What Young Catholics Want

According to the WaPo. The utility of such articles is not in figuring out what the Church needs to shut up about in order to be “relevant” (which is usually the agenda the MSM is pursuing in publishing such pieces). Rather, it is in finding the growing edge of the rising generation–the points of gospel teaching which most resonate with them–which can be addressed in order that they understand the Faith is their friend and not their enemy. it is then up to thoughtful catechists to try to find ways in which to communicate that the Faith is a whole weave–a kind of ecosystem–and that aspects of the Faith they see as “unimportant” are in fact as vital to the thing they think important as a remote rain forest is to the oxygen supply in New York. But any witness to the Faith worth his salt has to realize that you start where your audience is, not where you are. As Yr. Obdt. Svt wrote some while back:

“It is no good,” said G.K. Chesterton, “to … imagine that one can force an opponent to admit he is wrong, by proving that he is wrong on somebody else’s principles, but not on his own. After the great example of St. Thomas, the principle stands, or ought always to have stood established; that we must either not argue with a man at all, or we must argue on his grounds and not ours.”

Like it or not, postmodern culture stands on radically different ground than Catholic orthodoxy. Compared to the Faith, it has a very different notion of what is and is not authoritative. And postmodern culture pervades, not just the world, but the Church as well. So it behooves Catholics who hope to speak of the integrity of the Faith to find out what ground the postmodern mind regards as solid in order to begin a conversation there rather than demand the postmodern person begin with our assumptions. Like St. Paul, a Catholic apologist must be all things to all, in order to win some to Christ.

At the same time, in the attempt to relate to the rising generation it is always important to remember who we are trying to relate them to. And to recall that we don’t always know what we really want.

"Yes, but you will see yet younger people, and they will surely see things differently. ..."

An Irish reader sends along a ..."
"Thank you so very much. It's so hard, you know? I want so much to ..."

An Irish reader sends along a ..."
"If you wanted to talk about solely abortion instead of the "poor" and the "useless" ..."

An Irish reader sends along a ..."
"Okay, you don't get to say, "progressives who don't care about the "useless" are the ..."

An Irish reader sends along a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Bob

    It might also serve nicely to concede that the author, which is not the WaPo but rather a lay minister in the church who works with young Catholics, may have an actual point. Not about the ordination of women, necessarily, or other articles of faith. But about the perception of a church that has become closed to outside views and experiences. With the modern church, it seems the conclave is always in session.

    • What is a “lay minister in the Roman Catholic Church”?

      There are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. I suppose somewhere there’s a parish that actually installs lectors, and elsewhere serving as lectors might be called a ministry. I hear the term “music ministry,” and in my parish ushering is one of the “ministries” you could sign up for on “Ministry Sunday.”

      While Annie Selak may well serve as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, “female lay minister in the Roman Catholic Church” seems to be a self-appointed — and self-aggrandizing — title for whatever it is that she does with young people, about which she is oddly vague (http://www.annieselak.com/about).

      • Sally

        A minister, by definition, is one who serves. Extraordinary ministers are “without orders,” that is, unordained. There are in fact all kinds of unordained ministers out there in the parishes, from Pastoral Associates to Music Directors to ccd teachers. Most parish youth ministries are run by unordained (lay) ministers if they are run at all. No need to suggest that she’s doing something suspicious!

        • Here is what she says she does: “Annie serves as a minister with college students. In addition, she is a Career Counselor and consults with service-learning organizations.”

          I do not suggest this is suspicious. I assert that this is vague, I point out that this has nothing to do with the parish ministries you mention, and I imply that it is an idiosyncratic use of the term “minister.”

          Well, no, now I assert that it is an idiosyncratic use of the term “minister,” and therefore a misleading one, particularly in the context of an article published on the Washington Post website.

        • What is suspicious is that she gives names and details about places she has gone to school and various volunteer and ministry work she has done in the past, but with regard to her current ministry, all she says is that she “works with college age Catholics”. Even if her current employer asked her not to mention them by name, she might still say, “I’m a campus minister” or “I lead retreats and workshops” or some such thing. But it’s hard to get more vague than “work with….”

          Also, “ministry” is a term with a variety of meanings, depending on context. Tom is correct that there is no official or standard meaning to “lay minister,” and very little significant content. But Sally is also correct that there are many lay roles that are normally and legitimately called “ministry.” The problem is not that her work is necessarily illegitimate; the problem is that she doesn’t actually say what kind of work she is doing.

          • Alexander Anderson

            I really don’t care about her credentials, because the Director of Campus Ministry at my alma mater could have written this. She did, in fact, post the article on Facebook in an attempt to nudge students into a “dialogue”, a request that was promptly answered by students who rejected the premise and opted for orthodoxy, along with a number of others who confided in myself their disappointment about her attempt. At least at that campus church, the position of the article is the position of a number of the staff and a few of the older resident parishioners, while an inclination toward orthodoxy is the position of the students.

  • Faith

    Did you read the comments at WaPo? Young people are asking the writer’s age, assuming she is some old fogey! Because the lie in the article is that this is a young person’s point of view. It isn’t. It is a point of view that does not break down by age but by ideology. My almost 90 yo liberal Democrat aunt could have written this article. A Catholic sister I know in her 70s could have written it. Hey, we’ve been talking about Garry Wills lately. He could have written it! I know some 40 somethings that have this same point of view. It is the divide between progressive, unorthodox Catholics living-in-America and faithful, orthodox Catholics.

    • I would suggest that the lie in the article is that there *is* “a young person’s point of view,” in the sense that “What do young Catholics want?” can be answered coherently and categorically.

      Which means responses to this article along the lines of, “No, what young Catholics want is orthodoxy,” are just as dependent on that falsehood.

    • Another Bob

      “It is the divide between progressive, unorthodox Catholics living-in-America and faithful, orthodox Catholics.”
      This view, which is just what the Cardinals think, is exactly the reason the faith is experiencing, in the West, precisely the decline it deserves. It’s not about the rightness of the orthodoxy but about the smugness of the orthodox.

      • Mark Shea

        The orthodox can be insufferably smug. So can the progressive dissenter. Smugness is a trait evenly distributed across all demographics.

        • DTMcCameron

          The Heretic is generally quite smug in his heterodoxy….Or at very least, snug.

    • Matt Talbot

      It is the divide between progressive, unorthodox Catholics living-in-America and faithful, orthodox Catholics.

      I see what you did there – equating “progressive” with “unorthodox” – intellectually sloppy, maybe even intellectually dishonest, but sort of clever. Characteristic of conservative/fascist ideologues (see?)

      • Faith

        LOL! My goodness. I am sure I was neither clever nor dishonest as I typed this comment in the 5 minutes I had while waiting for my kids to finish eating breakfast. Progressive means wanting change right? And unorthodox means someone who does not adhere to accepted norms or beliefs, right? So what was so bad about putting these two together? How was that intellectually dishonest? If it was, straighten me out and I’ll refrain from doing it again. I happen to have beloved family members who fall on the progressive/unorthodox side. The woman who wrote the article reflected how they viewed Catholicism. And they’re all old! So no need to get your pants in a knot over imagined insults.. . . . or something. Whatever it is you imagined. I am baffled at how unorthodox equates to fascist as an insult???? I didn’t realize it was a slur!

        • Dan C

          Your insult was not imagined. Progressivism exists within a broad framework of discussion, broaching many possible positions, not just the pelvic concerns. You present an old equality and in certain discussion circles a shorthand bias. Conservative Catholic blogdom played with the idea of progressives and liberals equals heterodoxy and orthodoxy equals conservatism about 10 years ago, then found, after some vigorous discussion on the web, that libertarianism = Christianity (Fr. Sirico and Novak), aggressive militarism = Catholicism (Weigel and Neuhaus), torture = moral activity (Sirico and Arroyo) were all false equations. All these points are not at all true, yet vigorously held, with some grave moral errors made by the conservatives in their support for unjust wars. Language became more tempered.

          Catholic conservatives and liberals both retain points of view not in alignment with the Faith or with the heart of Jesus. Identifying one as more orthodox as the other just posits the other person’s vices and sins are worse than one’s own. Such a position also makes unfair claims to deny liberals adherence to the Church’s teachings, which many do in routine practice.

  • Adolfo

    I’m more concerned that the Church give all people (young and old alike) what they need rather than what they want. And besides, are “the young” a monolith who all think the same? I know some young people who do, in fact, want the Church to change her teachings on certain things. I know others who want a return to the Tridentine Mass. I know plenty who fall in between. Give us what we need. Truth, Goodness, Beauty. In short, give us Christ.

  • The devil gives you what you want, God gives you what you need. Your job is to let God change your heart to want what you need.

  • dpt

    The Catholic Church and other Christian denominations need to discover a way to effectively and truly introduce Jesus to young people. The consumerism and materialism that is rampant around us is a barrier to living the Gospel.

    The problem of reaching out to young people and dampening the consumer spirit in our life presents the biggest challenge to the Gospel.

  • I like Faith call foul on this being a ‘young’ person’s perspective. It’s the standard regurgitated baby-boomer stuff. If it was written by a ‘Millennial’, it was one who has been well indoctrinated by their baby-boomer elders and not representative of the group as a whole.

    Nevertheless I agree with Mark that understanding an honest appraisal of where these young adults are and what they want is critical to engaging them. Here’s my quick stab based on my experience in my community (in other words, just one mid-30’s father’s perspective):

    To borrow/corrupt St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian’s they desire Truth, Hope and Love. I substitute truth for faith in large part because the word faith has been corrupted in their eyes to mean “one’s personal opinion or delusions”. They’ve been taught to have great respect for everyone’s right to an opinion, as an aspect of Love, but the excesses of that mindset, that lead to a world with no truth at all, have left them disillusioned with faith as something to seek out, while still having significant deference to it.

    So they desire truth instead and are VERY thirsty for it.

    But that truth better be hopeful. You know why Obama did so well with they young? Because he was able to convince them that he indeed did stand for ‘Hope and Change’ (whether he actually stood for that is a different question). They reject the mindset of their slightly older peers, that “realist”, depressed, cynical view that oozed a mindset of “the ends justifies the means”. They reject the truth’s of the political parties because they are similarly compromised and “pragmatically” driven. Instead they are looking for principles that they can stand for that give them hope.

    And the most obvious principle that they run to in that regard is Love. Love transcends. Love is full of hope. Love is principled. It is why they tend to be sympathetic to the pro-life cause, but also more favorable towards “gay marriage” which in their stunted/corrupted view of Love that is a result of the sexual revolution, seems more about Love than against it.

    Yet at some level, a level they can’t seem to identify on their own, they know their stunted/corrupted view of Love is indeed somehow incomplete or for the more perceptive, corrupted. Which loops back to Truth. They desperately seek to find out why they feel that way about the one principle that they most believe in.

    With forgiveness that I’m trying to label a whole generation, that’s how I see them looking at the world.

    • Advocate

      The problem with love is that there is a difference between “love”, which requires sacrifice and commitment, and the modern day “luv” that is grounded in transient emotion, sentimentality and little else. Love, especially Christian Love, is challenging. Luv is easy to pursue, but ultimately unsatisfying and leads us down the road to perdition.

      • Beccolina

        I’ve heard it referred to as “pizza love”. Temporary and, ultimately, unhealthy. I’m not sure that the steady diet of “love conquers all” messages (meaning romance, not agape), has been helpful to the younger generations. Neither has the “just be yourself” message that saturates so much aimed at the middle and high school set. Just be yourself ends up meaning, “What ever you want or like is okay because that’s YOU and no one should ever reject or criticize your SELF.” It becomes an excuse for bad behavior, “I’m just being me.” Together, they get the mindset of themselves and their romantic interest against the world, and that anything they do for each other is okay because it’s for love, and they are being themselves.
        That’s all a little off-topic I guess. I think many youth are sort of jaded. They feel like there isn’t anything important for them to do. Get them behind a cause outside of themselves and they can be extraordinarily passionate. It’s the the “outside themselves” part that is hard.

  • Stu

    So, for the people who are always talking about appealing to the youth, I ask this.

    When they were young, were they enchanted by condescending approaches that were of the same level of spiritual coloring books?

    • Beccolina

      I recall older kids in the youth group as being the biggest issue, rather than adults. They made it clear that bringing up serious things like attending mass every Sunday or standing up for kids being bullied were not important Christian issues. I didn’t quite figure out WHAT they thought serious Christian issues were. I spent a lot of time with kids from the local “Bible Church” because they at least seemed to take the ten commandments seriously. I wasn’t seeing that in the kids in my Catholic youth group at the time. I am, however, struggling to recover from over-exposure to fundamentalism.

  • Old man

    I certainly am not young, but I suspect that the young are varied and seek different things from the Church. Let me know if you find that one person or group who speaks for all of them.

  • Obpoet

    I found the one who speaks for all of them. His story begins in Genesis. He did not water the message down, Paul did not water the message down, I was never swayed by the dilute. It is the truth we all seek. Some are just going to reject it, as they always have.