Dietary Preferences for World Youth Day

Does the Portugal WYD chief not want to make new Catholics?

Jesus once asked His Apostles whether any of them would hand a stone to a child seeking bread (Mt 7:9).

I’m worried some of their successors might hand the child neither stone nor bread.

In a July 6 interview on Portuguese State Television, cardinal-designate Americo Aguiar, organizer of World Youth Day (WYD) Lisbon 2023, said conversion was not a goal of the gathering. “We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all.”

So, we don’t want to make new Catholics? Since every person — including nominal Christians — needs to turn from sin to God, aren’t we working on helping young people to convert to putting Christ first in their lives? Once that happens, don’t we want to encourage young people constantly to deepen their turning to Christ in all aspects of their lives, which is what deepening the life of charity is about?

Do we not want to serve those young people Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35)? Do we not want to give them Jesus Christ, the spiritual drink flowing from “that spiritual Rock … [that] was Christ” (I Cor 10:4)?

Do we not even want to give them Jesus as a stumbling block, or is He a bigger trip-and-fall problem for some bishops than even our youth (I Peter 2:8)?

Aguiar subsequently tried to walk back his remarks, assuring us “World Youth Day is an invitation to all the young people of the world to experience God.” Interestingly, Aguiar spoke of “God,” not “Jesus Christ.” The devil’s in the details. Does this mean WYD is meant to experience some generic, individual “god,” one flavor of which might be “Jesus Christ”?

Jesus: neither Living Water nor Bread of Life nor Rock, but Flavor of the Day.

No doubt Aguiar will deny this and insist he simply wants to be “welcoming” and “inclusive” of those who “are thinking differently.” Foolish me: I thought World Youth Day was an event for Catholic youth to experience the “joy of the Gospel” (remember that?), to be happy with and reinforced in being Catholic. If not WYD, then when and where?

But we’ve seen this diluted witness before. How many young Catholics sat through “religious education” that was really religious illiteracy with crayons? How many “Catholic” universities are so “welcoming” that their “Catholicism” is a couple of customs that primarily provide pretty pictures for admissions literature? How many bishops recently voiced concerns that “Catholic” hospitals might want to think about gender mutilation as part of their public “inclusivity” and “thinking differently?” Some don’t want too explicit a Catholicism.

Would it be impolite to ask whether this skirts on what Jesus warned about being “ashamed of me and my words” (Lk 9:26)?

How soon will we offer the child who asks for an egg a scorpion, insisting it’s really the offer of an inclusive, fusionist diet?

Jesus provided the “best wine” at Cana (Jn 2:10). Why do some bishops insist on serving watered-down Catholic-Lite Kool-Aid?


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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