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Archbishop Chaput to Youth Synod: Developed world is ‘underdeveloped’ morally

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VATICAN CITY, October 10, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In his second intervention at the Youth Synod, an American archbishop lamented that the “wealthy societies of today’s world – including most notably my own – are in fact underdeveloped in their humanity” and stuck in a “moral adolescence” they seek to impose on others.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia reminded the Synod Fathers last Thursday that Jesus matured into an “adult man” and commented on the fact that developed nations are actually “underdeveloped” morally.

Chaput began his remarks with a reflection that Pope Francis had described Jesus as “eternally young” in his opening Mass homily.

“When I heard this, it reminded me of a song by the artist, Jay-Z, that was popular a few years ago,” the archbishop said. “The song was entitled ‘Forever Young,’ and it was a remake of a popular tune by the German group, Alphaville, from the 1980s. Jay-Z sang for the young – and for all of us – ‘I want to live forever and be forever young.’”

After thanking the pontiff for the “beautiful” and “powerful” image of Jesus as “forever young,” Chaput stressed that the Saviour is not, however, immature.

“The Jesus who came into the world as an infant did not end his mission as a youth,” the archbishop observed. “He matured into an adult man of courage, self-mastery, and mercy guided by justice and truth. He was a teacher both tender and forceful; understanding and patient – but also very clear about the kind of human choices and actions that would lead to God, and the kind that would not.”

Chaput then reflected that the developed world is underdeveloped morally.

“The wealthy societies of today’s world that style themselves as ‘developed’ – including most notably my own – are in fact underdeveloped in their humanity. They’re frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose upon others,” he said.

Chaput then gently suggested that the Instrumentum Laboris, or “working document” of the Youth Synod – which acknowledges the roots of this moral adolescence – inadequately defended Church teaching.

“The instrumentum does a good job of exploring the roots of that underdevelopment and the challenges to young people that flow from it,” Chaput said. “But it needs to be much stronger and more confident in presenting God’s Word and the person of Jesus Christ as the only path to a full and joyful humanity. And it needs to do this much earlier in the text.”

Upon its release, the Instrumentum Laboris worried a number of Catholics because of its lack of theological or doctrinal heft. St. John Paul II’s biographer George Weigel, a best-selling author, contrasted the length of the wordy document to its spiritual worth.  

“The IL [Instrumentum Laboris] is a 30,000+ word brick,” Weigel stated, “a bloated, tedious door stop full of sociologese but woefully lacking in spiritual or theological insight.”

“Moreover, and more sadly,” he added, “the IL has little to say about ‘the faith’ except to hint on numerous occasions that its authors are somewhat embarrassed by Catholic teaching – and not because that teaching has been betrayed by churchmen of various ranks, but because that teaching challenges the world’s smug sureties about, and its fanatical commitment to, the sexual revolution in all its expressions.”

The working document also mentioned “LGBT youth,” the first time the ideological phrase has ever appeared in a Vatican document.

The document’s deficiencies inspired both young American priests and young lay people living in Scotland to reaffirm their love of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

In his first intervention at the Synod, Archbishop Chaput questioned the working document’s claims that young people are “the watchmen and seismographs of every age.”   

“This is false flattery, and it masks a loss of adult trust in the continuing beauty and power of the beliefs we have received,” Chaput stated.     

“In reality, young people are too often products of the age, shaped in part by the words, the love, the confidence, and the witness of their parents and teachers, but more profoundly today by a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist,” he continued.

Chaput said then that his own generation of leaders, “in families and in the Church,” has abdicated the responsibility of “elders of the faith community” to pass on the “truth of the Gospel from age to age, undamaged by compromise or deformation.”  

Second Intervention of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment

Brothers,

In his opening Mass homily, the Holy Father described Jesus as “eternally young.” When I heard this, it reminded me of a song by the artist, Jay-Z, that was popular a few years ago. The song was entitled “Forever Young,” and it was a remake of a popular tune by the German group, Alphaville, from the 1980s. Jay-Z sang for the young – and for all of us – “I want to live forever and be forever young.”

The image of Jesus as “eternally young” is not only beautiful but powerful. As we deal with the many outside pressures on the Church today, and the problems we also face within our believing community, we need to remember that Jesus is alive and vigorous, and constantly offering his disciples an abundant new life. Thank you, Holy Father, for reminding us of that.

Of course, the Jesus who came into the world as an infant did not end his mission as a youth. He matured into an adult man of courage, self-mastery, and mercy guided by justice and truth. He was a teacher both tender and forceful; understanding and patient – but also very clear about the kind of human choices and actions that would lead to God, and the kind that would not.

The wealthy societies of today’s world that style themselves as “developed” – including most notably my own – are in fact underdeveloped in their humanity. They’re frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose upon others.

The instrumentum does a good job of exploring the roots of that underdevelopment and the challenges to young people that flow from it. But it needs to be much stronger and more confident in presenting God’s Word and the person of Jesus Christ as the only path to a full and joyful humanity. And it needs to do this much earlier in the text.

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