Youth outreach must begin with commitment to ending abuse, bishop says
Pope Francis attends a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 5. Also pictured are Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops. CNS/VATICAN MEDIA
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
October 7, 2017
VATICAN— Addressing the Synod of Bishops on the lack of trust many young people have in institutions in general, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said the synod had an obligation to address the issue of clerical sexual abuse.
“It is a both a crime and a sin that has undermined the confidence and trust that young people must have in the church’s leaders and the church as an institution, so that they may again trust their priests and bishops to exercise true spiritual fatherhood, serve as adult figures in their lives and as authentic mentors of faith,” the bishop told the synod Oct. 4.
The Catholic Church and its ministers are called to offer young people “reassurance, comfort, hope and belonging,” and that will be impossible unless the church and its leaders “continue to face courageously and honestly the betrayal of young people by clerics to whom they were entrusted.”
“This sin must never again be found in our midst,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano also used his allotted four minutes to speak to the synod about the role technology and beauty play in the lives of young people and how understanding that helps the church find better ways to respond to the questions young people are asking.
“In my experience with young people,” he said, “the questions that haunt them are not simply intellectual ones. They are first and foremost affective questions (i.e., ‘questions of the heart’), that ask about their self-worth, the reasonableness of hope, the ability to commit to another and to be loved in return.”
The Catholic Church can help young people find answers to those questions, he said, but to do so it must “unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”
Like other members of the synod, Bishop Caggiano also insisted the church’s liturgy is another opportunity that, when prepared and celebrated with care, can be shared with young people as “a celebration of the beautiful, the transcendent, with an engagement of the affective senses.”
“Let us work to capture the heart of all believers to encounter a God who does not promise a sterile existence but a life that is itself beautiful, rich in meaning,” the bishops said. The church needs to share a faith that “invites one’s heart to dare to believe that this earthly life is worth living and worth fighting for in light of an eternal life where the restlessness of the heart will find its final rest in the salvation that alone comes from Christ Jesus the Lord.”