Catholic World News

WYD participants--evangelical, conservative--represent Church's future

August 19, 2011

The success of World Youth Day reflects the vigor of “Evangelical Catholicism,” writes John Allen in a revealing analysis for the National Catholic Reporter.

Allen concedes that the phenomenon he calls “Evangelical Catholicism” might be described by many others as simply “conservative” Catholicism. But he argues, quite reasonably, that “conservative” is not an accurate term, “because there’s precious little cultural Catholicism these days left to conserve.”

Evangelical Catholicism, Allen says, is characterized by:

  • A strong defense of traditional Catholic identity, meaning attachment to classic markers of Catholic thought (doctrinal orthodoxy) and Catholic practice (liturgical tradition, devotional life, and authority).
  • Robust public proclamation of Catholic teaching, with the accent on Catholicism’s mission ad extra, transforming the culture in light of the Gospel, rather than ad intra, on internal church reform.
  • Robust public proclamation of Catholic teaching, with the accent on Catholicism’s mission ad extra, transforming the culture in light of the Gospel, rather than ad intra, on internal church reform.

This approach to the faith is shared by most of the active participants at World Youth Day, Allen argues—although he makes some interesting distinctions about the different sorts of young people who gather for the events.

(By the way, Allen notes that World Youth Day celebrations have now drawn more than 15 million participants, making WYD the “largest regularly held international religious event on the planet.”)

Whether there are described as “evangelical” or “conservative,” Allen has no doubt that the young people at WYD celebrations represent the future of the Church. He writes:

Once upon a time, the idea that the younger generation of intensely committed Catholics was more “conservative” belonged to the realm of anecdotal impressions. By now, it’s an iron-clad empirical certainty.

References:

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 20, 2011 1:59 PM ET USA

    Another factor: the young (but not just the young) are fleeing the nihilism of the dominant culture - they've seen its bankruptcy, its inability to bring lasting happiness, sometimes at close hand.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 19, 2011 9:32 PM ET USA

    A phrase Allen used caught my eye for reasons he may not have really intended:"there’s precious little cultural Catholicism" Yes, it's there; it's precious; it's cultural; it's Catholicism. And, yes it's little. But it's growing, by cracky.

  • Posted by: tasha1996 - Aug. 19, 2011 8:54 PM ET USA

    Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II spoke to the youth directly and gave them authentic Church teachings which are substantial, beautiful, and at the same time challenging. In many parishes they get hit and miss and false teachings. They are smart; they can't be underestimated; they know the difference! It's better to go directly to the Vicar of Christ!