Pope Benedict XVI rebuts criticism of World Youth Day

August 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

On one hand, I think that World Youth Day is a very good idea and has the capacity to change the lives of young Catholics for the better by guiding them to a deeper love for, knowledge of, and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve witnessed exactly that kind of positive transformation in several young people I have known who have attended WYD, and I know of several men who discovered their vocation to the priesthood as a result of attending WYD. Deo gratias.

On the other hand, though, I must admit that I have been dismayed and perplexed by some of the oddball things that have happened at past WYDs, including the three I have personally attended: Denver (1993), Manila (1995) and Paris (1997). Understandably, a good deal of criticism about WYD has been swirling around out there for years — some of it for antics that absolutely merited denunciation (e.g., when a woman portrayed Jesus Christ in a living stations of the cross in Mile High Stadium).

But some of the carping, especially that emanating from the amen corner of certain schismatic, independent-chapel types, is based mainly on an entrenched disdain for Blessed Pope John Paul II, the prime architect of WYD. “If JPII did it, I’m agin it!” is the knee-jerk attitude some of those folks display toward anything the late pontiff had a hand in.

For my part, I freely, if reluctantly, grant that there were some seriously problematic things the late Holy Father did that I dearly wish he had not done (e.g., kissing a Koran, the Assisi inter-religious prayer events, allowing altar girls), as well as one thing in particular that I dearly wish he had done but didn’t: namely, to have sacked at least a few of those notoriously malfeasant, corrupt, and publicly heterodox bishops who did such tremendous damage to the church during the wasting years of their devouring regimes.

But that’s just me.

For the record, I love and esteem Pope John Paul II and am convinced of his heroic personal sanctity. And yet, I also recognize that the variegated aspects of his pontificate are a needed reminder of the hard lesson that even good and holy and courageous popes like him, are imperfect and can make mistakes in how they govern the Church.

News flash! The pope (no pope) is perfect. Yep. The Church never said they are.

Pope Benedict XVI has been forthright about this and about his own need for God’s grace and guidance as he carries the heavy cross of the papacy. For example, he said:

“Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Pray for me that I may learn to love the Lord more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more” (Address given in St. Peter’s Square, April 25, 2005).

Far from fleeing from controversy and confrontation, Pope Benedict, ever charitable and irenic, stands up resolutely to some of the baseless criticism leveled at himself and his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, regarding World Youth Day.

The phenomenon of World Youth Days has increasingly become a subject of debate, in an attempt to understand this species, so to speak, of youth culture.

Australia had never seen so many people coming from all continents, not even during the Olympics, as it did during World Youth Day. And although fears were expressed beforehand that this mass influx of young people might create some problems for public order – clogging traffic, disrupting daily life, sparking violence and drug abuse – all these fears proved unfounded. The event was a celebration of joy, a joy that in the end spread even to the doubtful, and when all was said and done, no one was inconvenienced.

Those days were festive for everyone. Indeed, it was only then that people came to realize what a celebration really is – an event where people, so to speak, step outside themselves, beyond themselves, and thus are truly with themselves and with others.

What, then, really happens at a World Youth Day? What are the forces at play? Popular analyses tend to view these days as a variant of contemporary youth culture, a sort of rock festival in an ecclesial key, with the Pope as its main attraction. Such analyses presume that, with or without faith, these festivals would be basically the same; and thus the whole question of God can be set aside. Even some Catholics would seem to agree, seeing the whole event as a huge spectacle, magnificent perhaps, but of no real significance for the question of faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. They might be ecstatic celebrations, but in the end they would really change nothing, nor have any deeper effect on life.

This, however, leaves completely unexplained the real nature of these Youth Days and the specific character of their joy, and their power to build communion.

First of all, it has to be realized that World Youth Days do not consist only of the one week when they are brought to the attention of the world. They are preceded by a long process of preparation both practical and spiritual. The Cross, accompanied by the icon of the Mother of the Lord, goes on pilgrimage to many countries. Faith, in its own way, needs to see and to touch. The encounter with the World Youth Day Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with the One who died for us on the Cross. The encounter with the Cross awakens within the young people the remembrance of the God who chose to become man and to suffer with us. We also see the woman he gave to us as our Mother.

The solemn World Youth Days are nothing if not the culmination of a long process in which the young people turn to one another and then, together, turn to Christ. In Australia it was not by chance that the Way of the Cross, winding through the city, became the high point of those days. Once again, it summed up everything that had occurred in previous years, while pointing to the One who gathers us together: to that God who loves us all the way to the Cross. Thus, the Pope himself is not the star around which everything revolves. He is completely and solely a Vicar. He points beyond himself to the Other who is in our midst.

In the end, the solemn liturgy is the centre of the whole event, because in it there takes place something that we ourselves cannot bring about, yet something for which we are always awaiting. Christ is present. He comes into our midst. The heavens are rent and the earth filled with light. This is what makes life joyful and free, uniting people with one another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “The important thing is not to be able to organize a party but to find people who can enjoy it”. According to Scripture, joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). This fruit was abundantly visible during those days in Sydney.

Just as a long journey precedes the celebration of World Youth Day, a continuing journey follows it. Friendships are formed which encourage a different way of life and which give it deep support. The purpose of these great Days is, not least, to inspire such friendships and so to create places of living faith in the world, places which are, at the same time, settings of hope and practical charity. . . . (continue reading)

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10 Responses to “Pope Benedict XVI rebuts criticism of World Youth Day”
  1. Andrew says:

    Mr. Madrid,

    I appreciate your article. I am a young Catholic, and have a more apprehensive attitude toward World Youth Day. I have a difficult time finding prominent Catholic voices who call into question any aspect of the event, and the constant cheerleading for World Youth Day (when, as a young person, I can clearly see warning signs in the youth that there are unholy things present) has made me lose my trust and confidence in many of these prominent Catholic, conservative, apologists and clerics. I am not under the impression that they are consciously white-washing, but I do believe there is a spirit of the age that simply swallows aspects of the youth culture that are poison.

    I am also not impressed by those who will simply label anybody who criticizes these events on Catholic principles with epithets. I have found some criticisms that I believe are perhaps a bit strong, but I am very bothered by the vitriol that is said against these strong critics, whose fault might only be that they are perhaps being a bit too rigorous. But the general picture of their strong criticism often seems to be much more in line with the reality of juvenilism, or adolescent and shallowly emotional spirituality.

    Thank you again, Mr. Madrid, for being a prominent Catholic voice and showing that there are, in fact, certain problems and dangers to World Youth Day, and that if you raise these concerns, that does not make you a schismatic sedevacantist, but merely concerned about real problems.

  2. Dan Hunter says:

    Though World Youth Day seems to foster some, or many vocations and move some to the religous life, I am afraid that much evil comes out of it, though I could be wrong.

    Allow me to explain please.

    When I was 20 I went to a mixed sexes Catholic retreat.
    I was in a state of sanctifying grace as I had gone to confession recently and recieved the Blessed Sacrament.
    I tried hard to live a good Catholic life.
    At the retreat I was sorely tempted to impurity by the girls that were there.
    It was a constant fight and I could not focus well on prayer, the Mass and the other spiritual exersises of the retreat.

    If I, who at that time was in a state of grace, and being around maybe 10-20 females had a hard time keeping pure at this small retreat, then it must be monstrously hard for a 20 year old male, and or female, at WYD, where thousands and thousands of the opposite sex are mixed together, who maybe are weakened by sin and not in a state of grace, to be.

    Is it really wise for the Church to sanction an open invite to impurity considering we have our fallen natures?

    I know that the planners of WYD do not have this in mind at all and there are the best of intentions, but there are the effects of Original Sin and concupiesence to deal with.
    The Roman Cathecism teaches that it is mandatory to flee from the near occasion of sin and I am afraid that even with all its good intentions WYD is a massive occasion of sin.

  3. Dan Hunter says:

    Mr Madrid,
    I am curious, who are you specifically referring to in the following statement?:
    “But some of the carping, especially that emanating from the amen corner of certain schismatic, independent-chapel types”

    Your piece is very well written.

    I think that man cannot allow an evil [Christ being presented as a woman] to bring about a greater good [men and women discerning their religous vocation]
    God can do this, but man brought about WYD.
    Where man does one injustice all the work is unjust.

  4. firemanfrank says:

    Well, if most of the Church approved apparitions of Our Lady had satan trying to disrupt their credibility by simultaneously producing false visionaries … then I guess similar things could happen at WYD as well.

    But the Church can’t stop doing good things in fear of how evil might try to corrupt it. We pray, and then trust in God to see it through.

    Regarding the radical Trad’s who dislike anything that post VII does, pooh-pooh on them. They are (and always will be) a small group relative to that of the Church. Ignoring them is probably the best thing we can do.

    PEACE

    • >>Regarding the radical Trad’s who dislike anything that post VII does, pooh-pooh on them. They are (and always will be) a small group relative to that of the Church. Ignoring them is probably the best thing we can do>>

      Hey FF!

      That’s not nice! The Holy Father is trying to reconcile your ‘radical Trads’. He’s not ignoring them. Get with the program!

      • fireman frank says:

        Kneeling,

        Unfortunately, I’ve had way more experience than I ever wanted with heretics. Both of the left wing liberal variety, as well as their counterparts … the “holier than the Pope” radical Trads.

        But they all have one thing in common, don’t they? They divide the Body of Christ, spread error as Truth, and attempt to steal away potentially good Catholics by turning them into disciples of Martin Luther (“I will not serve”).

        So I’ll leave it up to the Holy Father to do the job that Jesus Christ had specifically entrusted to him … to officially and formally reconcile with the heretics.

        But as a lay person my encounters with the Catholic Faith are directly on the spiritual battle field (parishes, bible studies, religious ed, etc.). This is where souls are being deceived (maybe even lost) right before my eyes. I do not take lightly being a first hand witness to Catholics being driven away from Christ’s Teaching Magisterium by those who are trying to fulfill an agenda of disobedience.

        Where is my charity you ask? It takes discernment (derived in part from experience, part from prayer, all from Grace) to know how to speak with different people. But I tell you this, it’s been my experience over the past 17 years that almost every heretic desires one thing and one thing only … that “it’s my way or the highway”.

        To this I will give no ground. Souls are at risk. There is nothing more important. On that much, I’m sure you and I agree.

        PEACE

        “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Now quit being part of the !##!#!! problem.”
        – John McClane (Die Hard)

        “Never give up… never surrender.”
        – Commander Peter Quincy Taggert (Galaxy Quest)

        • FF>> But I tell you this, it’s been my experience over the past 17 years that almost every heretic desires one thing and one thing only … that “it’s my way or the highway”.<<

          But FF!

          Many of us 'traditionalists' are only scandalized by the very same things Mr. Madrid mentions above….e.g. a Buddhist statue being placed on top of a tabernacle at Assisi or the Holy Father kissing a Koran or rainbow vestments in France. When a Pope presides at such events it causes puzzlement and confusion–not just inside the Church, but outside as well. Please don't tell me you are in any way OK with a Buddha being placed over top of the Holy Eucharist just because the Holy Father was present and strongly associated with the Assisi prayer event!

          We cannot have answers to everything which puzzles us, ntl somethings scream for explanation. The Faithful do have a right and duty to ask for one. Such as why American Bishops and clergy ignore the Holy Father's invitation to all believers to restore kneeling at Holy Communion. Why should we listen to our local leaders when they ignore the pope's 'cri du cor'?

          http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2011/08/bishop-athanasius-schneider-stays-on.html

          your brother

  5. PM Wrote>>>For my part, I freely, if reluctantly, grant that there were some seriously problematic things the late Holy Father did that I dearly wish he had not done (e.g., kissing a Koran, the Assisi inter-religious prayer events, allowing altar girls), as well as one thing in particular that I dearly wish he had done but didn’t: namely, to have sacked at least a few of those notoriously malfeasant, corrupt, and publicly heterodox bishops who did such tremendous damage to the church during the wasting years of their devouring regimes.

    But that’s just me.<<<

    Me too!! A very succinct list. As you point out, (most of the weird, youtube quality stuff from WYD does pre-date Pope B XVI) The Holy Father is slowly, but undeniably, moving in the direction of a "solemn liturgy".

    It was at first at the Sydney WYD where kneeling for Holy Communion was re-introduced for all the World to see (yes, Feast of Corpus Christi earlier that year, really, but Sydney was much more visible!) I might add, I can't resist, the reverent spectacle around the Holy Father ,juxtaposed with the irreverent 'any old way' distribution of Holy Communion by the 100's of other MOHCs present, was a teaching-moment for anyone with 'eyes to see'.

    Shamefully, our American bishops have turned a blind eye to the Holy Father's campaign for reverence. Their priorities are not his.

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