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Emelie Callan will be a youth observer at the upcoming Synod on youth Oct. 3-23. She will join a group of young adults to participate in the synod discussions, but do not have a vote on the final proposals given to the Pope. Screenshot from Salt+Light

Cancelling youth Synod would be ‘short-sighted’

  • September 15, 2018

The call to cancel the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Young People to focus instead on the life of bishops is “short-sighted” and not in the best interests of the Church or youth, says a Canadian Catholic who helped shape the pre-Synod document for next month’s meeting in Rome.

Emilie Callan is a writer and producer at Salt + Light TV in Toronto who along with Jacob Jason Genaille-Dustyhorn was chosen by the Canadian bishops to represent Canada in formulating the pre-Synod document in March. Callan said she respects Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who wrote Pope Francis in late August urging him to cancel the Oct. 3-23 Synod in the wake of the abuse scandal. But the process — where bishops will examine and discuss how the Church interacts with young people — is too far along to turn back.

“It’s a little short-sighted because youth engagement all over the world is in crisis and it’s not just because of the sex abuse scandal,” said Callan.

Callan said that delegates at the pre-Synod made it clear they want their voice to be heard.

“This is an opportunity really to kind of reflect on this crisis of youth engagement in the Church and how to move forward,” she said. “It’s prime time to have this kind of meeting where we are involving young voices that can bring a fresh perspective, newness, hope to the Church amidst all that’s going on.”

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury’s report on 70 years of clergy sexual abuse in the state, combined with allegations of abuse by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and a Vatican coverup, Chaput said he wrote to the Pope calling him to cancel the upcoming Synod as bishops “would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic.”

No doubt, Callan said, some bishops have lost credibility, and perhaps there is a need to speak about the life of the clergy, but not at the expense of gains that have been made. 

“Maybe this is an opportunity to continue the work that’s already been done and to speak about those things that need to be discussed,” she said. “How can young people be part of the solution.” 

Sexual abuse came up in the pre-Synod discussions that set the agenda for the Synod. Delegates stressed there is a need for “continued purification” and continuing the work of reconciliation for the victims of abuse. But the youth file goes so much beyond abuse, said Callan. 

“Not everybody has the same reason for disengaging with the Church. The sex abuse scandal might be one of them but there are others.” 

And despite the scandal, Callan says her generation knows there are good men and women in the Church. “I think my generation, we do see a lot of hope and we’re holding on to that because we know at centre of it all Jesus is still leading and that we still see beauty in our faith despite all the messiness we see around.”

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