a result, they may want the Church to change her teaching or at least have access to a better explanation and to more formation on these questions.”

The document addresses the situation for women in the church in the same section, and returns to the issue at several other points.

“Today, there is a general problem in society in that women are still not given an equal place,” it states. “This is also true in the Church.”

“There are great examples of women serving in consecrated religious communities and in lay leadership roles,” it continues. “However, for some young women, these examples are not always visible.”

“One key question arises from these reflections; what are the places where women can flourish within the Church and society?” say the young people. “The Church can approach these problems with real discussion and open-mindedness to different ideas and experiences.”

The pre-synod document was drafted after discussions among 20 small language groups at the March 19-24 meeting. The process also included input from 15,000 people engaged in the process through Facebook and other social networks.

The attendees at the meeting, open to people between the ages of 16-29, were selected by global bishops’ conferences, Catholic institutions and the Vatican’s synod office.

Francis opened the event March 19 with an address telling the group to “be brave” and speak freely in their discussions, telling them the Catholic Church must take risks in order to grow.

Filipe Domingues, a Brazilian delegate at the meeting who was part of the drafting committee for the final document, told NCR that attendees saw the event “as a single opportunity to speak, meaning that it might not be repeated soon.”

“The pope told us to speak and young people did,” said Domingues, who has lived in Rome for several years pursuing graduate studies.

Katie Prejean McGrady, one of three delegates selected by the U.S. bishops to attend the gathering, called the final document a “game changer.”

“If this document doesn’t result in a seismic shift in how we minister to & with young people, then it’s not being read properly,” she said on Twitter shortly before the document’s release.

Among those attending the gathering were also non-Catholics and non-believers. Sandro Bucher, an atheist delegate from Switzerland, said in a brief interview that he felt “very welcomed” in his small language group and was heartened that both young Catholics and non-believers have “the same concerns about the world and where we are going.”

After its presentation March 24, the pre-synod meeting final document is to be formally presented to Francis as part of the Vatican’s Mass for Palm Sunday March 25. The text is then going to be used to help form the October synod’s initial working document, known as an instrumentum laboris.

The young people say in the introduction to their document that they did not intend for it to be used “as an empirical analysis of any other time in the past, but rather as an expression of where we are now, where we are headed and as an indicator of what [the church] needs to do moving forward.”

“This is to give the Bishops a compass,” they state.

Included in the other issues the document discusses are young peoples’ relationship with technology, their understanding of the future of society, and their need for mentors to walk with them as they face life’s challenges.

“A common dream across continents and oceans is the desire to find a place where the young person can feel that he or she belongs,” they state. “Young people seek to engage with and address the social justice issues of our time. We seek the opportunity to work towards building a better world.”

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4 comments on “Vatican youth meeting notes that some want changes to Catholic teachings

  1. Final “Document” of Pre-Synod on Youth Full of Cheap Statements
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    en.news – 3/25/18
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    On March 24, the Roman pre-synod on the youth published a final document which reads like a political, not like a religious text.
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    It criticises that “the sacred” appears to be separated from “daily life” as if there were no separation between the sacred and the profane.
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    The authors claim that the Church which is usually caving in to any challenge against its moral authority, is “too severe” or “often associated with excessive moralism”.
    /
    They ask the Church to overcome a “logic of ‘it has always been done this way’” although such a “logic” is never invoked.
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    The document mentions the role of women in the Church several times as if the true problem of the Church were not the absence of men.
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    It claims that settled matters like teaching on homosexuality, contraception, cohabitation and abortion are “controversial”.
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    The document calls on the Church to speak in practical terms about “controversial subjects” such as homosexuality and gender issues, about which young people are allegedly already discussing “without taboo”.
    /
    However, on March 21, the German delegate Alina Oehler admitted on katholisch.de (March 21) that she came up with “homosexuality” and was surprised that her proposal did not elicit any reaction among the other delegates.
    /
    This proves that homosexuality is not a hot topic among “the youth” but rather among the Vatican bureaucrats.

  2. Final Document of Vatican Youth Meeting on Women, Moral Issues, Leadership
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    Maike Hickson – March 24, 2018
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    Today, 24 March, those 300 young people gathered in Rome at the invitation of the Vatican issued their own final document after a week-long discussion. Some 15,000 young people contributed to the discussions through Facebook groups. The participants at the meeting — which was open to people between the ages of 16 and 29 — were chosen by national bishops’ conferences, Catholic institutions, and the Vatican’s synod office.
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    This document will be handed to Pope Francis tomorrow, on Palm Sunday, and shall likely influence the discussions at the Synod of Bishops on the Youth which will take place in the fall of this year. As it states:
    /
    The document is understood as a summary of all of our participants’ input based on the work of 20 language groups and 6 from social media. This will be one source, among others, that will contribute to the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod of Bishops 2018.
    /
    As this final document of the pre-synod meeting informs us, it contains “reflections of young people of the 21st century from various religious and cultural backgrounds.” The authors state that this document might be “an indicator of what she [the Church] needs to do moving forward.” The authors go so far as to call this summary text “a compass”:
    /
    This is to give the Bishops a compass, pointing towards a clearer understanding of young people: a navigational aid for the upcoming Bishops’ Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” in October 2018.
    /
    Echoing Pope Francis’ own repeated words, the young at the Rome meeting lamentably regret the harshness of the Catholic Church, especially when they write: “The Church oftentimes appears as too severe and is often associated with excessive moralism. Sometimes, in the Church, it is hard to overcome the logic of ‘it has always been done this way’. We need a Church that is welcoming and merciful […]” They also say that “we need inclusion.”
    /
    With regard to the place and function of women in the Church, the authors request more influence for women. Young people could feel more “accepted,” they say, when “we seek to promote the dignity of women, both in the Church and in wider society.” The young authors regret that in society, “women are still not given an equal place. This is also true in the Church.” They add:
    /
    One key question arises from these reflections; what are the places where women can flourish within the Church and society? The Church can approach these problems with real discussion and open-mindedness to different ideas and experiences.
    /
    At a later place in the document, the authors return to the topic of women. They again regret that there is “an unclear role of women in the Church. If it is difficult for young people to feel a sense of belonging and leadership in the Church, it is much more so for young women.”
    /
    With regard to several controversial moral issues, the young authors show themselves to be divided, but they also indicate that hopes for changes in the Church’s teachings have been fittingly brought up:
    /
    There is often great disagreement among young people, both within the Church and in the wider world, about some of her teachings which are especially controversial today. Examples of these include: contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, marriage, and how the priesthood is perceived in different realities in the Church. What is important to note is that irrespective of their level of understanding of Church teaching, there is still disagreement and ongoing discussion among young people on these polemical issues. As a result, they may want the Church to change her teaching or at least to have access to a better explanation and to more formation on these questions. Even though there is internal debate, young Catholics whose convictions are in conflict with official teaching still desire to be part of the Church. Many young Catholics accept these teachings and find in them a source of joy. They desire the Church to not only hold fast to them amid unpopularity but to also proclaim them with greater depth of teaching.
    /
    The authors of the final document additionally regret that they may not have more leading positions within the Church: “On many occasions, young people have difficulty finding a space in the Church where they can actively participate and lead.” They even go farther when they claim:
    /
    The Church must involve young people in its decision-making processes and offer them more leadership roles. These positions need to be on a parish, diocesan, national and international level, even on a commission to the Vatican. We strongly feel that we are ready to be leaders.
    /
    When speaking about vocations, the document does not bring up the idea of women as deacons nor as priests.
    /
    Thus, while the document seems much calmer than some observers had expected, the surrounding interviews given by some of the young participants — as well as media coverage — might have its own solvent impact.
    /
    Andrien Louandre, one of the young participants from France, just gave an interview in which he praised Pope Francis, especially his building of “a Church which is more open and where mercy is at the center. Truly, this question of openness is important, especially with regard to homosexuals; one needs to integrate them, but also give them permission to live their Faith within a positive homosexuality.”
    /
    Sandro Bucher, an atheist from Switzerland who participated at the youth gathering, explained in an interview with Katholisch.de that he had left the Church when he was sixteen years old because he was against the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, celibacy, and her rejection of female priests, among other topics. He also was opposed to the Church’s position concerning the “remarried” divorcees.
    /
    Looking at more ostensibly progressive media outlets,such as today’s National Catholic Reporter‘s report, there is given weight to the call to change Church teachings on various moral issues.
    /
    The young people address church teachings on same-sex marriage and contraception in a section of the document on how youth today are searching for meaning in life.
    /
    According to the report, “some of the young propose changes: ‘As a result, they may want the Church to change her teaching, or at least have access to a better explanation and to more formation on these questions.’”
    /
    The author of the article, Joshua McElwee, also placed some pointed remarks on his twitter account, saying: “Pre-Synod document written by 300 young people in Rome acknowledges that some youth ‘may want the Church to change her teaching’ on ‘polemical issues’ such as contraception and same-sex marriage.”
    /
    As we reported a few days ago, two representatives of the feminist organization Voices of Faith — Nicole Perone and Alina Oehler — had been invited to participate at this youth gathering. Perone herself was asked to be a member of the drafting team for the final document of the youth meeting that will be handed to Pope Francis tomorrow.
    /
    Alina Oehler, in a commentary written for the German bishops’ website Katholisch.de, explains that “it was mostly unclear how the individual editors [of the final document] were chosen.” She continues, adding “that is an impression that remained present throughout the whole pre-synod meeting. Many participants had been invited on very short-term basis and did not know much about the background.” In this context, she was supportive of the document’s call for more transparency in the Church.
    /
    Oehler in her honesty also did not remain silent about the fact that the discussion as to whether or not to include those topics of “homosexuality and gender” in the final document was “contested until the end.” She herself is “happy” that the topic of women is mentioned four times, and prominently so.
    /
    The near future will likely show in what manner this new youth document will be used for more progressive purposes than what is perceptible at first sight. It certainly has given individuals the chance to promote their own views with regard to what the Church should change in order, putatively, to please the world of the young. And we also remember how it took Pope Francis two synods to reach the goal he had intended from the beginning with regard to the marriage question.

  3. The Revolutionaries will USE truly stupid youngsters before devouring them.
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    It being Palm Sunday, I won’t resort to the more colorful adjectives that I might think of in the context of mad hierarchs reporting to the pope on pre-engineered results from a skewed sampling of suggestions from a gaggle of Tide pod munching Potemkin Village idiots.

  4. It absolutely, totally, completely, comprehensively beggars description, regardless of the infinite number of angles from which it can be observed.
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    An 80-something year old man, head of a worldwide organization run by +50 year old other men, IS ASKING UNDER-29ers TO TEACH THEM WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT.
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    If YOU haven’t figured it out yet, Francis & Co., what the !@#$%&*! makes you think THEY have!
    You, Francis Church, are the definition of CONTEMPTIBLE.

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