One hundred young Scottish Catholics have signed an open letter paying tribute to priests who have helped them by teaching Catholic doctrine.
The letter, signed by 107 Catholics aged between 18 and 35, was addressed to Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, one of the bishops attending the synod on young people which begins today in Rome.
The signatories, all aged 18-35 and normally resident in Scotland, express their gratitude for the gift of faith, adding: “We desperately want to share this great gift with so many lapsed and non-Catholics among our family, friends, and colleagues, who have not rejected Catholicism but a poorly-understood shadow of it.”
They also warn of a recent trend, in the public discussion ahead of the synod, of suggesting that “difficult aspects of the Church’s teaching” should be downplayed in order to be closer to young people’s lives.
This way of thinking, the letter says, is “utterly in contradiction to our lived experience”. The attraction of Catholicism, the signatories say, is the Church’s “claim to truth”, the liturgy and sacraments, understanding of “the human person”, and “moral teaching, that while so very challenging, also offers the only path to true joy and human flourishing”.
Clergy who preach Catholic orthodoxy are singled out for praise: “Far from being ‘out of touch’, it is those priests who proclaim orthodox teaching in its fullness with joy and courage who have brought the light of Christ into our lives, and really offered us His Mercy – the remedy for a broken world, which does not pretend human brokenness is irremediable, but truly heals and gives the grace we need to live new lives of virtue. To those priests, we are unendingly grateful.”
They add: “A faith that merely legitimises the habits we otherwise have anyway is simply not worth it.”
The letter also addresses some of the socio-economic difficulties young Catholics face, arguing that “Our economic and social structures are based almost entirely round a presumption of contraception, and this makes it extremely difficult for any couples who live faithfully according to God’s commandments”.
A “renewal of Catholic culture”, the letter says, will be built on the foundation of the family.
The full letter to Archbishop Cushley, together with the list of signatories, is below.
We write to you in advance of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. As young Catholics across Scotland, we would like to express our hopes and concerns for the future of the Church in this country.
In some of the discourse surrounding the synod, we have noted a trend of suggesting that difficult aspects of the Church’s teaching, in matters of morals and matters of faith, need to be downplayed, or even put aside, in order to be relevant to people’s lives and sensitive to their difficulties. Some even imply that priests who hold to orthodox teaching are out of touch with the lives of lay people, and of young people especially. However, it is in fact this line of thought that is utterly in contradiction to our lived experience. What made us become and/or remain Catholic, against ever increasing cultural pressure, are those aspects of the faith that are uniquely Catholic, not things that can be found in social clubs, in NGOs, or in political parties. What matters is precisely the Church’s claim to truth; Her liturgy and Sacraments; Her transcendent doctrine, communicated in teaching but also through beauty and goodness; Her understanding of the human person, laid out so powerfully for the modern world by St John Paul II; and Her moral teaching, that while so very challenging, also offers the only path to true joy and human flourishing as we see in the lives of the saints. These are the things that convince us that here is something worth the sacrifice, something good for us and for every human being.
Young Catholics are inspired by the heroic virtue espoused by the Church, in opposition to the cynicism and pessimism of postmodern culture. A faith that merely legitimises the habits we would otherwise have anyway is simply not worth it. Far from being “out of touch”, it is those priests who proclaim orthodox teaching in its fullness with joy and courage who have brought the light of Christ into our lives, and really offered us His Mercy – the remedy for a broken world, which does not pretend human brokenness is irremediable, but truly heals and gives the grace we need to live new lives of virtue. To those priests, we are unendingly grateful.
Sadly, far too few young people have encountered this fullness of the faith lived out visibly and confidently. A young Catholic father in America recently wrote to Archbishop Chaput that “The disastrous effect that Beige Catholicism (as Bishop Robert Barron aptly describes it) has had on my generation can’t be overstated.” (“From the Heart of a Young Father”, Charles Chaput, First Things, 18th April 2018). God has, in His mysterious ways, providentially and gratuitously blessed us with encounters, pastors, and formation that many of our peers have not had. We desperately want to share this great gift with so many lapsed and non-Catholics among our family, friends, and colleagues, who have not rejected Catholicism but a poorly-understood shadow of it. If the synod is to bear fruit, it is with this task that it must help us.
We need to ensure that our local Catholic communities are permeated with a Catholic worldview, and unashamed that such an orientation is very different from the prevailing cultural trends. The sacramental life, beyond just Sunday Mass, needs to be obviously and visibly the foundation of Catholic existence. We must draw on our rich heritage to ensure the liturgy is celebrated with beauty and splendour so as to reveal and draw us into the profound mysteries taking place. We need to see the various vocations lived out fully and joyfully, with parishes and dioceses forming a living iconography of faith, so that we can discern God’s will for our own lives, not in isolation but in an ecclesial context.
Young people need the chance to get to know our priests as priests – not just as administrators, nor presiders rushing from church to church, nor again merely as pals, but as fathers, whose fatherhood is rooted in their sacramental identity as men called and set apart to absolve and to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Young Catholics find priests who live their vocation to celibacy faithfully and joyfully to be highly credible witnesses to the joys and challenges of life in Christ.
The Church must be proactive and not merely reactive in facing the crisis affecting marriage and the family. To a large extent, Catholic married life has come to be treated as little different from secular relationships. Our economic and social structures are based almost entirely around a presumption of contraception, and this makes it extremely difficult for any couples who live faithfully according to God’s commandments. So many of our generation are living with the consequences of broken families, and this has engendered a cynicism about marriage. However, these young people have never been shown an alternative and therefore the Church has a great opportunity and obligation to clearly, confidently, and joyfully proclaim the truth about marriage. Young Catholics have a right to hear these truths at a local level so that our parishes are consciously supportive of the vocation to holiness in married life. This is vital since it is firstly in the family that vocations are fostered and it is on this foundation that an authentic renewal of Catholic culture and the life of the Church will be built.
There is no doubt that discovering and living out one’s vocation is very difficult in the modern world, as indeed it has been in every age. However, we know that God’s grace is enough for us and we hope and pray that a renewed faith and confidence in this will suffuse the Church and inspire young people to discern and live out their vocations faithfully.
Entrusting the synod to the intercession of St John, youngest of the Apostles, we assure you of our prayers.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Conor and Naomi Gildea
Christopher and Margaret Akers
Thomas Joseph Burns
Árpád Stephen Kuffler
James Joseph McDonald
Calum and Rachel Munro
Michael and Allie Robinson
Calum Douglas Wilson
Celia Gabriela Alvarez
Campano Greta Cydzikaitė
James Michael Farrell
Paul Aidan Gallacher
Mr and Mrs Mark Hamid
Ross Gregory Mitchell
Niall and Ruth O Coinleáin
Fraser and Jane Pearce
Mihnea Vlad Turcanu
Stuart James Campbell
Deryn Teoh En-Jie
Joseph and Julie Geoghegan
James Edward Greechan
Ethan SH Kim
John Patrick Mallon
Katharina Alice Patommel
Miguel and Maria Carolina
Pereira da Silva
Petre and Mollie Stegaroiu
Ian and Kristiina Watt