Young Priests Lament Sex Abuse Scandal, Question Youth Synod

by David Nussman  •  •  September 19, 2018   

Open letter to synod bishops: 'We believe that shining a light on these scandals, painful as it may be, is the only path to healing for the Church'

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DETROIT ( - Young priests in the United States are voicing their concerns about the sex abuse crisis and the upcoming Synod on Youth.

Eight priests signed their names to an open letter published online by First Things on Wednesday. Addressing the bishops who will be attending the Synod, the letter states, "We wish to express our concern about the unfolding crisis of sexual abuse in the Church, especially the Church in the United States. Specifically, we are concerned about how this crisis relates to the Synod on the Faith, Young People, and Vocational Discernment, which is to take place in Rome in October."

Given the recent explosion of reports on clerical sex abuse of minors, the signatories argue that "the Synod on Young People comes, to say the least, at an inopportune moment."

The letter says of the sex abuse scandal, "The lay faithful, whom we promised at our ordinations to pray for and serve unceasingly in the name of Christ and his Church, are wounded by these scandals and wondering whom to trust. Many young Catholics are particularly shaken. We stand with them in their anger, horror, and dismay."

"We believe that shining a light on these scandals, painful as it may be, is the only path to healing for the Church," they wrote.

The young clergy also raise serious concerns about the Instrumentum Laboris, or "working document" for the Youth Synod. "The Synod's Instrumentum Laboris," they write to the bishops, "concedes too much to the sexual revolution, which has caused such great harm to young people."

"We have grown up," the priests wrote, "in a culture hostile to all that the Church proposes: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the truths contained within Scripture; and the Church's tradition as handed down from the Apostles until today, including her moral witness."

The letter continues:

When we read the Instrumentum Laboris, we do not find an extensive analysis of models that have proved successful in forming young people in the faith. Nor do we find guidance on how the socio-cultural concerns of young people can be raised and oriented toward a supernatural end. We find instead vague references to "some young people" who wish for this or that part of the Church's teaching to change. But we know many young people who do not want the Church's teachings to change, who instead want them proclaimed more vigorously — precisely because they see them as the antidote to the cultural wasteland in which we live. For this reason, we believe the Instrumentum needs substantial rethinking and revision.

These priests are not the first to voice concerns about the upcoming Youth Synod. As they note, several prominent Church leaders have called for the Synod to be canceled — or at least postponed — owing to the current clerical sex abuse scandal.

Four of the eight priests signing the letter are from dioceses in Pennsylvania — three stationed in parishes, one studying in Rome. The Pennsylvania grand jury report, released last month, shed light on allegations of child sex abuse by about 300 priests across six of the state's eight dioceses.

The Synod's Instrumentum Laboris concedes too much to the sexual revolution, which has caused such great harm to young people.

Earlier this year when the Instrumentum was first published, there were complaints from some young Catholics that traditional-minded and theologically orthodox voices were getting marginalized.

There was a Youth Pre-Synod in March, where some 300 young people from around the globe gathered in Rome to draft the Instrumentum Laboris. The Pre-Synod's organizers in some countries used online surveys and social media interactions to gauge young people's opinions, which would then get represented in the working document.

Supporters of traditional liturgy felt their voice was left out of the Pre-Synod, despite how outspoken they were in the Pre-Synod's surveys and Facebook groups. Even one of the writers of the Instrumentum noted the discrepancy, saying, "There was a huge online community asking for the Extraordinary Form to be represented in the document, and I realized going through these comments that we, as a writing team, had not been shown the wealth of online commenting."

"I was saddened to see that many in this group felt disheartened or not listened to," he said.

One young, traditional-minded Catholic named John Monaco penned an open letter to Pope Francis about the concerns of young, faithful Catholics. The letter stated, "If the 1960s youth were marked by a sense of rebellion and anarchy, the youth of today desire stability, orthodoxy and order."

It noted the growing interest in the Traditional Latin Mass among the young, saying, "Tradition is for the young. Many of us find ourselves attending the Traditional Latin Mass for its sublime beauty, rich symbolism and unquestionable sense of sacred worship."

Monaco's letter to the Pope had three specific points. The first was claiming that today's young Catholics long for tradition and stability. The second was a call for theological orthodoxy and strong catechesis. The third and final point was arguing that young people should receive more help with vocational discernment.


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