The working document for the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation was published June 19, and includes contributions from both young people themselves, and bishops’ conferences.
By Elise Harris/CNA/EWTN News, Jun. 19, 2018
VATICAN CITY — According to the official working document for the upcoming synod of bishops on youth, the major questions for young people ahead of the October discussion surround issues of sexuality and gender, the role of women and the desire for a Church that knows how to listen.
The instrumentum laboris (in Italian) for the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” was published June 19, and includes contributions from both young people themselves, and bishops’ conferences.
Key issues highlighted in the document are not only increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts, but many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality.
The document points to a “metamorphosis of the human condition” some analysts say the world is undergoing due to the rapid pace at which cultural and anthropological changes are happening.
In this regard, a key challenge for the Church that the document cited is the body and topics related to human sexuality. The body, the text reads, has always been at an “intersection between nature and culture,” yet new biomedical technologies have given rise to different concepts of the body.
On one hand, the document points to the trend of technological experimentation, saying there is an increasing push for the integration of “body and machine, between neuronal and electronic circuits, which find their icon in the cyborg, favoring a technocratic approach to the body.”
But on the other hand, the trend of manipulating one’s body goes beyond the technical realm, and also touches on issues related to biology, the text said, pointing to surrogacy and egg donation as examples.
Things such as precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, displaying one’s body online and sexual tourism, the text said, “risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life.”
Bishops, the document continues, recognize the importance of the body and of sexuality, particularly the differences and complimentary of men and women, but are often not able to communicate the Church’s teachings well.
Church teaching on issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage for many youth are up for debate, both in the Church, and in society at large, it says
While there are young Catholics who find Church teaching to be “a source of joy” and who wish to follow this teaching despite how unpopular it is in the public eye, others want more clarification on these and other major issues, and have asked Church authorities not to be afraid to talk to them about “taboo,” topics such as gender and women.
“No bishops’ conference offers solutions or recipes” to these issues, the document says, but they are convinced that “the question of sexuality must be discussed more openly and without prejudice.”
On the issue of homosexuality, the document emphasized the need to be open and welcoming to everyone, including nonbelievers, those of other faiths, and also the LGBT community.
Some youth who participated in the online questionnaire or offered contributions through social media, the document reads, said they want to experience “greater closeness and greater care on the part of the Church.”
In their responses, bishops’ conferences also questioned how to respond to young people who have chosen to live a homosexual lifestyle, but who also want “to be close to the Church.”
In comments to journalists at the June 19 presentation of the synod’s working document, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, said the reason the Church is engaging with members of the LGBT community is because “we are open. We don’t want to be closed in on ourselves.”
In the Church, “there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves — on the right, left, center, north and south — this is all possible,” he said, adding that “this is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions.”
Young people, the document says, are also concerned that at times the Church can seem distant, and have voiced a desire to have a Church that is close, transparent and up-to-date, and which is not afraid to talk about the tough issues.
Divided into three parts plus framed by an introduction and conclusion, the document offers an overview of the state of young people throughout the world today and possible pastoral responses.
The document is a compilation of contributions from four primary sources: a questionnaire sent out to bishops conferences in June 2017; a website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth were able to leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting which took place in Rome in March, and drew participation from some
The first step was the questionnaire that was sent out to bishops’ conferences worldwide, and which was also posted online in order to make it more accessible to young people. It was released in June 2017 for people ages 16 to 29, of all faiths and backgrounds, asking about lives, attitudes and concerns about the world.
The answers to the questionnaire will be one of four key ingredients in the October synod, he said, with the other three being the website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth can leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting.
The structure of the text follows a methodology frequently insisted upon by Francis in the process of discernment: recognizing, interpreting and then choosing.