ROME- Enclosed is the 4-minute intervention given by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano at the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment:
Holy Father, my brother bishops and my sisters and brother in the Lord, allow me to share two points that weigh on my heart as we begin this synodal journey.
Reflecting upon paragraphs 59-60, the first is the need for the Church to continue to directly address the issue of the sexual abuse of minors and youth by clerics in many regions of the world (#50). 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 (#12), serve as adult figures in their lives (#79) and as authentic mentors of faith (#120, 130-132). The Instrumentum Laboris speaks insightfully of young people’s growing disaffection with civil and social institutions (#59-60) and their desire to address issues of discrimination (#48) and exploitation (#44). Building upon this, we must 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. Only in this way can the youth of the world believe our synodal call to offer them reassurance, comfort, hope, and belonging.
Reflecting upon paragraphs 34-35, the second issue involves the role that technology now plays in the development of young people. The Instrumentum Laboris rightly identified the key phenomenon that visual images play as the prime medium through which young people understand reality (#38). However, it does not fully explore, nor take advantage of the formative power that technology now exercises upon the full development of young people. For example, the document notes that music and the arts are powerful ways to open up spaces of interiority among young people that the written word may not do as effectively (#36). Young people are more apt to seek creative solutions and collaborate with a variety of relationships (#154). This shift is as much determined by physiology as it is by culture or theology. I urge the Synod to seek ways to investigate further these fundamental changes now experienced by young people so that the pastoral initiatives we embrace can be as comprehensive as possible.
Allow me to conclude by offering one concrete way towards achieving this goal. It was Saint Thomas Aquinas who taught that the human person can encounter God by three privileged paths: truth, beauty and goodness. In terms of technology’s formative influence on young people, I would respectfully suggest that it is the path of beauty that must be better explored for the sake of evangelization and catechesis. In my experience with young people, 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. We 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 (#162). Let us offer the sacred liturgy as a celebration of the beautiful, the transcendent, with an engagement of the affective senses (#187). 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, 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.