Synod working document: Young Catholics need church that listens to them

Pope Francis prepares to take a photo with young people at a presynod gathering of youth delegates in Rome March 19.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Pope Francis prepares to take a photo with young people at a presynod gathering of youth delegates in Rome March 19.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Young Catholics are looking for a church that listens to their concerns, accompanies them in discerning their vocations and helps them confront the challenges they face, said a working document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.

The synod’s “instrumentum laboris” (working document), published by the Vatican on June 19, stated that young people “want to see a church that shares their situations of life in the light of Gospel rather than by preaching.”

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Quoting a presynod gathering of young people who met at the Vatican March 19-25, the working document said young Catholics “want an authentic church. With this, we would like to express, particularly to the church hierarchy, our request for a transparent, welcoming, honest, attractive, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community.”

The document outlines the church’s need to listen to young people, to help guide them in the faith and to identify pastoral paths to accompany them.

The working document is based mainly on comments solicited in a questionnaire last June from national bishops’ conferences around the world as well as the final document of the presynod gathering.

An estimated 305 young adults participated in the weeklong presynod meeting, which allowed practicing Catholics and others to provide input for Pope Francis and the world’s bishops, who will meet at the synod in October to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment.” Some 15,000 young people also participated in the presynod process through Facebook groups online.

The meeting, the working document said, “highlighted the potential that younger generations represent” as well as their “hopes and desires.”

“Young people are great seekers of meaning, and everything that is in harmony with their search to give value to their lives arouses their attention and motivates their commitment,” it said.

A presynod meeting “highlighted the potential that younger generations represent” as well as their “hopes and desires.”

Presenting the “instrumentum laboris” to journalists at a press briefing, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the synod, said the synod’s goal is that young Catholics may find “the beauty of life, beginning from the happy relationship with the God of the covenant and of love” in a world that often robs them of their “affections [and] bonds.”

“The synod dedicated to young people gives us the opportunity to rediscover the hope of a good life, the dream of a pastoral renewal, the desire for community and passion for education,” Cardinal Baldisseri said.

Divided into three parts, the working document outlines the church’s need to listen to young people, to help guide them in the faith and in discerning their vocational calling, and to identify pastoral and missionary paths to be able to accompany them.

The responses collected by bishops’ conferences around the world cited a need for ways to help young men and women confront the challenges of cultural changes that sometimes disregard traditions and spirituality.

“Many (bishops' conferences) believe the issue of sexuality should be discussed more openly and without judgment.”

The working document also states that while the church highlights the importance of the body, affection and sexuality, many young Catholic men and women “do not follow the directions of the sexual morality of the church.”

“Although no bishops’ conferences offer solutions or indications, many (conferences) believe the issue of sexuality should be discussed more openly and without judgment,” it said.

Young people attending the presynod meeting said issues such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage are often debated both by young Catholics and non-Catholics.

The working document also highlighted the need to reaffirm church teaching on the body and sexuality at a time when biomedical advancements have pushed a more “technocratic approach to the body,” citing examples such as egg donation and surrogacy.

“Moreover, precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, digital pornography, the exhibition of one’s own body online and sexual tourism risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life,” the document said.

Church leaders must “speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues.

Church leaders, it said, must “speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, which young people are already freely discussing without taboo.”

Also, “LGBT youths, through various contributions received by the secretariat of the synod, want to benefit from a greater closeness and experience greater care from the church,” while some bishops’ conferences are asking what they can recommend to young people who enter into a homosexual relationship, but want to be closer to the church, the document said.

Regarding the use of the initials “LGBT” in a major church document, Cardinal Baldisseri told journalists that it was a term used in one of the documents given by the bishops’ conferences “and we quoted them.”

“We are open. We don’t want the synod to be closed in itself,” Cardinal Baldisseri said. “And in the church, there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves—on the right, left, center, north and south—this is all possible. That is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions.”

Young Catholics would like more initiatives that allow further dialogue with nonbelievers and the secular world.

The working document also said young Catholics would like more initiatives that allow further dialogue with nonbelievers and the secular world to help them integrate their faith in their dealings with others.

Young men and women from primarily secularized areas “ask nothing from the church” and “expressly asked to be left in peace, because they feel its presence as annoying and even irritating.” These feelings, the document stated, do not come from contempt but rather due to “serious and respectable reasons.”

Among the reasons are the church’s sexual and economic scandals, priests who do not know how to engage with young people, and the way the church justifies its doctrinal and ethical positions to modern society.

Young men and women are also hoping the church can help them “find a simple and clear understanding of the meaning of vocation,” which is often misinterpreted as referring only to priesthood and consecrated life.

While the church has confirmed that marriage is also a vocation, the document confirms the need for “a youth vocational ministry capable of being meaningful for all young people.”

“Called to holiness and anointed by the spirit, the Christian learns to grasp all the choices in existence in a vocational perspective, especially the central one of the state of life as well as those of a professional nature,” it said.

“For this reason, some bishops’ conferences hope that the synod will find ways to help all Christians rediscover the link between profession and vocation in all its fruitfulness ... and in view of the professional orientation of young people with a vocational perspective,” the document said.

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Pedro Henrique Quitete Barreto
1 year 11 months ago

Why the Church insists in making irrelevant pastoral documents like these? The youth (I am 28, so I can say it) is not interested in Church teaching on any subject because, since Vatican II, its exposition differs nothing from the secular one. We must go back to a faithful exposition of doctrine, not insisting in the failed model of Vatican II.

The youth will only find the Church doctrine relevant if they are pretty sure that the Church is divine, founded by Jesus Christ, and necessary for salvation. That's the only reason to be Catholic. Vatican II-like documents like these do not corroborate its divinity, but express only a weakness that makes its divinity questionable.

Why be a Catholic if the Church is "outdated"? And why be Catholic if "reforming" its doctrine to make it compatible with the modern world sensitivity only shows weakness, and, maybe, desperation?

We must go back Tradition, and, clearly, that's what the youth wants.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 11 months ago

FYI Pedro - Those who want a rigid legalistic boring pre-Vatican II Church make up all of 1/2 of a percent of all practicing Catholics. When the youth are interviewed by Pew and Cara and other sources the answers received as to why they leave are: We are to judgmental, We are sexist and don't treat men and women the same, we don't allow married or women priests, bishops, cardinals etc., we treat LGBT terribly, we allowed huge abuses of our children (we have done this throughout our history), we are too conservative politically, our leadership is out of touch with reality and it's laity. No minority large enough to be listed stated that they wanted to go back to pre-Vatican II days, or wanted a more conservative or legalistic church. You may want these things, and I have no idea why, but most youth do not and neither do the NONES who left according to their own surveys taken.

Nora Bolcon
1 year 11 months ago

Many women and men in these pre-synod meetings said they felt that women have no place in the church unless they can be ordained the same as men with the same exact sacraments. How predictably does "America" (no doubt out of fear) refrain from mentioning this highly important matter of human justice or rather extreme injustice in our church. Further proof, this synod is nonsense - no one in Rome is listening to these youth and we laity better start taking a stand for women and real equality starting with priesthood or consider how soon it will be before we kiss our church goodbye - first in the West and then later everywhere else once Africa gets educated and more birth control from secular sources. This hatred of women needs to be dealt with and done away with NOW! not later! We should fight any source trying to push married men (deacons or priests) on parishes as this would further hurt our church by making it easier for our hierarchy to wait to give women justice while creating the even greater sin of gender segregation. Married priests have not helped the Orthodox Church do any better than us and in fact they are losing members at a faster rate than us in the West.

I can't blame the youth and NONES for demanding the same treatment Jesus Commanded we provide: That all members of the church, explicitly be treated with the SAME TREATMENT and therefore same sacraments for all who are called to them. Shame on us for allowing this discrimination which Christ would readily condemn. We know the damage sexism does-especially religious sexism and yet we do not fight against it. This is a grave sin our whole church commits against both God and women as long as we allow it to continue.

Our sexism and LGBT abuse are proof to NONES and the youth in general that we Catholics have much hatred in our hearts and that our agenda is not one with Jesus Christ or his teachings so why should they come to our church if we don't respect our own Messiah's commandments. Shall we condemn them for being more loving than we are. We must change if we want to save our church.

To America Magazine - Have you considered the truth: That which is done because of fear alone is almost always a mistake or a sin? Do the right thing. Stand up for your abused sisters who have the same calling to priesthood as their brothers. Wouldn't you want someone to help you if you were being abused, discriminated against, treated as a lesser person and less sacred than others? If men are so strong where is that courage to stand up and do what is right?

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