In a world of constant change, young people need the Church to be a source of stability and consistent teaching, a prominent Irish archbishop said Friday.
“Young people are yearning for some kind of stable reference points, some sort of moorings, things they can hold on to, that are not just constantly changing,” Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, and the Primate of All Ireland, said Oct. 26.
“The Church has to present clearly and fearlessly a message that sometimes goes against the grain of what young people are experiencing and hearing elsewhere.”
Speaking at a Vatican press briefing on the youth synod, he said, “one of the messages I certainly will take home is the importance of the Church fearlessly presenting [what is] often a counter-cultural message, to the world in which young people drown and are being suffocated.”
He noted the pressures faced by young people around the world, whether the realities of poverty and human trafficking in some countries, or the increased prevalence of mental illness and feelings of being “completely lost” that can be found in many Western societies.
Amid these challenges, he said he hopes the Church is able to say, “Listen, you have a reason for living, a reason for hoping, a reason for continuing to hold onto the precious gift of life you’ve been given.”
“I would like to think that the Church doesn’t just chase after fashions and changing this and changing that in the hope that it will somehow attract more young people. It won’t,” he emphasized.
Martin also addressed one of the prominent issues in Ireland, the recent legalization of abortion through a referendum passed in May. He said the vote legalizing abortion was passed with about 66 percent of the vote – only 34 percent of the votes opposed the legalization of abortion in the country.
By contrast, if you study the exit polls closely, the margin was even greater among young people, the archbishop said: “There were only about 17 percent of young people that voted in favor of life. That is troubling.”
“Why are young people, who are passionate about life, and who are passionate about justice – why are they so easily convinced that if you remove the fundamental right to life itself that somehow you’re being a more compassionate person?” he asked.
He said after the referendum he spoke with a few of the young people who had voted to protect the life of the unborn and who had campaigned for the pro-life cause. He said they were totally dejected, feeling like their message “was rejected.”
But what Archbishop Martin took from their “courageous” and “counter-cultural” witness is that the Church now needs “missionaries for life even more. We need courageous people who will speak up.”
That will be one of his take homes from the synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, he said, “not to give up on the fact that there are many young people who are still prepared to stand up for the Church’s teaching in this critical area.”