Youth synod document says faith can combat relativism


Vatican City, Jan 10, 2019 / 11:59 am (CNA).- The Synod of Bishops released Thursday an English translation of the final document of the 2018 session on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. The document encourages young people to seek an authentic encounter with God, instead of adopting a morally relativistic outlook on life.

The document highlights the spiritual and religious experiences of young people around the world, both in and outside of the Church, noting that in many places “forms of alternative religiosity are on the rise.” It also held out the authentic Christian experience of many young people as a witness of faith and hope to their peers.

“The youth help to enrich what the Church is and not only what she does. They are her present and not only her future,” the synod fathers wrote.

The synod met for more than three weeks in October for its fifteenth ordinary general session, and published the original text of its conclusions on Oct. 27. The document was released in English by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on Thursday.

During the meeting, synod fathers were joined in Rome by young people and religious form around the world who participated in the session as auditors.

“The religious experience of the young is strongly influenced by the social and cultural context in which they live,” the document states.

The synod fathers noted that, while in some places the Church and faith were present as a “strong and lively community experience, in which the young participate with joy,” this was not so everywhere.

“In other areas of ancient Christian tradition, the majority of the Catholic population does not experience a real sense of belonging to the Church,” the document said. Instead, many young people were disillusioned with the very concept of religious practice.

Nevertheless, the fathers said, there remains a common pursuit for meaning and truth in the lives of young people everywhere.

Often, those averse to the idea of “religion” are still drawn to other forms of “spirituality.” While reflecting a search for the truth, the document warned that these efforts were often diverted into lesser kinds spiritual satisfaction and missed to opportunity for an authentic relationship with God.

“This attention [to the spiritual], though, can sometimes take the form of a search for psychological well-being rather than openness to encounter with the Mystery of the living God,” the fathers wrote.

The synod’s report highlighted the danger of moral and religious relativism replacing faith and a relationship with Christ through the Church.

“Particularly in some cultures, many see religion as a private matter and they choose from a variety of spiritual traditions those elements in which they find their own convictions mirrored.  There thus spreads a certain syncretism, which develops on the relativistic assumption that all religions are equal,” the report said.

When the faith is lived within a deeply relativistic culture, the fathers wrote, membership of the Church can be “accompanied and sometimes replaced by ideologies or by the cult of success in professional and economic terms, with a view to material self-fulfilment.”

“In Christian communities we sometimes risk proposing, even without intending it, an ethical and therapeutic theism, which responds to the human need for security and comfort, rather than a living encounter with God in the light of the Gospel and in the strength of the Spirit.”

The synod fathers echoed the recent work of Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame.

In his book "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers," Smith argued that the dominant religion among American teenagers is “moralistic therapeutic deism,” in which God is understood as a benevolent creator who, while wanting people to treat each other well, is generally uninvolved in their day-to-day lives.

This impersonal conception of God, Smith said, means that the “central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

Recognizing that the fullness of human fulfillment comes from an authentic personal experience of the living God, the synod fathers said that authentic communities of faith were needed to lead people out of moral and religious relativism.

“If it is true that life is awakened solely through life, it becomes clear that young people need to encounter Christian communities that are truly rooted in friendship with Christ, who leads us to the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit,” they wrote.

Such communities do exist, the synod report said, and that the active presence of many young people in the Church was an essential sign of life and the Church’s “present and not only her future”.

“Young Catholics are not merely on the receiving end of pastoral activity: they are living members of the one ecclesial body, baptized persons in whom the Spirit of the Lord is alive and active,” the fathers wrote, highlighting the work done by many youth in catechesis and liturgy, caring for the weak, voluntary work with the poor.

The syond report stressed that a lived reality of community was an important part of fostering an active faith and effective evangelization, noting that “movements, associations and religious congregations” within the Church offered young people particular “opportunities for commitment and co-responsibility.”

“In various contexts there are groups of young people, often from ecclesial movements and associations, who are actively involved in the evangelization of their peers through a transparent life witness, accessible language and the capacity to establish authentic bonds of friendship,” the report said.

“This apostolate makes it possible to bring the Gospel to people who might not otherwise be reached by ordinary youth ministry and it helps to mature the faith of those who engage in it.”

At the same time, the report conceded that there were still cultural barriers to overcome within the Church, highlighting “a certain authoritarianism and mistrust from older people and pastors” who could “struggle to share responsibility.”

The synod fathers particularly noted the frustrations of many young people in the Church concerning the role of women, saying that many “clamour for greater recognition and greater valuing of women in society and in the Church.”

“Many women play an essential part in Christian communities,” the report said, “but often it is hard to involve them in decision-making processes, even when these do not require specific ministerial responsibilities.”  

The synod fathers said that the absence of “the feminine voice and perspective” was something which “impoverishes debate and the Church’s journey.”

“The Synod recommends that everyone be made more aware of the urgency of an inevitable change, not least on the basis of anthropological and theological reflection on the reciprocity between men and women.”

While many young people had a healthy and sustaining relationship with the Church as a mother which leads them to Christ, the report noted that scandals and abuse within the Church contributed to the alienation of young people from the Church and from the sacraments.

The synod fathers warned that sincere attempts by young people to engage in with these issues could be misread, and that it was important to recognize both its true intentions and potential benefits.

“The young ask the Church to offer a shining example of authenticity, exemplariness, competence, co-responsibility and cultural solidity,” the report concluded.

“At times this request can seem like a criticism, but often it assumes the positive form of personal commitment to a fraternal, welcoming, joyful and committed community, prophetically combating social injustice.”

 


Pope Francis: 'God loves you, even if you forget Him'


Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God the Father will always be there for his beloved children, Pope Francis said Wednesday, with a reminder that the unconditional love of God is not limited by our own sense of guilt or unworthiness.

“God is looking for you, even if you do not seek Him. God loves you, even if you forget Him. God sees beauty in you, even if you think you have squandered all your talents in vain,” Pope Francis said in his general audience Jan. 16.

The pope reflected on the first two words of the “Our Father,” focusing on the depth of personal love for each person found within God’s fatherhood.

“It may be that we too happen to walk on paths far from God, as happened to the prodigal son; or fall into a loneliness that makes us feel abandoned in the world; or, again, do wrong and are paralyzed by a sense of guilt,” Pope Francis explained.

In those moments, one’s prayer should simply start by saying the word, “Father,” with the tenderness of a child who calls out “Papa” or “Abbà,” in the original Aramaic, Francis said.

“You have a father who loves you!” Pope Francis said enthusiastically. Call out to God as “Father,” and God will answer you, he said.

If you respond to God by saying, “But, Father, I have done this ...” God will answer, “I never lost sight of you. I saw everything. But I was always there, close to you, faithful to my love for you,” Pope Francis said.

To call God “Father,” the pope explained, is to have  “the whole world of Jesus poured into one's heart.”

Pope Francis described the intimacy of the Aramaic expression “Abbà” used twice in the letters of St. Paul. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'"

Francis repeated the words that Italian children use, “Papa” and “Babbo” - which are roughly equivalent to saying “Daddy” in English - to exemplify the depth and closeness found in the word “Abba.”

“We continue to say ‘Our Father,’ but with the heart we are invited to say ‘Papa,’ to have a relationship with God like that of a child with his father, who says ‘Papa, Babbo,’” he said.

“These expressions evoke love, evoke warmth, something that projects us into the context of childhood: the image of a child completely enveloped by the embrace of a father who feels infinite tenderness for him,” he said.

Pope Francis continued, “dear brothers and sisters, to pray well, we must get to have a child's heart … like a child in the arms of his father.”


Vigano to McCarrick: Repent, for the sake of your soul


Vatican City, Jan 14, 2019 / 04:05 am (CNA).- A former papal representative to the U.S. has written an open letter to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick that urges the archbishop to repent publicly of the sexual abuse and misconduct of which he stands accused.

“You, paradoxically, have at your disposal an immense offer of great hope for you from the Lord Jesus; you are in a position to do great good for the Church.  In fact, you are now in a position to do something that has become more important for the Church than all of the good things you did for her throughout your entire life,” wrote Archbishop Carlo Vigano in a Jan. 13 letter to McCarrick.
 
“A public repentance on your part would bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church.  Are you willing to offer her that gift?  Christ died for us all when we were still sinners (Rom. 5: 8).  He only asks that we respond by repenting and doing the good that we are given to do.”
 
McCarrick, 88, has been accused in recent months of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians. The allegations were first made public in June 2018, when the Archdiocese of New York reported that it deemed credible an allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, while serving as a New York priest.

In July 2018, Pope Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.

Vigano’s letter noted that McCarrick is subject to an administrative canonical process overseen by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A verdict is expected shortly from that process. If he is found guilty, McCarrick is expected to be dismissed from the clerical state.

“No matter what decision the supreme authority of the Church takes in your case, what really matters and what has saddened those who love you and pray for you is the fact that throughout these months you haven’t given any sign of repentance.”  

“I am among those who are praying for your conversion, that you may repent and ask pardon of your victims and the Church,” Vigano wrote.

The letter, issued on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, is the most recent in a string of letters Vigano has issued publicly in recent months, beginning with a “testimony” the archbishop published on Aug. 25, 2018. That letter alleged that McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct had been known to some Vatican officials for years, eventually leading to a restriction on the archbishop’s ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in the late 2000s, and a subsequent restoration of McCarrick’s place as a papal advisor by Pope Francis.

Vigano’s August “testimony” set off a flurry of debate, especially as numerous Vatican and U.S. Church officials weighed in on the veracity of the archbishop’s charges. Amid that debate, Vigano issued additional letters, as did other ecclesial officials, including Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, who in October 2018 accused Vigano of sowing confusion and division in the Church. Vigano responded to that charge by arguing that he was acting for the good of the Church.

Since they first emerged, Pope Francis has maintained that he will not respond to the charges of the Vigano letters, and instead has encouraged journalists to investigate their allegations.  

To date, some aspects of Vigano’s testimonial seem to have been verified, while other aspects remain controversial or unproven, and some have proven to have been exaggerated, overstated, or unlikely.

Vigano’s most recent letter, however, differs from his recent writings, in that it focuses entirely on spiritual affairs, and is directed at McCarrick, who maintains his innocence, and is now living in a Franciscan friary in Kansas.

“I implore you, repent publicly of your sins, so as to make the Church rejoice and present yourself before the tribunal of Our Lord cleansed by His blood. Please, do not make His sacrifice on the cross void for you. Christ, Our Good Lord, continues to love you. Put your entire trust in His Sacred Heart. And pray to Mary, as I and many others are doing, asking her to intercede for the salvation of your soul,” Vigano concluded.

“Time is running out, but you can confess and repent of your sins, crimes and sacrileges, and do so publicly, since they have themselves become public. Your eternal salvation is at stake.”

 

Full text:

Dear Archbishop McCarrick,

As has been reported as a news by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the accusations against you for crimes against minors and abuses against seminarians are going to be examined and judged very soon with an administrative procedure.

No matter what decision the supreme authority of the Church takes in your case, what really matters and what has saddened those who love you and pray for you is the fact that throughout these months you haven’t given any sign of repentance.  I am among those who are praying for your conversion, that you may repent and ask pardon of your victims and the Church.

Time is running out, but you can confess and repent of your sins, crimes and sacrileges, and do so publicly, since they have themselves become public. Your eternal salvation is at stake.

But something else of great importance is also at stake. You, paradoxically, have at your disposal an immense offer of great hope for you from the Lord Jesus; you are in a position to do great good for the Church.  In fact, you are now in a position to do something that has become more important for the Church than all of the good things you did for her throughout your entire life.

A public repentance on your part would bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church.  Are you willing to offer her that gift?  Christ died for us all when we were still sinners (Rom. 5: 8).  He only asks that we respond by repenting and doing the good that we are given to do.  The good that you are in a position to do now is to offer the Church your sincere and public repentance.  Will you give the Church that gift?

I implore you, repent publicly of your sins, so as to make the Church rejoice and present yourself before the tribunal of Our Lord cleansed by His blood. Please, do not make His sacrifice on the cross void for you. Christ, Our Good Lord, continues to love you. Put your entire trust in His Sacred Heart. And pray to Mary, as I and many others are doing, asking her to intercede for the salvation of your soul.

“Maria Mater Gratiae, Mater Misericordiae, Tu nos ab hoste protege et mortis hora suscipeʺ. Mary Mother of the Grace, Mother of Mercy, protect us from the enemy and welcome us in the hour of death.

Your brother in Christ,
+ Carlo Maria Viganò

Sunday, January 13, 2019
The Baptism of the Lord
Saint Hilary of Poitiers