Friday, August 16, 2013

The Downside of Rio

A former Evangelical Protestant emailed me, saying that he once participated in a mission trip and has sponsored his nephews on similar trips. "The tension between the impulses of disciple and tourist is real," he writes, "and so inescapable it significantly dulls pretensions to high moral purpose usually invoked for such things." He goes on to say that the same thing would likely apply to the Catholic WYD despite the "apoplectic attitudes" swirling in the its aftermath. WYD, he suggests, sounds "like a sanitized version of Woodstock with a 'Be Good!' Catholic sheen."


In light of that, he points to the following apropos article, suggesting that "the Pope, attuned as he is to earthly realities, would agree." See what you think:

Connor Malloy, "The Downside of Rio" (Catholic World Report, August 13, 2013). Excerpts:
“Who’s the church?”

“We are!”

“Where’s the church?”

“Right here!”

“And?”

“Everywhere!”


The “youth animator” at the center for English-speaking pilgrims in Rio de Janeiro was revving up the crowd of young adults ...

The animator hastily read an academic-sounding introduction for Cardinal O’Malley ....

Cardinal O’Malley’s catechesis, on “mission,” aimed at connecting the New Evangelization to the mission of all believers. It was an overwhelming, strong talk, and his plea to “avoid the trap of the hookup culture” received respectable applause. But for all of its insight and courageous urging to keep the faith amid a culture that doesn’t understand the moral foundations of the Church, I had the impression his talk did not have its desired effect on its audience. Before long, heads started dropping and eyelids started drooping. An audience distracted by its surroundings and coming down from the caffeinated enthusiasm of the animator seemed mostly inattentive to what O’Malley was saying.

It certainly was not the cardinal’s fault—the same thing had happened during Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s catechesis two days earlier. But this episode epitomized, for me, the World Youth Day conundrum. There may have been three million on Copacabana Beach for the closing Mass, but how many were engaged, actively participating? During WYD’s opening liturgy, led by Rio Archbishop Orani Tempesta four days earlier, hordes of pilgrims were wandering around, popping in at food tents and taking pictures of Copacabana Palace during the Consecration. It was beyond easy to take one’s eyes off the ball, and this identity crisis—between being a pilgrim and being a tourist—presented a constant struggle....

While it is undeniable that WYD has produced enthusiasm for and solidarity in the Faith among many of the young people who have attended the events over the last several decades, what I saw in Rio with these few examples was, perhaps, the realization of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s warning on April 18, 2005: “We are building towards a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists of one’s own ego and desires.” He doesn’t say “the world” is building towards it, but “we are.”

The dictatorship of relativism, the great disease agent of secularism, has penetrated the Church’s beloved young people. It blossomed after they ignobly ushered the prophetic Pope Benedict off stage right at his resignation while lavishing praise on Francis in a dangerous reboot of the John Paul superstar era—love the man, ignore the message. Could the ironic generation even grasp the irony?

To be sure, many have heeded the motto from WYD Madrid in 2011, proclaimed by Benedict XVI himself, “Do not be ashamed of the Lord!” Lives have certainly been altered. Anyone who claims the Church is on decline better remove Catholicism’s date of death from its tombstone. But the Church would be the first to say numbers don’t always tell the whole story, even though many proudly pointed to the pictures of three million on Copacabana as testimony.

“Swim against the tide” is how Pope Francis has said it, but each of us need to look precisely at that murky tide and admit we might not like what we see....
[Hat tip to JM]


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