The post-synodal exhortation to the youth was published April 2, 2019. Signed by Pope Francis, it is titled, Christus vivit (Christ is alive) and is 67 pages long. It follows up on the Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” of October 2018.
Francis expresses their hope for a Church which “sets aside narrow preconceptions and listens carefully to the young.” “Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill.” According to him, a Church that reflects Jesus Christ is one that tries hard to “humbly acknowledge that some things concretely need to change, and if that is to happen, she needs to appreciate the vision but also the criticisms of young people.” He hopes that young people will be the “protagonists of change,” and for that, the Church must “humbly” listen to them.
The pope maintains that instead of “communicating a great deal of doctrine,” the Church should “first try to awaken and consolidate the great experiences that sustain the Christian life.” He adds, “a Church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum.”
He rejects “a pure and perfect youth ministry, marked by abstract ideas,” and calls for a “popular” youth ministry. Francis says that it is not necessary “to accept fully all the teachings of the Church,” and advocates for “a youth ministry capable of being inclusive, with room for all kinds of young people, to show that we are a Church with open doors.”
According to him, the Catholic educational institutions must “seek to welcome all young people, regardless of their religious choices, cultural origins, and personal, family or social situations.” He states that, “In this way, the Church makes a fundamental contribution to the integral education of the young in various parts of the world. They [the Catholic educational institutions] would curtail this role unduly were they to lay down rigid criteria for students to enter and remain in them, since they would deprive many young people of an accompaniment that could help enrich their lives.”
The pope goes as far as to say that “sexual morality often tends to be a source of incomprehension and alienation from the Church, inasmuch as she is viewed as a place of judgment and condemnation.”
A Church Which Listens but no Longer Teaches
In Life Site News on April 2, 2019, Maike Hickson establishes a striking parallel between these statements by Pope Francis and those of Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini in his book on an interview with the Jesuit George Sporschill, Night Conversations with Cardinal Martini (Paulist Press, 2013). This ultra-progressivist prelate also wanted, she writes, “a ‘listening’ Church that teaches less and listens more. He is the one who claimed that ‘we can't teach young people anything. We can only help them to listen to their inner master.’ The Italian cardinal also dreamed ‘of a Church giving space to people who think outside the box,’ and he lamented those prelates who ‘are still sitting behind walls that are too thick, either in new offices or in old palaces.’ And like Francis in his new document, Martini, too, was often demeaning of moral instruction: ‘The Church has talked a lot about sin, too much.’”
And Aldo Maria Valli commented, “This passage is significant because it shows that the document was written not so much considering the needs and requirements of today’s young people, but on the basis of the idiosyncrasies of some formerly young people, now aged, attached to the idea that ‘doctrinal and moral questions’ are not important and are only boring. ‘Those who work with youth know that in our time, the problem is not offering ‘intense experiences’ and opportunities for emotionally strong encounters. They can find that everywhere, because the world offers them in abundance. What young people ask, perhaps in a confused but no less evident way, is the opposite. Since they live in a ‘liquid’ society, full of possible experiences but without moral references and without any rational sense, they crave doctrine, structured thinking, content, rules, and when they find someone who can satisfy their thirst, they are not bored at all, but are appreciative, because they are discovering new horizons, about which no one has ever spoken to them. And they discover the value of authority.”
Somewhat harshly, the Italian journalists compare no. 212 of Christus vivit with the clear teaching of Pius X in Acerbo Nimis, the encyclical on teaching Catholic doctrine (1905), “where is affirmed the essential importance of doctrine, because ‘the intellect—if it lack its companion light, the knowledge of divine thing—will be only an instance of the blind leading the blind so that both will fall into the pit.” And this highlights the astounding anachronism of the “synodal” and “popular" ministry of the backwards sixty-eighters who believe in “listening” to today’s youth.