Bishops' youth summit to deal with sex, war, porn, LGBT issues and more

Bishops’ youth summit to deal with sex, war, porn, LGBT issues and more

Bishops’ youth summit to deal with sex, war, porn, LGBT issues and more

Pope Francis sits among youths for a group photo during the opening session of the pre-synod of the youths meeting, at the Mater Ecclesiae college in Rome, Monday, March 19, 2018. (Credit: Alessandra Tarantino/AP.)

Sexuality, death, corruption, drug-trafficking, porn, video-games, migration, war, friendship and disabilities are only some of the issues that bishops from all over the world are planning to discuss in a summit in Rome this October, which will focus on youth, their faith and vocation.

ROME – Sexuality, death, corruption, drug-trafficking, porn, video-games, migration, war, friendship and disabilities are only some of the issues that bishops from all over the world are planning to discuss in a summit in Rome this October, which will focus on youth, their faith and vocation.

“Young people feel a lack of harmony with the Church,” says the document released on Tuesday, ahead of the Synod of Bishops on youth. “It seems that we don’t understand the vocabulary, and therefore also the needs, of the young.”

The instrumentum laboris, or working document, presented in Rome on Tuesday is the result of several previous steps, including an online questionnaire answered by thousands of young people from around the world, as well as a gathering of the youth that took place in Rome earlier this year. The document will serve as the basis for the discussions the bishops will have in October.

The document was released with a press conference in Rome, led by Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the synod.

The text is meant to serve as an overview of the reality of youth today, addressing various situations, from migration and its impact on young people to the impact of fake news and LGBT issues.

“Some LGBT young people, through their contributions to the Secretary of the Synod, wish to ‘benefit from a greater closeness’ and experience greater care from the Church, while some bishops’ conferences question what to propose to ‘young people who … decide to constitute homosexual couples who, above all, want to remain close to the Church,” the instrumentum says.

Also included in the overview are what Pope Francis has dubbed a “throw-away culture,” ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, and issues such as “precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, digital pornography, the exhibition of one’s body online and sexual tourism, as risks to deface the beauty and profundity of affective and sexual life.”

The General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in Rome Oct. 3-28 and will bring together hundreds of bishops from around the world under the header of “Young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.”

Regarding the Church’s teaching on “controversial issues,” such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage, the document acknowledges they are a “source of debate among youth, both inside the Church and in society.”

Quoting from information sent by the various bishops’ conferences, the responses to the online questionnaire and the pre-synod meeting, the document says some find the Church’s teaching a “source of joy” and want it to continue as it is, despite “its unpopularity” but with a need of further depth in teaching it.

Those who are against Church teaching on these issues “still want to continue to be part of the Church and demand more clarity on it.” As a consequence, those in charge are asked to “confront, in a concrete way, controversial arguments such as homosexuality and the issues of gender, over which the young already argue with freedom and with no taboo.”

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According to the document, research shows that many young people “face inequality and discrimination because of their gender, social class, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, geographical position, disability or ethnicity,” and these are issues the participants in the synod will try to address.

In addition, young people “report the persistence of religious discrimination, especially against Christians,” and this was denounced both in places in which Christians are a minority and through violence and pressure are called to convert to another religion, but also in “situations of high secularization.”

According to the document, young people also underlined that when it comes to “justice,” the image of the Church presents a “dichotomy,” as on the one hand it tries to be present in the “folds of history” accompanying those in the outskirts, while on the other hand it still has much work to do to “disrupt situations” of corruption that make her “run the risk of conforming to the world instead of being the bearer of an alternative inspired by the Gospel.”

Addressing the fact that in some parts of the world youth are leaving the Church “in great numbers,” the Instrumentum laboris says that it’s “crucial” to understand why, stating that among the reasons already identified are “indifference and lack of listening” from the Church, and the fact that “many times the Church seems to be too severe and often associated to an excessive moralism.”

The text also acknowledges that in many places, particularly among “very secularized” societies, youth reject the institution and want to be left alone because they find the Church’s presence to be “fastidious and even a cause of irritation.”

That request, the document says, is rooted in “serious and respectable reasons,” such as clerical sexual abuse scandals and financial scandals, and the fact that youth have been assigned a “passive role within the Christian community,” as well as the Church’s struggle to explain her doctrinal positions to contemporary society.

The working document also says that some youth want to see a Church “committed to justice,” open to talking about the role of women, homilies that help them through their discernment process and a liturgy that is “alive and close” to them.

Accompanying young people is not an “option” for the Church, the document says, when it comes to the tasks of educating and evangelizing them. Furthermore, it’s an “ecclesial duty and a right of each young person.”

Though much of the document presents the task at hand as an uphill effort, it does highlight many “positive” aspects of youth today, including the fact that they want to be involved in civic life, even if they’re not always given the space; they’re committed to the protection of the environment; and they’re particularly sensitive when it comes to condemning corruption and discrimination.

Several portions are dedicated to the Internet, the challenges the Church faces when reaching the youth through Social Media, and there’s also a section critical of video-games, calling them a “major challenge for society and for the Church, because they mold in young people a debatable vision of the human being and the world, nourishing a relational style based on violence.”

There are an estimated 1.8 billion people between the ages of 16 and 29, representing almost a fourth of humanity, and projections say their representation in society as a whole will go down. The situation they’re in, as per the instrumentum, varies greatly, depending on where they are: some are expected to live until they’re 60, others well into their 80s. In some parts of the world, they represent 30 percent of the population, while in others less than 15 percent.

It’s unknown what will come from the upcoming gathering. One thing is for certain, however: if what the bishops want is to give Pope Francis the tools to write a post-synodal document assessing all the challenges and opportunities facing youth today, urging them to answer the “universal call to holiness,” the bishops will have a busy stay in the Eternal City.

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