Pope to Youth: ‘Will You Cry Out?’

Sunday will mark the feast of Easter which, as we who call ourselves Catholic have always been taught, is the most important feast in the church calendar. Yes, more important than Christmas, since the cornerstone of the Catholic faith is the belief that Christ rose from the dead. Easter has always represented renewal, renewal for our souls and our minds which tend to be often preoccupied with the minutia of everyday living and all that it entails. Easter, of course, coincides with spring and all that the season promises: new growth, warmer and longer days, a final farewell to winter in whose cold grasp we have spent far too many days and nights.

Participants of the Pre-Synodal Meeting of Young People (Source: Vatican News)

Participants of the Pre-Synodal Meeting of Young People (Source: Vatican News)

Renewal was in the air in the Vatican this Easter. In advance of a Synod of Bishops to be held in October to discuss “Young People, the Faith and Vocation Discernment,” 300 young delegates (ages 16-19) attended a meeting in Rome to discuss their specific concerns as to how the church should change its attitude toward them. Pope Francis, in his welcoming address, cautioned his bishops to “speak “with” young people, rather than “about them.” The delegates took part in various meetings and discussions from March 19-26 and issued a document that was presented to Francis on Palm Sunday, in which they called for significant changes in certain views the Church has upheld for centuries and which these young Catholics perceive as reasons why so many in their age group have abandoned it.

While some clergy, for example, continue to preach that members of the LGBTQ community are welcome at church liturgies, the fact that their life-style continues to be regarded as “sinful” contradicts any notion the welcome is truly sincere. The youth gathered in Rome specifically called for the church to “change its views on same-sex marriages,” and questioned what the church has taught for centuries with regard to abortion, contraception, homosexuality, co-habitation and marriage, about which there is “great disagreement among young people within the church and in the wider world,” and which teachings “are especially controversial today.”


These views are not just those of young Catholics.

A 2009 Pew survey, in fact, showed that 56% of Catholics were unhappy with Church teachings on abortion and homosexuality, while 45% indicated they did not accept the church’s stand on contraception. The 2014 Pew survey showed that the Catholic Church was considered to be “too judgmental re gay and lesbian issues” by 59% of Millennial Catholics and 56% of Gen-X Catholics. One can almost hear the dissenting voices insisting that Church dogmas and doctrines can’t be changed on the basis of polls, but when pews sit empty and even the stalwarts of the faith who continue to occupy them no longer accept such teachings, something has to give.

Interestingly, the same 2009 survey quoted above indicated that 39% of those who had left the Church cited its treatment of women as one of their main reasons for leaving.  As well, in their 2013 book, American Catholics in TransitionWilliam D”Antonio, Michael Dillon and Mary Gautier state that 65 % of Millennial Catholics support women’s ordination. Only 8% of Catholics left because the church had given up on such practices as the Latin Mass. In addition, the authors stated that there has been a “steep trajectory of decline over the past 25 years” in the commitment of women to the church, although “not so much among men.” There’s no doubt that the loss of women as participants in so many aspects of church activities would have a serious detrimental effect in any parish.

As for Canadian Catholics, in 2013, Quebec’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, considered by some to be “the leading contender for Pope,” stated definitively that “women shouldn’t be ordained priests.” He also termed the ordination of women and Vatican bans on abortion and homosexual relationships as “secondary matters,” and suggested that Catholics Canada and the United States and Western Europe might be “ahead of our times,” in which view he was backed by the Canadian Jesuit scholar, Terence Fay.  Douglas Todd, writing in the Vancouver Sun, suggested they were right: most Canadian Catholics, he wrote, were “ahead of the Vatican on many moral and doctrinal issues and wanted reform.”

In fact, according to pollster, Reg Bibby of the University of Lethbridge, 9 in 10 Canadian Catholics accept abortion “if the mother’s life is seriously endangered,” more than half approve of abortion if “a married woman just doesn’t want more children,” half approve of same-sex marriages, while one-quarter disapprove of homosexual relationships “but accept them anyway.” And while some (like Cardinal Ouellet) argue these views are held by Catholics who do not attend church, the survey showed that 28% of self-declared Catholics attend church at least once a month and one-third came a few times a year but also disagreed with the Vatican.


I suspect Pope Francis was paying particular attention to the pre-Palm Sunday youth marches in the United States and in countries around the world when he addressed the youth gathered for the Rome meetings. His homily to them included a very strong call to “speak out:”

It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders – so often corrupt – keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?

By Tristan Loper (20180324-0041.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tristan Loper (20180324-0041.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

He referred to World Youth Day, which fell on Palm Sunday this year but which will be celebrated in Panama in 2019, apologizing that “youth are often treated like garbage” while insisting all youth will be welcome in Panama to say, “We are here, we are on a journey, we don’t want to be garbage, we have value to give.”

He must have been thinking of those brave, intelligent young marchers who took their anti-gun message all the way to the White House last week with the March for Our Lives, promising to vote out those who refuse to pass laws to protect students from the horrors they themselves had faced — dodging bullets, sheltering in closets and classrooms, watching their friends die. These young people did speak out, they shouted, they addressed their “older leaders, some even corrupt.” The future will be theirs — those marching to change gun-laws and those working to change a Church.

Featured image: Pope Francis at pre-synodal meeting with youth. Source: Vatican News.




Dolores Campbell


Dolores Campbell, a lifelong resident of Sydney, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Cape Breton Highlander, the Nova Scotian, Cape Breton Magazine, Catholic New Times and The Cape Breton Post.