The Church’s moral teaching is “not lacking in clarity” and should not be watered down “by hiding the truth in order to attract young people into the bosom of the Church,” Cardinal Robert Sarah said.

In his intervention at the Youth Synod delivered last week (see full text below), the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said it is “a question of proposing with courage and honesty the Christian ideal, in keeping with Catholic moral doctrine.” 

He said young people have an “unmistakable trait” of seeking in all areas of life “high and demanding ideals” — a trait that must not be underestimated.

Thus by “respecting and promoting the idealism of young people, they can become the most precious resource for a society that wants to grow and improve.”

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Young People and the Teaching on Moral Doctrine (IL 196-197)

Young people put forward various requests in the field of moral doctrine. On the one hand, they demand clarity from the Church regarding some questions of particular concern to them: freedom in all areas and not only in sexual relations, non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, equality between men and women, even within the Church, etc., (cf. IL 53). On the other hand, they are calling for an open and unprejudiced discussion on moral questions, but even expect a radical change, a real reversal of the Church's teaching in these areas. In practice, they are asking “that the Church change her teachings” (Final Document, Pre-Synodal Meeting, Part II, no. 5).

Yet the doctrine of the Church on the above questions is not lacking in clarity: it’s enough to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. Section Two, Chapter II, Art. 6). In particular, on the widely discussed issue today of homosexuality, the doctrine of the Church is clear (cf. CCC nos. 2357-2359; the two Documents of the CDF: Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986; Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposalson the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons, 1992). That the content of these documents is not shared by the people to whom they refer is another issue, but the Church cannot be accused of a lack of clarity. If anything, there will be a lack of clarity on the part of some pastors in the exposition of the doctrine. In this case, one who exercises the munus docendi should make a profound examination of conscience before God.

It is, therefore, a question of proposing with courage and honesty the Christian ideal in keeping with Catholic moral doctrine, and not of watering it down by hiding the truth in order to attract young people into the bosom of the Church. Young people themselves say this, in the final document of the Pre-Synodal Meeting: “The young have many questions about the faith, but desire answers which are not watered-down, or which utilize pre-fabricated formulations.” (Final Document, Pre-Synodal Meeting, Part III, no. 11).

Perhaps we should keep more in mind that passage from the Gospel in which Jesus does not lower the demands of his call to the rich young man who wanted to follow him (cf. Mk 10:17-22). Besides, an unmistakable trait of the condition of young people is the desire to continually seek high and demanding ideals in all areas, not only in the personal realm of the area of feelings and emotions or the professional sphere, but also in justice, in transparency in the fight against corruption, in respect for human dignity. Underestimating the healthy idealism of young people can be a grave disservice to them, since it closes the doors to a true process of growth, maturity and holiness. Thus, by respecting and promoting the idealism of young people, they can become the most precious resource for a society that wants to grow and improve.

+Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments