The Misplaced Priorities of Youth Synod Organizers

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By William Kilpatrick,  October 10, 2018

Reading through the Instrumentum Laboris (IL)—the working document for the Youth Synod—one gets the impression that the biggest challenge young people face in life is discovering their sexuality. Fortunately, the Synod Fathers stand ready to “accompany” youth on their journey of self-discovery wherever it may lead. The bishops have particular solicitude for LGBT youth who “face inequality and discrimination” because of “sexual orientation” (48).

Meanwhile, quite a few young Christians in Africa and elsewhere have other things to worry about than their sexual orientation. Not only do they face “inequality and discrimination,” they also face machetes and AK-47s. The day before the Synod opened, 17 Christians in Jos, Nigeria were slaughtered by Muslim jihadists. A week before that, 14 Christians, mostly women, were hacked to death by Islamic militants in the Central African Republic.

They were killed not because of their sexual orientation, but because of their faith—the faith that many of the synod bishops seem eager to water down to make it more palatable to youth. One suspects they also hope to make it more palatable to themselves. The language of the IL suggests that the framers of the working document favor “dialogue” over doctrine and non-judgmental flexibility over “unbending” judgment. It’s not surprising that the synod organizers would prefer a less judgmental Church since, as Julia Meloni documents in a recent Crisis piece, many of the key players at the Youth Synod are named in Archbishop Viganò’s testimony as being complicit in sex-abuse cover-ups.

The question is, is the watered-down form of faith that is proposed in the IL worth dying for when the man with the machete shows up at your door? As a number of others have observed, the IL document suggests that the role of the Church is to listen and accompany, but not to teach. What the document authors envision is the “emergence of a new paradigm of religiosity” which is “not too institutionalized” but “increasingly liquid” (63).

“Increasingly liquid”? Isn’t that just another way of saying “watered-down”? It’s a characteristic of youth—especially of the male variety—that they don’t want to be tied down. And that’s the appeal of this ever-changing liquid faith. It leaves you free to float around. The synod organizers understand this adolescent predisposition and in the IL document they cater to it shamelessly.

One can’t help but wonder if they share the same predisposition. In an intervention critiquing the IL, Archbishop Chaput characterized “developed” societies as being “frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose on others.” Much the same could be said of some of the prominent prelates at the Youth Synod. They seem over-concerned with adolescent wants, and they seem eager to legitimize whatever it is that young people (from whom we have so much to learn) want to be or do.

But religion is not a free-flowing, New Age, follow-your-bliss affair. The word “religion” is derived from the Latin “religare”—meaning “to bind fast.” At some point, youth has to grow up. And growing up in the faith means binding yourself to a set of beliefs and behaviors and, above all, to Christ.

Even a good many non-religious people understand that growing up means tying yourself down—to your spouse, to your children, and, often, to a 30-year mortgage. It’s not entirely clear, however, that the synod organizers understand this. A main focus of the synod is “vocational discernment,” yet, as Thomas Ascik points out in a review of IL, “the document has nothing to say, recommend, or advocate whatsoever about the prospects, possibilities, or ‘vocational discernment’ of young Catholic women concerning motherhood.”

The Challenge of Islamic Birth Rates

Which brings us back in a roundabout way to the challenge of Islam. One of the ways Islam spreads is through high birth rates. This is well understood by Muslim leaders, and some of them are calling for even higher rates. For example, President Erdogan of Turkey has called for Turkish families living in Germany to have at least five children apiece. If you have to ask why, you should google “Ottoman Empire” to get a better idea of Erdogan’s intentions.

The obvious response to Islam’s population explosion is for Church leaders to encourage Catholics to get married and bring more children into the world. But back at the synod, the bishops seem more concerned with wants and feelings than with reproduction. As Ascik observes, the working document of a synod devoted in large part to vocational discernment has nothing to say about motherhood. In Vienna, Birmingham, and other European cities there are already more Muslim than Christian schoolchildren. In some German daycare centers the ratio of Muslim children to Christian children is 12 to 1. As Church leaders drift further and further toward the anti-fertility LGBT camp, the birth ratio will increasingly favor Muslims.

While Catholic youth (defined as ages 16 to 29) are encouraged to search for personal self-fulfillment in ways that will allow them to remain “liquid,” Muslim youth are being taught to find meaning by aggressively spreading the message of Allah—a message that spells submission and subjugation for future generations of Christians.

In an age of Islamic resurgence, what the world needs is not more youngsters searching 1960s-style through a variety of lifestyles and identities in order to find personal meaning. That was proven to be a dead-end in the post-1960s years, and the fact that a bunch of aging bishops are willing to prescribe it again just goes to show how out of touch they are. Someone should remind them that the most self-actualizing and meaningful thing that most human beings do in life is to get married and have children.

It also happens to be the primary way that societies ensure their continued survival, especially when confronted with an aggressive foe. On the other hand, societies that are pro-personal fulfillment and anti-child can’t expect to have much in the way of life-expectancy. But, as youth are wont to say, “whatever.” If you’re the last in your family line, what difference does it make what happens after you’re gone?

That, from a purely sociological viewpoint, is the main problem with the LGBT lifestyle. By its very nature the LGBT relationship is not heavily invested in the future. Consequently, synod participants should be cautious about drawing a moral equivalence between same-sex unions and marriage. But the odds are that many won’t. As Julia Meloni points out, many of Pope Francis’s handpicked delegates to the synod are in sympathy with much of the LGBT agenda.

Enablers of Abuse and Enablers of Islam

But there’s another angle to consider. Reading through Viganò’s indictment, I was struck by how many on his list are also in sympathy with Islam. As it turns out, the enablers of abuse are often enablers of Islam.

Take Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. At a 2015 gathering of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Cardinal McCarrick told the audience “who you are and what you believe are very beautiful things.” In the face of atrocities by terrorists, ISNA must tell the world, he said, “that’s not what the Quran says, that’s not what the Prophet, peace be upon him, is teaching.” In an article for Center for Security Policy, Elizabeth Yore reports:

In December 2015, Democrats Dick Durbin, Pat Leahy, Tim Kaine and Ted McCarrick collaborated with other faith leaders on a joint press release in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. They warned against hateful and xenophobic speech… [and] cautioned that U.S. refugee policy must not be restricted or halted because of Islamic terrorist attacks.


William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website,

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