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Speakers' Responses to Participant Questions

James Martin, S.J. Responds to Participant Comments, Sessions V & VI

James Martin, SJ, culture editor of America, is the author of several books, including My Life with the Saints and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. He is a frequent commenter on religion in the national and international media and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post. He has appeared in venues as diverse as Fox-TV's “The O'Reilly Factor,” NPR's “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” and Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report.”

Participant Comment: What do you think it says about the way that previous generations here today laughed and were amused by the testimonials of generation X in the video shown earlier?* Is there some degree of “not taking seriously” the concerns of our generation?

Response from James Martin, SJ: I didn't take it as being "amused" as much as being delighted that they were so honest. Far too often in the church those on the "inside" only hear from devout young Catholics who assure you that everything is just great, thanks. I think the delight was over the truth.

to view video, click here: What Twenty-Somethings Are Saying About the Church

Participant Comment: As our world evolves, so do our generations. Is there any hope in Catholicism adapting to our evolutionized generations to accept and embrace their diversity and who they are to help them engage in participation? Have a sense of belonging and reassuring them to still be a part of the Catholic community? What is the solution to our youth drifting away?

Response from James Martin, SJ: Yes, there is always hope because we believe that the Holy Spirit is always enlivening the church, and, moreover, the Spirit can surprise us. I think the question is whether we will listen to the Spirit, who, after all, is also speaking through the 20-somethings.

Participant Comment: Do you think the popular Catholic opinion that the sacraments are not necessary for salvation might contribute to why young adults don’t frequent Mass and confession?

Response from James Martin, SJ: Yes, I think that is a part of it. I found it interesting that few of the 20-something respondents on the video (admittedly, an extremely limited sample from one locale) didn't mention an "obligation" to the sacraments. Nor did they mention an obligation to the church as a whole. So I think that is certainly an element of the drift.

Comment from Participant, Doug Lory: So much of what has been said points to the gaping hole in the formation of young adults in their need for meaning, faith, and even the personal/mystical experience of God. How do “we the people,” the Church, insist that our Church leaders acknowledge culpability and short-sightedness in these areas?

Response from James Martin, SJ: I don't think it's as important to demand an admission of guilt here, as it is in other areas of the church's history, as in sexual abuse cases or financial scandals. ?In this case, I think everyone realizes it was a failure. And who would you blame? Catholic parents? (They are supposed to be the primary teachers of the faith.) Godparents? (Seriously, they promise to teach their godchildren in the faith in the midst of the sacrament; they have a sacramental duty to catechesis, though most seem to set that aside.) CCD teachers? Directors of Religious Education? Catholic school teachers? Bishops? And how about adding young adults who don't actively seek out catechesis after realizing that their early catechesis was insufficient? ?My point is that there's plenty of blame to go around here. Far better to think about ways of improving the catechesis, making it more attractive and, frankly, making the faith itself more appealing by living it out more authentically.

Participant Comment: If we, as Church, by our attitudes portray a God who is biased and unwelcoming to people because of age, gender, sexuality, or difference of opinion, then “20-somethings” are not getting a true “God” image. They won’t believe that an unopen attitude truly reflections an all-loving and all-forgiving God. They will find another way!

Response from James Martin, SJ: Yes, I agree. While Jesus condemned, he rarely did so to someone who was weak; more often he condemned the strong who were not bothering to love more authentically. We are far too quick to condemn these days, and the image of the loving Christ is often lost amidst all the "Thou shalt nots." Plus, we tend to forget that Jesus could condemn because he was, after all, Jesus. The sinless one. Far better for us to start with love.

Comment: If the question is have we lost/are we losing young Catholics – why is it worth them returning? Why do we want 20-somethings to be part of the church? Maybe they are better off elsewhere.

Response from James Martin, SJ: Because we believe the church to be a beautiful place to be and want to share its riches with them. Plus they are Catholics; baptized as such, this is the home into which God called them sacramentally.

Prof. Lisa Cataldo Responds to Participant Comments & Questions, Session V:

Lisa Cataldo, assistant professor of pastoral counseling at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham, coordinates the clinical placement program and teaches courses in psychology and religion, trauma, professional ethics, clinical diagnosis, and race, culture and gender. Lisa is a faculty member and supervisor at the National Institute of the Psychotherapies in Manhattan and a practicing psychoanalyst. She is the author of several articles, including “Mourning the Religious Self: An Experience of Multiplicity, Loss, and Religious Melancholia” and “Multiple Selves, Multiple Gods? Functional Polytheism and the Postmodern Religion Patient.” Her research interests focus on the intersection of psychoanalysis and religion/spirituality.

Participant Comment: What do you think it says about the way that previous generations here today laughed and were amused by the testimonials of generation X in the video* shown earlier? Is there some degree of “not taking seriously” the concerns of our generation?

to view video, click here: What Twenty-Somethings Are Saying About the Church

Response from Lisa Cataldo: This question highlights a real issue that could easily be overlooked in our consideration of the relationship between young people and the church. Speaking from my psychological perspective, I would say that being “amused” by an “other’s” perspective is often a defense against recognition. This is bit of what I was trying (perhaps not successfully) to speak to in my remarks. According to psychoanalyst Donald Moss, true recognition requires that we let go of our desire to make the other “transparent,” that is, our desire to believe that we know the other, that we can “see through” them. Such laughter and amusement as the writer points out, can indeed reflect a kind of refusal to take the other seriously, to recognize that we cannot see through them. Only by admitting that the other is “opaque” to us – that we cannot label or assume we “know” them – can we begin to listen to their truth and venture into the risk that true recognition entails.

One way in which this attempt to make the other transparent showed up in the conference was in the attribution of “apathy” to young Catholics. As I mentioned in my remarks, many attitudes were reflected in the video subjects’ comments, but apathy was not one of them. Each of the subjects was thoughtful, and many were passionate, in their reflections. When the church, or older adults, or pastoral workers/educators render young people “apathetic” (and it is a rendering), this may reflect a defense against the threat of disruption of our comfortable ways of thinking about ourselves, our church, and our theology that the perspective of this particular “other” represents. True recognition is very challenging – it requires that we be willing to be disrupted, dis-placed from the center of our own thinking. It is not less than a reconfiguration of the self (or the institution) to include those who have been placed on the margins because their subjectivity (in its mystery and opacity) threatens our center. I am deeply grateful to this commentator for this question – it is a profoundly important one.

Participant Comment: As our world evolves, so do our generations. Is there any hope in Catholicism adapting to our evolutionized generations to accept and embrace their diversity and who they are to help them engage in participation? Have a sense of belonging and reassuring them to still be a part of the Catholic community? What is the solution to our youth drifting away?

Response from Lisa Cataldo: I would answer this question in essentially the same way I answered the one about “amusement” on the part of older adults at the experience of young people. Jean Vanier, the founder of the international communities of L’Arche, talks about the need to belong as a basic human desire. From a psychological perspective, it is clear that human beings desire to belong, to be recognized, and to participate (to “contribute in” as Donald Winnicott, my favorite psychoanalytic writer, says).

To the extent that the church, or adults in the church, insist that young people adapt themselves to the church as it is – in fact, change themselves to accommodate the established configuration of center and margins – what happens is that those outside the established center become further marginalized, until they feel as if their presence is a “problem” rather than a gift. This happens not only in the church, but in all kinds of groups where power is at issue, and it is always a tragedy.

What is the solution? It is a radical one, I think, and a deep challenge to the comfort of all concerned – to find the willingness to be disrupted, to reconfigure our notions of center and margins, and to let go of our notion that the other is a “problem.” In this way, we might have hope that the diverse and unique gifts of every person can be included and make a contribution to our future as a church.

Participant Comment: The older panel last night* seemed to say the sex abuse scandal wasn’t turning away 20-somethings. Are they not listening or afraid to ask and report to the irresponsible response of lay, clerical, and leaders?
*Friday Jan 28
, 2011 Forum “Twenty-Somethings: The Known & the Unknown”

Response from Lisa Cataldo: I thank the commentator for this question. I hope that in my own remarks, it was clear that I was stating the opposite of what this question implies. In bringing up the sexual abuse crisis (I think “scandal” is too tame a word), my point was that in our consideration of the “loss” of young Catholics, we are not taking seriously the effects of the sexual abuse crisis on their attitudes toward the church. It is not just a matter of attitude, really, but psychic damage along the lines of what in my business we call “secondary” or “vicarious” trauma. Even if one is not the direct victim of trauma, one can be traumatized by the witnessing (or even hearing about) trauma perpetrated on others. At bottom, trauma is defined as an event that overwhelms the psyche’s ability to process experience. Trauma need not be the result of one massive event, but can be cumulative. That is, a series of smaller “insults” to the psyche/emotional processing capability can accrue until they produce the same result. One of the most powerful contributors to trauma is the situation in which the victim’s reports are not believed or validated by those whose role it is to protect him/her. This compounds the original traumatic event many times over – it is betrayal upon betrayal.

All trauma shatters the sense of trust. Things that never should have happened, happened, and our sense of the order of the universe is shaken. For a religious person, the sense of trust in God will always be implicated, no matter the nature of the trauma (the goodness of God will always be questioned). When the abuse happens in the church, by trusted authorities in the church, the damage to religious life is compounded significantly. When the protecting other (the hierarchy, in this case) does not protect, does not act as a validating witness, and worst yet, actively seeks to shield the perpetrator, the results are devastating in the extreme. We cannot underestimate the damage that such actions have caused in the lives of victims, many of whose lives have been destroyed or severely limited beyond full repair. And we also have to acknowledge (openly, transparently, humbly, repentantly), that every act of covering up or shielding perpetrators has damaged – at least to some extent – the trust of every Catholic person in the benevolence of our church and its leaders. I know this may sound harsh, or even extreme. But as a clinician who works with survivors of sexual abuse, as well as family members of survivors, I cannot stress enough the pervasive and lasting effects of such trauma. I do believe that healing is possible – I have seen it and experienced it – but it is never possible without accountability and true, validating witnessing by a compassionate other. This is the essence of healing in trauma work. To the extent that young people (and all of us) have become aware of the sexual abuse crisis, so has our trust been shaken. So must we be witnessed and heard, and be able to seek accountability from those who, even unconsciously or from a misguided sense of rightness, have contributed to the state of affairs. This even includes ourselves, the body of the church, to the extent that we have minimized or glossed over the pain and suffering that has occurred out of our own desire to feel comfortable. Only in this way can healing really begin.

Bill McGarvey Responds to Participant Questions & Comments, Panel III & Panel VI

Bill McGarvey, former editor-in-chief of BustedHalo, is co-author of “The Freshman Survival Guide,” which will be published by Hachette Book Group in April. He has written on culture and faith for NPR, Commonweal, America, The Tablet (London), Factual (Spain), Time Out New York, and Book magazine. He is a singer/songwriter whose music has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Billboard and Performing Songwriter.

Participant Question: Do Millennials have any responsibility to “listen, engage, invite, connect” to different generational cohorts? 2) If not, how do they magically do this when their children/nieces/nephews become 20-somethings and they are in their 40s and 50s? Do they think they will be the first generation to ever have done this? Why?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Comment from Rachel Mueller: Do you think the current disappearance of Catholic art and imaginative expression is reflective of Catholicism’s current shame over its identity? How does Catholicism’s failure to own its identity (beliefs, purpose, passion) inhibit it from relating to young people and expressing that identity and relating with culture through art?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Question from Thomas Wiley: Mr. McGarvey discussed transparency in the church. What would a transparent Church that invites the kind of “seeking” so resonant with young people look like?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Question: How do we engage the millennials in addition to the 20-somethings and what do you think caused the millennials to become “apathetic” to the organized church?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Comment from Mark Shiner: What role do you see for popular styles of music in the Church? What are the mechanisms for connection between church as church and popular culture?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Question from Dan Geary: From: Explain more of what you mean by “seeker.” To what extent do you think 20-somethings are genuinely “seeking” God/meaning/answers? Do you see a yearning in people, or an indifference to the questions that have moved people in the past?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Comment: What about the claim that social media is helpful as a space primarily for young adults, a private generation – only space, that will be tainted or destroyed by proselytizing by an oder generation looking to speak a language they don’t understand?

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Question: Do you think there is something new emerging within church and culture?

Response from Bill McGarvery

Participant Comment: In an era of the internet, one could easily posit that the relationships and information we get and maintain are diluted. How can we maintain the integrity of the Catholic message through a viral means in an effort to “meet them where they are?”

Response from Bill McGarvey

Participant Question for Panel VI: Especially given that 20-somethings don’t fit into the liberal-conservative binary, to what extent are the issues being debated at this conference older people using 20-somethings to fight battles that are not their issues?

Colleen Carroll Campbell Responds to Participant Question, Panel II

Colleen Carroll Campbell, author, columnist, television and radio host, is a graduate of Marquette University, she began doctoral work in philosophy at Saint Louis University but interrupted her studies to work as one of six speechwriters to President George W. Bush. After leaving the White House, Campbell served as a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. In 2000, she won a $50,000 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship to write The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola Press, 2002). She writes a weekly op-ed column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, blogs on religion and politics for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and serves as a writer and commentator for national media outlets. She is the host of “Faith & Culture,” a television and radio interview show that airs internationally on EWTN, Relevant Radio, and Sirius Satellite Radio.

Participant Question: With such a disconnect or difference between the typical Catholic university student and the “new faithful” – can you speak to ways in which the “new faithful’s” attitudes and devotion can be translated/applied to the more typical students’ experience to help them form a more authentic, reasoned sexual ethic?

Response from Colleen Carroll Campbell: The new faithful often are presumed to have emerged from the womb with rosaries in hand and Catechism quotes on their lips. In fact, I found that many of the Catholics I interviewed for The New Faithful did not grow up in particularly religious homes and the vast majority received the same muddled catechesis that most other Catholics of their generation did. Many told me they spent 12 or 16 years in Catholic schools and emerged ignorant of such basic Catholic teachings as Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, the necessity of sacramental confession or the reality of sin, including sexual sin.

The explanation for how these young adults wound up where they are today – as staunch supporters of Catholic sexual ethics in a culture that largely dismisses those ethics as hopelessly antiquated – varies according to the individual. Still, I found a few common themes running through the stories of the new faithful. Most cited an eye-opening encounter with someone who presented Catholic sexual ethics to them for the first time as a coherent whole, giving them not only the reasons behind the rules but concrete advice on the spiritual and practical tools they needed to follow Church teachings. Nearly all of them mentioned a deepening prayer life and stronger connection to the sacraments that they depended upon during times of confusion, temptation and regret over sexual choices they had made in the past or continued to make despite a desire to live differently. Finally, the need for a strong, supportive, faith-based peer community came up again and again in my interviews with the new faithful. They found that they simply could not walk this road alone, not in today’s hyper-sexualized culture. Many said it was not until they found friends striving to live chastely that they found the strength and inspiration to do the same.

The new faithful are a minority in their generation, but their experience suggests that their numbers could continue to multiply if more young Catholics were given genuine opportunities to hear and study the reasons behind the rules of Catholic teaching, to see more examples of fellow Catholics living that teaching with joy, and to experience for themselves how the wisdom of a 2,000-year-old Church can speak to their longings for love that lasts.

Prof. David Campbell, co-author (with Robert Putnam) of American Grace How Religion Divides and Unites Us, responds to selected Participant Questions & Comments, Friday Forum & Saturday, Panel I

David E. Campbell, the John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C. associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, is the founding director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy. He is the co-author of American Grace, the author of Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life, and the editor of A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election. He has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and on NBC News, CNN, National Public Radio, Fox News, and C-SPAN.

Participant Question, Friday Forum: Does redefining Catholic identity around the Latino culture have long term potential to revitalize the Church – or when that demographic assimilates will that also lead to a similar drop in involvement?

Response from David Campbell: At this point, we do not know the answer. This is not just a cop-out, as there are two competing models in American religion. On the one hand, within Catholicism we have seen a decline in commitment to the Church among those groups sometimes called the “white ethnics”—Irish, Italians, Poles, etc.—as they have assimilated. That history suggests that the same could happen to Latino Catholics in succeeding generations. However, in American religion more broadly there are other examples of religions that have thrived by maintaining a link between religion and ethnicity. The Black Church is a prime example but is not alone. In the research for our book, American Grace, we found a conservative Lutheran church in Houston that is thriving, at least partly because of its emphasis on the church’s German heritage. That is only one example of a congregation that has successfully woven religion and ethnicity together. To the extent that individual parishes weave Catholicism and Latino ethnicity together, we should expect them to thrive also.

Participant Question, Friday Forum: Is there data about the “conversion door?” Parishes and campus ministries that I know seem to have good seized RCIA program. Do new initiates stay in the church?

Response from David Campbell: In our data, we find that, among non-Latinos, the flow of converts into the Church is far less than the flow of former Catholics out of it. Indeed, without the new conversions you describe, the Church would be in even worse shape.

Participant Comment, Friday Forum: On your point that the ritual/doctrine expression of Catholicism is on the decline – in light of religious pluralism, external expressions can be potentially volatile. This would explain why millennials choose not to see external expressions and important this leads to the interiorization of religion. By this I mean that the emphasis on being statements and feelings and spirituality (and less emphasis on ritual action and social experience).

Response from David Campbell: I would agree. Statements of religious “exclusivity” appear to be waning, as evidenced by the fact that overwhelming majorities of Americans endorse the belief that “good people not of my religion can go to heaven.” However, this is not limited to Catholics, but is found among Americans of virtually all religious backgrounds.

Participant Question, Friday Forum: How many anglo 20-somethings were included in your research group? Was it a regional or national survey?

Response from David Campbell: Our (American Grace) survey (which we call the “Faith Matters” survey) consists of a nationally-representative sample of 3,108 Americans. Of those respondents, 232 are white and under 30.

Participant Question, Saturday Panel 1: How can we promote intergenerational dialogue and support?

Response from David Campbell: Based on our data, I would recommend that religious leaders—whether they be clergy or laypeople—be aware that young people may be turning away from organized religion, but this does not necessarily mean that they have given up on faith. Some of the more stimulating discussion at the conference was, essentially, between an optimistic and a pessimistic perspective on the prospects for having young, lapsed Catholics return to the Church. My own perspective is that the Church has the potential of bringing them back, but probably not if they assume that they are waiting for their Catholicism to be rekindled. It is more likely that they never knew much about Catholicism in the first place, and thus need to be introduced to the faith.

Participant Question, Saturday Panel 1: Is the resistance to partisan dialogue in the Church an indication that the generation is weary of all the partisanship, or that the divined between parishes wrongly describes their experience?

Response from David Campbell: Our data suggest that young people react negatively to seeing religion as mixed with politics. Or, more specifically, political liberals and moderates react to the perceived connection between religion and conservative politics. Let meemphasize, though, that this is not limited to Catholics. In fact, the perceived mingling of religion and politics is more a matter of the rise of the Christian Right than anything the Catholic Church per se has done.

Jennifer Sawyer Responds to Participant Comments & Questions,
Panel 1

Jennifer Sawyer, a native of Springfield, MA, is a 2009 graduate of Fordham University Rose Hill, where she studied Journalism, Sociology, and American Catholic Studies. She currently works in television production, and enjoys writing in her spare time. She is a member of the Fordham Alumni CLC program, and active in several young adult Catholic communities in Manhattan.

Comment from Joan Horgan: I am shocked at these gatherings about “the Church today” about the lack of naming the revelation of the sexual abuse crisis in the church. This has been part of almost the last decade of your lives. What role do you think it plays in the lives of young adults and their conflicts with the church?

Response from Jennifer Sawyer: The sexual abuse crisis does play a large role in the lives of young adults. It’s an issue that continues to further the divide between people my age and the Church, and it’s something that I continually struggle with whenever I face the question, “How could you still be Catholic in light of this?” How could we allow ourselves to be led by someone expected to emulate the love of Christ, only to have that person betrays his responsibility and spiral into brokenness? It’s another major example of what we consistently point out as areas of hypocrisy that make it so challenging to have a relationship with the Church.

I think the most heartbreaking effects stemming from the clergy sex abuse crisis have been the seeming lack of effort from the Church to take ownership of the issue. Young adults will not accept silence, we will not pretend that the sexual abuse crisis did not happen, and we will not deemphasize its continuing affects on our faith. I recall a good friend of mine who spent a year volunteering with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after graduating. During one of his orientation events, he was surprised to hear a priest spoke openly to the group about the sex abuse crisis, saying, “I am so deeply sorry for the burden that you, as Catholics, have to bear in the wake of this.” For the first time my friend could recall, he realized that he had heard a priest outwardly acknowledge the sexual abuse crisis, hold the Church accountable, and even more surprisingly, offer his deep regrets as a religious leader. He had to ask himself, “why hasn’t this happened before?”

Participant Question: How can college campus ministry help young people to create their own young adult groups at parishes?

Response from Jennifer Sawyer: College campus ministry can inspire young people to take active roles in parishes by giving them the chance to be leaders early-on. I think about my experience on retreats at Fordham – We had a wonderful retreat director who provided a group of 15-20 undergraduate retreat leaders with the resources to lead several weekend retreats throughout the year. The experience of going on a retreat led by someone on the same level as myself was a vastly different experience than going on a retreat led solely by a priest, nun, or older member of the laity. Looking back, I was so moved and appreciative of someone my age speaking so candidly about their experience and faith struggles.
Also, more and more colleges are beginning CLC (Christian Life Community) programs, or small church models that invite us to explore and reflect on our encounters with God in everyday life. These discussion groups are a great, informal way for people to get together, faith share, socialize, and support each other. By exposing students to opportunities like these as undergraduates, it encourages them to continue with it after college. When I graduated, I realized I felt a void where these meaningful communities had once been, and this motivated me to seek out young adult opportunities in my Church, and evaluate what I could do to involve others.

Participant Comment: Your panel has no representation from the 20-somethings who are sexually active church rejectors, who are more typical of the age group, who see church-going as hypocritical. What do you say to them?

Response from Jennifer Sawyer: Yes, perhaps it would have been helpful to hear thoughts from a panelist who outwardly rejects the Catholic Church, but I also think several of the panelists and the young people featured in the video “Reasons to Love or Lose Catholicism,” illustrated the stories of several 20-somethings who dismiss the Church for one reason or another - be it because of sex, or the myriad of other reasons.

As Paul mentioned during the second panel, focusing on the “don’ts” will automatically turn people off. Someone my age will quickly reject anything or anyone who approaches them with even a hint of judgment. The approach should never be, “Let me show you why your actions are wrong,” it should be, “let me minister to you as you are.” My thoughts go to a priest I know who always closes every single homily by speaking of Christ’s love for everyone, “regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation or past experience.” I can’t think of more welcoming statement than that one. The most important thing is to show that person that there is still a place for him/her, regardless of the place he or she is coming from.

Tom Beaudoin Responds to Participant Questions & Comments, Panel III

Tom Beaudoin is an associate professor of theology in the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham University. His research explores the relationship between secular and spiritual practices, and he directs the rock and theology project for Liturgical Press, which has ten theologians researching the religious significance of popular music. He is interested in how 20-somethings put together their spiritual world through their musical habits.

Response from Tom Beaudoin:

There are so many good and important questions raised for our panel on Catholicism and popular culture that I cannot possibly begin to respond to them all with anything like web-appropriate brevity. It seems to me that they circulate around three concerns:

[1] How ought the Catholic Church relate to twentysomethings/young adults in light of popular culture?
[2] Who are the privileged voices in guiding these conversations?
[3] How can the faith be taught today in relation to popular culture?
All very good questions! I would like to try one brief reflection that ties these three together.

I think the basic interrelated issues are: *finding ways to show that Catholic tradition has a freeing word for young adults, their culture, and their larger society;
*finding ways to appropriately relativize Catholicism as, functionally, a practical, rhetorical, and cultural domain of overlapping Catholicisms;
*finding ways to take a stance about these Catholicisms that is open to all the necessary voices in the naming of what Catholics should do and be today.

Let me take the last first: If Catholicism is, as I would argue, the historical consensus and dissensus over what people who care about the name Catholic think and do, then the voices in the articulation of Catholicism need to be broad, deep, and aware of the marginalized witnesses that have not counted in normative Catholicism. In the case of this conference, those would be the voices and experiences of young Catholics, post-Catholics, and former Catholics. Adopting this approach will increasingly get us to point 2: that theology and pastoral work will need to admit that what we really have operating are multiple overlapping Catholicisms, or more or less related to each other on different fronts of doctrine, practice, or material contentions. These are the conditions for getting, finally, to point 1: a freeing word that bears some connection to Catholic tradition – because that freeing word will have to work with a potential or actual wholeness, integrity, or reach for life in the concrete experience of the young adult in relation to contemporary popular culture, and this work will be enabled when we do (3) and (2) well.

The above rendering is already a kind of theological argument, and there are numerous theological-pastoral tasks embedded in these points, but let me translate a few that seem important for ministry:
(1) it is crucial to orient pastoral work to the actual life that the persons before us have had, do have, and can have, which we in theology and ministry must every time see as distinct from what we have been shaped to think normative Catholicism itself specifies for what one must believe and how one must live;
(2) we each ask what practices and beliefs those in our pastoral and professional care bring with them; (3) we each ask what practices and beliefs we ourselves bring, and are willing, and able, to represent now to those in our care; (4) we proceed pastorally by asking what meeting of practice and belief will serve those in our care taking the next step in their spiritual lives.

I am advocating here a commitment to a kind of process of theological-pastoral awareness that is its own content. I think this is the basic issue beneath the anxiety about popular culture and younger generations. The kinds of excellent and complex questions raised at the conference deserve serious thought and not rushed and hasty attempts at solution. Normative Catholicism in the United States has been and continues to be undergoing an implosion of credibility and affiliation of extraordinary proportions. The Catholic Church remains in search of an understanding of itself, its mission, and its people adequate to the new situation in which it finds itself. All cultural privilege, supersessionist fantasy, and imperial tendency, that were ingredient to the old church workings, will have to permanently give way. In the meantime, normative Catholicism craters while new Catholicisms can be built that help people get what they need to live. Let’s have theological life in ministry and academy take the side of these new Catholicisms.

Melissa A. Cidade Responds to Participant Comments, Session I

Melissa A. Cidade is research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University and the director of CARA's Parish Surveys. Her work at CARA focuses on Catholic education from kindergarten through postsecondary education, parish life, and young adult Catholics. Highlights from her work with young adult Catholics include a presentation entitled Millennial Outreach: New Directions, Strategies, and Challenges for Collegiate Outreach in the 21st Century and “Different, not Better: Millennials’ Engagement with the Catholic Church,” published in the July 2009 edition of Connections: An Online Publication for the Members of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

Participant Comment: How many anglo 20-somethings were included in your research group? Was it a regional or national survey? Have you looked into the reasons why young couples are baptizing children?

Response from Melissa Cidade: I cited several CARA surveys in my presentation and in my general responses. I can tell you that each CARA Catholic Poll (CCP) is a representative sample of adult Catholics nationally. When analyzing subgroup populations within a CCP, we use statistical weighting to ensure accuracy.

Specifically, I cited the following CCP data:
 The Marriage Poll – this was a poll of adult Catholics conducted in Spring 2007. The response was 1,008. I gave a presentation at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in 2009 about young adults and marriage using these data. This presentation is available at the following URL:
 The Sacraments Poll – Conducted in 2008 with 1,007 respondents, this CCP examined engagement in the Sacraments by adult Catholics. A description of the project, including the full text of the report, can be found at this URL:
 The Blog that I mentioned where CARA researchers create bite-sized bits of statistical information can be found here (including a review of panelist Putnam’s Amazing Grace ):

As for the question of baptisms – I don’t know “why” young couples are baptizing their children. We find in the Sacrament poll that more than six in ten Millennials find the Sacrament of Baptism to be “very” important – less than past generations but still more than half. In a blog about declining marriages and baptisms (available at this URL:, my colleague here at CARA wrote:

The data indicate that almost all self-identified Catholics having children are baptizing those children (most within a year of birth and some in later childhood years). In 2009, the crude birth rate for the United States was 13.8 per 1,000 population whereas the crude Catholic baptism rate was 12.7 per 1,000 Catholics. Historically, these two rates are strongly correlated (R=.984). Most of the decline in Catholic baptisms is attributable to the decline in birth rates from the Baby Boom peak years.

Participant Comment: As a 20-something who no longer attends Mass, I find it intellectually dangerous to assume young Catholics are foregoing Mass because of trivial reasons – busy lives, oversleeping, etc. This minimized the huge issues and intelligent Catholics are dealing with – homosexuality, aborting, and as you say, “pedophilia” – you’ll never win us back if you ignore our real concerns.

Response from Melissa Cidade: Let me begin by apologizing if my comment that young people are missing Mass because of ‘trivial’ reasons offended you. What I meant to point out is that young people are more likely to cite missing Mass because they have floated away from the Church, not because of some disagreement with Church teachings; my point is that there is an institutional mismatch, and not necessarily a theological mismatch, that keeps young people from attending Mass. Seven in ten now unaffiliated self-identified former Catholics say that they left the Church because they “just gradually drifted away from religion.” That’s not to say that there isn’t a population of now identified ‘former Catholics’ who left the Church because of teachings on abortion, homosexuality, or the recent clergy sexual abuse scandal; it is rather to point out that these reasons are not the most cited reasons for leaving the Church. Check out this post from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life -

As for ignoring the real concerns of young adults and not ‘winning them back,’ it surprises me that this claim would be made. Was I not the panelist who, when asked what is the biggest research question I have about young adults, responded “how can we get you back?” Statistics suggest that Church teachings have an effect on disaffiliated Catholics, but not as much as simply drifting away from the Church.

Participant Comment: Communal belief, worship, and social action is central to the Catholic experience. Is millennial Catholic belief a more individual “Protestant” experience of faith – and if so, what does that mean for Catholic identity?

Response from Melissa Cidade: I would say no – those who are engaged in the Sacraments do so in community. For example, Millennial Catholics are no less likely than other generations to say that when they attend Mass they “always” receive Eucharist. The same dynamic is present for other Sacraments, as well – Millennial Catholics who attend Mass at least once a month are no less likely than any other generation to say that it is “very” important to them to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick at some point in their life.

The key here, then, is that young adult Catholics who are involved in parish life are living the Sacramental – and communal – form of the Catholic experience. Those who are not engaged in parish life (as measured by Mass attendance) are not sharing in communal Sacramental life. This is not limited to young adults, however. Catholics of all ages differ on their experiences of the Sacraments, as well as beliefs and other practices, by Mass attendance.

Participant Comment: Christian Smith found in his study that young people are not necessarily angry at religion but make neutral “religion” is just not relevant for them. What is your thought about that?

Response from Melissa Cidade:
I would point back to my statement above about the number of Catholics who leave the Church not out of protest or some theological debate, but out of a general ‘drifting away’ from the Church, as evidence that Smith is on to something there.

Comment from Participant, Kathryn Erat: We are not giving enough attention to the influence over the last 30 years that most anglo-Catholics are being educated at secular colleges and the official ministry of the Church to these college students is not as extensive as it should be. The Church needs to evaluate where it is placing its resources in ministry.

Response from Melissa Cidade: I know this question is probably not meant for me, but my colleague Mark Gray and I used data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA to look at Catholic students at Catholic, private, and public universities to see the impact of these institutions on student faith and beliefs. We found that Catholic schools are no worse than, and sometimes better than, other institutions at impacting student faith and belief toward the Church’s teachings. Check out the study at this URL:

Participant Comment: Parents and grandparents did build the Church of the past. However, this statement diminishes the role of religious men and women in the church both past and present.

Response from Melissa Cidade: Thank you for this gentle correction. The role of the women and men religious that came before us cannot be understated.

James D. Davidson Responds to Participant Comments, Session I

James D. Davidson, emeritus professor of sociology at Purdue, specializes in the sociology of religion, with particular emphasis on studies of American Catholicism and religious stratification. His latest book (with Ralph Pyle) is Ranking Faiths: Religious Stratification in America (2010). He also is author, or co-author, of American Catholics Today (2007), Catholicism in Motion (2005), and several books on American Catholics, including The Search for Common Ground, which received the 1998 Award for Excellence in Research from the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership. He has been president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Religious Research Association, and the North Central Sociological Association, as well as editor of the Review of Religious Research and executive officer of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. He has won CARA’s Rev. Louis Luzbetak Award for Exemplary Church Research and NCSA’s Distinguished Service Award among other honors.

Participant Comment: How do the numbers of declining participation in America compare with the rest of the world? Would numbers for young adults be more accurate if the age groups were 18-22 and 22-29 to distinguish those who go to Catholic colleges and to see how their individual practices change if any in or out of school? Are traditional Catholics today intellectually more aware of the faith than those of the previous generations?

Response from James Davidson: A. The decline is occurring in other first-world countries as well, although at somewhat different rates, due to particular circumstances. For more on this see Leslie Tentler, The Church Confronts Modernity (Catholic University Press, 2007), Michael Hornsby-Smith, Roman Catholics in England (Cambridge University Press, 1987), Robert Dixon, The Catholic Community in Australia (Christian Research Association/Openbook, 2005), and John Fulton, Young Catholics at the Millennium: The Religion and Morality of Young Adults in Western Countries (University College of Dublin, 2000).

B. There is no problem in differentiating between young and old twenty-somethings, but analyzing the effects of going to Catholic schools is pretty tricky stuff. One can make bi-variate cross-tabulations, but to isolate the effects of Catholic schooling, one has to control for other factors that also might affect the likelihood of attending Catholic schools and one’s religiosity (e.g., parental religiosity, childhood religiosity, parish membership). For more on this, see chapters 4 and 5 in William D’Antonio,, Laity: American and Catholic (Sheed and Ward 2001) and the appendix on Catholic schooling in William D’Antonio et. al., American Catholics Today (Rowman and Littlefield 2007).

C. Some people say religious illiteracy is higher than it used to be and is one of the leading causes of dissent in the Church. However, previous research shows that religious illiteracy was probably as prevalent, or even more widespread, among earlier generations of Catholics and probably does not explain why today’s Catholics disagree with some church teachings. For more, see Rodney Stark and Charles Glock, American Piety (U of California Press, 1968) and my article “Does religious illiteracy cause dissent?” at

Participant Comment: Please define better Culture II Catholics.

Response from James Davidson: Culture I emphasizes the authority of the magisterium (external locus of authority) and the laity’s need to comply with church teachings. Culture II emphasizes the importance of one’s personal experience (internal local of authority) and the need to follow one’s own conscience, even if that leads to decisions that are at odds with church teachings. For more, see Eugene Kennedy, Tomorrow’s Catholics, Yesterday’s Church (Harper and Row, 1988) and James Davidson, Catholicism in Motion (Liguorian 2005).

Comment from Participant, Peter Quinn: What has been the trend in the percentage of conversions to Catholicism over the last half-century? Has the sexual abuse crisis had any discernable impact on the rate at which Catholics are leaving the Church or converts coming in?


Response from James Davidson: The conversion rate has declined. About 10% of Catholics are converts, but the percentage is higher among older Catholics (around 15%) than it is among younger Catholics (around 8%). As far as I know, there has been no significant change in inflow or outflow as a result of the sexual abuse scandal.

Participant Comment: Your use of the word “religion” was a little confusing. Changing religion would seem to mean switching from Christianity to Judaism or Islam or even Buddhism. However, I suspect you meant changing denominations instead. Maybe not. Please comment.


Response from James Davidson: When I refer to religions, changing religions, or interfaith marriages, I include denominational differences as well as faith traditions such as Islam and Buddhism.

Comment from Participant, Kristina Bodnar, Colgate University: How do we give attention to a new growing population of multi-racial young Catholics? How can we address their problems statistically and also in a problem-solving approach? For example, where do anglo-Latino Catholics fit into the responses we are examining?

Response from James Davidson: Multi-racial and multi-ethnic characteristics are not entirely new (e.g., some older people have several ethnic backgrounds), but they are increasing. People deal with these situations in different ways, with some giving equal importance to each trait while others accentuate some parts of their backgrounds than others. Survey research does not lend itself to studies of these subtleties and nuances as much as qualitative research does.

Participant Comment: Being Catholic requires education/knowledge. What is the religious educational background of 20-somethings/Catholic high schools/colleges/parents?


Response from James Davidson: Today’s young adults are more educated than earlier generations of twenty-somethings. When it comes to Catholic schooling, the pattern is more curvilinear, with the Vatican generation having more years of parochial education than pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Catholics. For more on this, see Appendix A in D’Antonio et. al. American Catholics Today, 2007.

Comment from Participant, Gina Pujols: Since women are more involved in the church than men, how can we increase the hierarchical flexibility of women in the Church?


Response from James Davidson: Continue to demonstrate the commitment, competence, and compassion women have shown in the last half century, while pressing forward in areas where women are still under-represented (e.g., diocesan chancellors) and exploring new roles for women (e.g., women deacons).

Comment from Participant, Marianne Malone: Our youth group puts on a “Broadway style” production each year. It is well-received by the community and usually includes lost middle and high school students. One of our parishioners is a professional director and donates his time. The project takes several months and becomes a multi-generational effort.

Response from James Davidson: Thanks for that excellent example of an activity that brings different types of Catholics together for a common purpose. It sounds like Catholicism at its best.

Meredith Fabian is a member of the young adult leadership team at The Church of the Ascension in Manhattan and part of Contemplative Leaders in Action, a faith-centered leadership program for emerging, young professionals run by the Jesuit Collaborative. She serves as site liaison at the international headquarters of Covenant House, which serves 70,000 homeless youth annually at 21 sites in six countries across the Americas. She holds a M.A. from Teachers College in International Educational Development and a B.A. in Philosophy and International Peace and Conflict Studies from The Ohio State University.

Comment from Participant, Margaret: Do you think it’s possible and/or positive for young adults to integrate across diverse backgrounds (i.e. for the Latino youth to integrate with anglo and other youth)? What recommendations do you have for this? What do you thinkw e can learn from each other?


Response from Meredith Fabian: Hi Margaret, good question. Yes, I believe it's possible for any parish with young adults from diverse backgrounds to integrate. I also believe it's really important to work towards doing so, and we need to place more attention and effort here! Schools, businesses, government agencies, etc. all pay close attention to diversity, we should too. Ways to do this? Perhaps start with thoughtfully composing young adult leadership teams/committees that are diverse. I'm talking about diversity in race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. With diversity represented on the teams of those organizing and envisioning young adult events, hopefully the activities will be inclusive, as well as their marketing and outreach efforts. And even if an event that brings us together is not culturally diverse, at least we're coming together and growing/questioning/learning more about our faith, and each other.

Participant Comment: For a Catholic event, I didn’t see any prayer (but then, I missed the opening evening). If 20-somethings don’t know how to pray, we didn’t give them an example of it.


Response from Meredith Fabian: Prayer is so important and comes in so many wonderful forms! A recommendation the provides 20 somethings with more "examples" of prayer: The Paulist Press's "To Live in Christ" a spiritual formation program comprised of five topics to choose from, one being PRAYER. This six week small group discussion/reflection guide "explores prayers from the early days of our lives, prayers that open minds and hearts, and prayers found in the Sacred Scripture- as well as prayer practices and different forms of prayer." Other topics include JESUS, DISCIPLESHIP, EUCHARIST, and BAPTISM. Can be found at .

Rachel Bundang, Ph.D, Responds to Participant Comments, Session III

Participant Comment: In an era of the internet, one could easily posit that the relationships and information we get and maintain are diluted. How can we maintain the integrity of the Catholic message through a viral means in an effort to “meet them where they are?”


I would agree that online relationships/info can be tenuous and fragile. Even though they can supplement existing relationships, what this gets at is that we need to remember real bodies, real persons, real communities lie behind the words onscreen. I think that we can best experience a sense of sacrament when we encounter each other face to face. Online spaces aren’t ideal for all kinds of dialogue, but what it can do well is to invite. It is possible to put out a “come and see” Catholic message, but it is absolutely important that our faith communities be ready to receive seekers as they are. Each participant has to be ready to be changed by the encounter.

Participant Comment: How do we engage the millennials in addition to the 20-somethings and what do you think caused the millennials to become “apathetic” to the organized church?


The millennials are the 20-somethings (born 1980-2000). I would attribute their “apathy” in part to several things:
• the all-consuming power yet fragmented nature of popular culture
• the diminishing standing of religious institutions (Think about it: when, over the last generation or so, did you see religion coverage that did not involve scandal, judgment, or reasonable dissent? This has led many to conclude that organized religion is thoroughly, irretrievably hypocritical.)
• greater awareness of + participation in cultural diversity, including curiosity about + willingness to explore religious diversity. (In some cases, the sense is, “Why should I be ‘plain vanilla Catholic’ or whatever?”)

Participant Comment: From: Thomas Wiley: Comment: Mr. McGarvey discussed transparency in the church. What would a transparent Church that invites the kind of “seeking” so resonant with young people look like?


For me, a “transparent Church” would have at least these aspects:
• It should operate in a spirit of openness rather than being defensive and guarded. In other words, it should be able to handle questions and dissent done in good faith reasonably, honestly, and respectfully instead of reflexively regarding them as a challenge to power and authority.
• It would also be mindful of the human dimension of the institution and regard the faithful as the primary community of accountability. Indeed, it is possible to do this without losing sight of the sacred.

Participant Comment: I really appreciate your comment about the term “moral relativism” being dismissive and shutting down conversation. Millennials, more than any other generation, are in contact with peoples and cultures different from their own throughout the world, and called to engage with the truths found in all of them. A rhetoric of faith and recognizes these subtleties could go a long way in relating to young people.

Participant Comment: You and the other speakers have insisted that the Church needs to meet 20-somethings where they are. Doesn’t the Church also have the mandate from Christ to bring them to THE Way, Truth, and Life, as Christ said, “Teach them all I have commanded.”


The second comment above presumes that there is only one way to be Catholic or Christian, that there is only one path into and through a life of faith, and that one generation has nothing to learn from another. Indeed, like the first commenter above, I think one of the great gifts of the current generation of young adults in the U.S. is our collective openness to diversity—racial, cultural, political, sexual, religious, etc.—in everyday life; we have grown up with difference so that more often than not, it feels natural rather than exceptional. The Church is most successful in its ministry and acculturation when it pays attention to the signs of the culture in which it finds itself, reads them carefully, and engages the culture humbly instead of dismissing it as automatically tainted or regarding it as something to be corrected by imposition of some one-size-fits-all pronouncement from above.

Participant Comment: Briefly explain (an eye-opener) how do black and Latino use the internet differently from white?


Communities of color may lag in overall internet use but lead in mobile web use.
Over the last few years, the Pew Research Center has run a number of studies through its Internet and American Life Project ( to investigate the role and uses of the internet among different populations and communities in the U.S. One of the studies explores the nature of the digital divide, and a recent USA Today article summarizes it neatly ( Among its findings were these:
• “Household income is the greatest predictor of internet use for Americans.” Wealthier households are more likely to have broadband connections and an array of tech platforms and devices—often in multiple.
• Blacks and Latinos were more likely to access the internet through a mobile device or a public outlet (e.g. school, work, public library) because they were less likely to have broadband access or even a computer at home. In fact, they are more likely to own a mobile phone than whites, and they use a wider range of their phones’ capabilities—not just web, but also text, e-mail, social media, donate via text, play games, etc.
• Blacks and Latinos outpace whites in their use of social networking sites and Twitter.
• Blacks and Latinos regard the web more as a source of entertainment than as a means of empowerment.
• Among Latinos, there are further differences depending on whether they are native-born or foreign-born.
For more specific statistics on the digital divide by race, see these reports:
• “For Minorities, New Digital Divide Seen,”
• “Technology Trends among People of Color,”
• “How Young Latinos Communicate with Friends in the Digital Age,”

Participant Comment: If we were to discuss morals from a contextual viewpoint (moral relativistic), how would we teach ethics to 20-somethings.

Participant Comment: What about continuing adult faith formation via Catholic radio, TV, books, websites, for young adults? Can they be encouraged to educate themselves better? Is not this what true education leads to? After college?


Taking context into account is not the same thing as moral relativism, and it seems like specious reasoning to claim that there is always universal application of universal teaching when in fact the Church does pay attention to nuance and detail. Look at the recent papal comment on permitting condom use to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS, for example. Benedict XVI adhered to the traditional teaching against contraception but ruled very narrowly that condom use in such a specific instance allowed for a greater good.

Time and again my own professors in ethics (including some of my favorite Jesuits!) emphasized the importance of cultivating and forming one’s conscience to the best of one’s abilities. Even if we learn the history, theology, and principles behind a certain ethical stance or moral problem, we can practically guarantee that at some point we may encounter the unknown and have to make hard choices with all the faith, integrity, insight, and sensitivity we can muster. As I said during the conference, ethics can indeed lay out the moral life in hard, black/white categories; but the greater, more difficult, and lifelong task is to be able to navigate the vast areas of grey, where the answers are neither easy nor obvious.

This also connects to a greater concern about continuing formation for adults. It is not uncommon to encounter Catholic adults, young and not-so-young alike, whose notions of Church, God, faith, spirituality, and the moral life seem stuck at the eighth-grade level (or at whatever age one was confirmed). Lest our faith be stunted, to help each other grow from childhood to adulthood in faith, we need to start by treating the faithful more and more as adults, who have power and responsibility in their lives, rather than as children who should only be silent and obedient. Through courses, workshops, retreats, sacraments, and our daily life as community, we need to share the richness and wisdom of the tradition, in all of its many dimensions, in the spirit of the “transparent Church” that another commenter mentioned. This means that we have to be able to handle real questions and difficult truths with honesty, open hearts and minds, and keenly tuned spirits. We have to teach people the spiritual practices that have sustained generations of the faithful, alongside the theological language that can help them wrestle with and understand their faith at every point of the journey.

Participant Comment: From: Krissy Bodhar: I was wondering if based on your background in feminist ethics and theologies, you could offer some insights on how 20-somethings view the role of women in the Church. With there being so many spiritual women in the world, is the all-male leadership a factor in alienating female millennials from the Church?


Let me answer this one through anecdote and reflection rather than with any firm statistics.

My sense is that millennial women Catholics don’t like that the hierarchy is all male, especially since it is out of step with feminist advances in other areas of their lives (work, education, relationships). But most are pragmatic about it, and it is not ordinarily a deal-breaker. Some work with organizations such as the Women’s Ordination Conference to push for the inclusion of women in the priesthood. Others find ways to be lay leaders in their faith communities, usually as volunteers. Still others have wrestled with their own vocation and ultimately left to pursue ordained ministry in another denomination. This last category, in my view, represents a “spiritual brain drain” that has impoverished the Catholic Church while greatly enriching the faith lives of many Protestant congregations. (For example, so many of the Episcopal women priests whom I know are former Catholics.) It is sad that we are missing out on their unique spiritual gifts, but each person must discern where and how s/he can best fulfill what s/he understands as vocation. A good priest—or, for that matter, a good minister in any denomination—is a true gift, to be cultivated with love, respect, and gratitude.

Participant Comment: How to encourage non-anglos to mix with people outside their own ethnicity? General perception: Charge of anglo “dominating” non-anglo, but other races are also alienating (inadvertently) themselves by forming their own gatherings, i.e. Spanish, Italian, Korean Masses vs. English Masses. Quandary of retaining ethnic cultural identity and integrating oneself with different ethnic background.


There is no easy answer on how to make this happen, and so much depends on the needs and demographics of the local community. For example, a California parish I know has a thoroughly mixed parish yet has two separate young adult groups: one for the Koreans and Korean-Americans, and one for everybody else.

I think the mixing needs to come from both directions. On the one hand, I can appreciate wanting an enclave or “safe space” to be with others of the same group. But the point is that we are all part of a greater community—the Church universal—which both includes these differences and also transcends them, and it is possibility to have a parish where there is both separation and mixing, depending on the event or activity. For instance, some ethnic-specific devotions, such as the Santo Niño for Filipinos, are actually open to the whole community but still be mostly Filipino in attendance. Other observances, such as Dia de los muertos from the Mexican church dovetails nicely into the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. And then are church-wide events such as Easter Vigil and social events that can be multicultural, multilingual, multigenerational, and fully inclusive.

Patrick Landry Responds to Participant Comments, Session II

Participant Comment: How can sex/sexuality be more openly and concretely address and discussed in the Catholic Church? How can it become more integrated/incorporated in the spirituality of faithful individuals and not just be considered part of life after marriage?


Response: Many 20 year olds believe that sex is a special and sacred thing. So often you see on TV or in the movies examples that make 20 year olds look sex crazed hook up machines. Sure sex is on many 20 year olds minds but most of us are not hooking up every weekend. With that being said, many 20 somethings have had sex with someone they are in a committed relationship with. Many of them see nothing wrong with this because it is with one person that you may be thinking you are going to spend the rest of your with. I also know of people who have really been burned with this. They think they are going to be with someone forever, they have sex, and then one of them breaks it off. The other person is devastated. The Catholic Church runs a fine line because its hard lined stance of no sex before marriage is ignored but if it had a less stringent stand it would be considered ‘relativist.’ The Church needs to continue to emphasize the beautiful gift that is sexuality – that it needs to be protected, shared, and nurtured. Level with young people that it is a challenge and give them the education and the tools to help make the best decision.

Participant question: What is your suggestion to inform young people in homosexuality if what we have learned is that the purpose of a man and woman is to procreate?


I used to believe this actually until I had a friend ask me: what about people who cannot have children, should they not have sex? That really hit me. Sex is not just for procreation. Sex is to be enjoyed and is a physical symbol of the gift of sexuality that should be expressed in a loving relationship. Just because two homosexuals cannot procreate does not invalidate their love for each other. I did learn that the purpose of sex was to procreate in grade school but as I grew older and actually began to wrestle with Church documents I realized that sex has more purpose than this. Many Christian communities allow same sex marriages, I would be curious to know their theological take on this question as well.

Participant question: Is it possible that we as a church are being invited into a new understanding of the Catholic faith, not only in the area of sexuality, by 20-somethings, and, if so, is it possible that wthere is a third path? One that does not adhere to legalistic “rules” of Catholic social teaching and one that does not embrace the “anything goes” mentality but a third path- one that embraces the fullness of Catholic faith AND resonates with their deeply-felt lived experience? If so, what are the implications of this?


I think what many people fear is what is happening to the Episcopal Church. People think that if the Church becomes too "liberal or relativist" then we would see either a schism or a number of Catholics leave for Evangelical churches. On the other hand, the legalistic approach is deterring more liberal Catholics from fully participating in the Church. I don't have an answer but I have a personal opinion that this third path would more closely follow the example of Christ whether that causes people to leave the church, or not.

Participant comment: All of the panelists in this session have spoken about the need for dialogue and conversation in regards to faith and sexual activity, yet the panel this morning and last night continued to avoid this topic. How and when can we begin to address this need for dialogue and conversation?


I see very little of this discussion happening at Catholic parishes, schools, or CCD programs. As one panelist said, the dialogue is happening at a university level and that is it. This topic is a difficult and controversial one and I don’t see many parish priests who are anxious to have this discussion in their church especially when there are so many immediate issues that are on the minds of priests like budgets and the multitude of other issues that being the shepherd of a parish calls ones attention to.

Participant question: The Church continues to call homosexuals “inherently disordered” and condemns their liaisons, but does not articulate how homosexuals can find affection, companionship, and security. When is the church going to address this very human condition and need?


Great question and many of us are waiting for this. 20 somethings by and large accept that homosexual relationships can be just as loving as heterosexual ones. The Church looks very out of touch on this issue and 20 somethings don’t want anything to do with an organization that appears to disrespect groups of people. This is one of those experience informing our conscience issues that I talked about as well. I hope to see a more inclusive position in my lifetime.


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