World Youth Day, From Catholicism to Counterchurch

Source: FSSPX News

The Canadian publisher Sanctus Martinus last year published the French translation of a study by Cornelia R. Ferreira, World Youth Day, From Catholicism to Counterchurch, which appeared in English in 2005. On the eve of the 26th World Youth Day, to be held in Madrid from August 16 to 21, it is useful to refer to her analysis that shows the origins, the spirit and the fruits of those huge gatherings that take place every two years.

This book is based on facts and statements heard at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. After a 10 year interval and under a different pope, it is worth asking if the spirit of this international meeting has really changed or if, on the contrary, it is the spirit of World Youth Day which aims to change the Church, as stated in Cornelia Ferreira’s title.  She explains this on p.98 of her book, where WYD is presented as "the factor of change par excellence" of the Church.

The analysis of the unfolding of ceremonies, the content of the speeches and the behavior of participants during the various events of WYD 2011 in Madrid, will answer this question.

Where is World Youth Day Going?

The Focolare Movement can be found at the origin of World Youth Day. It was founded in 1943 at Trento, northern Italy, and from 1949 held annual ecumenical gatherings in cities temporarily named Mariapolis (p. 135). While at that time ecumenism was forbidden to Catholics, Focolare declared itself non-denominational. Cornelia Ferreira shows that this movement takes the ideas of Le Sillon of Marc Sangnier, condemned by St. Pius X in 1910 in the encyclical Our Apostolic Mandate. “Like Focolare,” she writes, “Sillonism was primarily a youth movement. The goal of world brotherhood of Focolare—Chiara Lubich herself (the founder of the movement) said that it was the last article of the (Masonic) French Revolution, which still needs to be put into practice—was the objective of Sillon.  Also, like Focolare, in order to build a global community, Sillon became nondenominational at a time when interfaith collaboration was officially forbidden.” (p. 177)
How does WYD fit into this relationship? Cornelia Ferreira quotes a former member of the Focolare, Gordon Urquhart, who in a presentation on the new ecclesial movements, called them cults because of their hold on their members and their feeling of having been selected to save the Church and the world. "Urquhart says that World Youth Days are the embodiment of these sects’ own ideas of the construction of a community, especially the Focolare. The form WYD closely follows is that of the youth festival 'show biz' style of Focolare or 'Genfests' which began in 1971. Pope John Paul II attended the massive gathering of the Focolare in 1980 and a similar event organized by Communion and Liberation in 1982. After the International Youth Rally, organized by these sects on Palm Sunday 1984 in Rome to mark their extraordinary jubilee, a gathering at which more than 300,000 young people were present, he established the World Youth Day, with the help of these movements . [Gordon Urquhart, The Pope's Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church, London, Bantam Press, 1995, and History of World Youth Day, ibid.]. "(p. 130)

The spirit of WYD

The spirit of WYD consists of a glorification of youth that Cornelia Ferreira describes as "Peter Pan syndrome," which encourages "extended adolescence, irresponsibility and immaturity—the lifestyle of Peter Pan" ( p.77). To support this assertion, she cites the bishops and religious organizers of World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.  The Canadian bishops' statement which promised  "to evangelize youth and to be evangelized by them!" (p.91).  More explicitly this profession by a Spiritan priest: "During World Youth Day 2002, a workshop led by a young woman (...) met to make a preliminary draft for a proposed constitution for the Catholic Church. The stated purpose was "to encourage other believers to think critically and creatively about the current state of the Church and its future possibilities . . . What emerged from these proposals was the desire of these young people for a Church where they would be heard and for a method of government allowing responsible participation at all levels, ultimately designed to create a ‘more respectful, compassionate and fair global community’.”  Because according to this priest, “ ‘The Seventh Continent,’ as youth has been labeled, has its own language, its own music and its own value system in which peer relationships play an enormous part.” [P. Michael Doyle, CSSp, “The Seventh Continent,” Spiritan Missionary News, Toronto, February 2003, p.4] (p.79-81)
Cornelia Ferreira shows that it is a religion of pleasure from which is banned the sacrifice of the Cross, which is expressed in the festivities organized for young people: "A large billboard publicizing WYD in Toronto hung in the churches in Toronto depicted a scene from Rome (WYD 2000), which really evokes a Woodstock: a field covered with thousands of bodies, men and women, crowded, some sprawled out under tents, girls in bikini top and shorts. They had to spend the previous night together camping out waiting for the papal Mass in the morning. An older woman who accompanied the youth with the Neo-catechumenal Way remembered: 'There was absolutely no room to pass between people and their sleeping bags'. " (p.83)
And to quote some journalists who would be little suspected of excessive Catholicism: "Even the secular press, in its sardonic reporting about the night in 'the dormitory of the Pope' in Toronto, admitted to ‘several impure thoughts aroused by the mixed dorms’ [National Post Toronto, July 29, 2002]. The accounts did not lack passionate embraces and other indecent amusements which were engaged in during that night spent together [cf. Graeme Smith and Wallace Immen, Good, Clean Fun at Muddy Mass Site, Globe and Mail, July 29, 2002] ... "(p.84)

From that time on, the author can only point out the futility of all calls for temperance: "What good is the declaration of the Pontifical Council for the family that 'the practice of decency and modesty in words, deeds and clothing are very important in order to create a favorable atmosphere for the development of chastity,' and that chastity 'requires self-control, which presupposes such virtues as modesty and temperance [The truth and meaning of human sexuality, December 8, 1975, No. 55-56], what good are these speeches when the members of the hierarchy close their eyes to the display of immodesty throughout World Youth Day? "(P.85)

What are the fruits of WYD?

Cornelia Ferreira asks: "What is the result of twenty years of World Youth Days filled with fun? We are already in the second generation of participants of World Youth Day. The youth who had been proclaimed 'the future' of the Church twenty years ago are now in their forties and fifties. Were they a 'gift' to Catholicism in hindering its decline, or are they filling the pews of the Church as adults, if they still have any religion? Actually, we have the official response to what was moreover an oratorical question. In 2000, Bishop Louis-Marie Billé, then president of the Conference of Bishops of France, ‘was asked if the World Youth Days had brought more youth into the Church and if vocations to the Priesthood had increased as a result. He was obliged to reply 'no' to both questions’ [Brother Ephraim, founder of the Beatitudes, Teaching, August 2000,] "(p.104)

The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris has even admitted that "After the World Youth Day of 1997, France began to focus on 'youth ministry' and accredited the 'surprising' success of World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 to the 60,000 to 80,000 French pilgrims (estimates vary), the second largest contingent after Italy. Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris said that the World Youth Days were ‘a great gift of renewal’ for the Church and that the large French contingent allowed  ‘the measure of the fecundity of World Youth Day 1997 in Paris'. However, in February 2004, just three and a half years later, he was forced to concede to the pope that French Catholicism had to acknowledge a decline in religious practice, a reduced number of active priests, the loss of Christian habits and the secularization of morality.’” [, February 20, 2004] (P.105)
Cornelia Ferreira's work gives us some food for thought which is important to keep in mind as the radios and televisions around the world prepare to broadcast live coverage of World Youth Day in Madrid, without the detachment which enables one to understand and to judge the events.
Les Journées mondiales de la jeunesse, agent de changement pour une nouvelle Eglise, (World Youth Day, From Catholicism to Counterchurch), Cornelia R. Ferreira. 187 pages, € 22. Sanctus Martinus Publishing PO Box 315 Combermere ON Canada Koj 1 LO. - Distribution in France: AFS 75017 Paris 31 rue Rennequin.