Storm Clouds Ahead for Youth Synod?

As a follow up to the controversial 2014-15 Synod on the Family, the Vatican is preparing to convene a new Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment next October.

And for the first time, they have invited the faithful—in particular young people aged 16-29—to fill out a questionnaire to help shape the Synod’s direction.

Newman Society staff has already begun to review the Synod’s Preparatory Document and questionnaire. Even at this early stage, we are concerned about the direction the Synod could be headed.

In part, our concerns stem from questions about flagrant manipulation of process and reporting raised by a number of bishops attending the last Synod. We’re also seeing red flags in the Vatican’s distribution of an inappropriate and ill-conceived sex-ed program written in Spain. The Cardinal Newman Society—and other Catholic groups—have raised concerns about the explicit material in this misguided project.

More specifically, however, we are troubled by what is in and—perhaps more importantly—not in the Preparatory Document and the questionnaire.

According to the Preparatory Document, “the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today.”

That sounds like an important topic for the Church to address, but at first read the Synod’s initial documents would seem to be more interested in community organizing, activism, and worldly concerns than the formation of young people in the truths of our faith—i.e., Catholic education.

In late September, organizers issued a news release adding a note about “the importance of education in the formation of a complete identity,” but we will have to wait and see what that means.

The planning documents gloss over some of the most serious problems facing youth today, including the rise of atheism, attacks on the family, how to live the faith in a hyper-secular world, the collapse of marriage as a societal norm, the rise among young people of serial fornication and so-called “shacking up” as a replacement for marriage, and myriad other issues which put the souls of young people at risk.

Instead, the documents focus on issues such as employment, politics, social media, and the environment—important topics which are perhaps better suited for think tanks, academics, or public officials than a Church Synod on “Faith and Vocational Discernment.” These are also comfortable topics to which youth have a natural affinity. Will we have the courage to challenge them on the topics they really struggle with: truth, fidelity, chastity, humility, faithfulness, self-sacrifice, and life-long commitment?

And it’s important to note that the Synod defines “vocation” not as we would think of it, but more broadly as a “vocation to love.” This broad definition could open the door to a wide range of problematic topics.

Consider that at a planning seminar convened by Synod organizers in September, Catholic News Service reported that one delegate, self-described as a “philosopher and sexologist,” advocated discussion of “sexuality and affectivity.” Another reportedly said, “‘It’s important to open up and talk’ about sex, sexuality and sexual orientation…. ‘And it’s central to vocation.’”

A professor from England reportedly lamented that it was “‘hard to figure out’ what the Vatican wanted from the seminar. ‘Is it to listen to young people? Does that mean they are willing to change something? Are they willing to change the criteria for ministry?’”

Given what happened at the last Synod, the fact that these issues are being raised by delegates at a planning seminar is cause for concern.

Fortunately, the Vatican has offered the questionnaire, giving the faithful a way to influence the Synod’s direction. It is imperative that you, as Cardinal Newman Society Members, let Synod organizers know what you think. To that end we have created a page on our website for you to access various Synod documents and the questionnaire:

Please visit the site, encourage well-formed youth to fill out the questionnaire, and spread the word to your family and friends.

We will provide a more thorough analysis of the Synod in the coming months. In the meantime, please pray that the upcoming youth Synod will uphold timeless Church teachings, recognize the importance of faithful education to the formation of children, and help lead souls to Christ.

Saints John Bosco and John Paul II, ora pro nobis!

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