By Elizabeth Tenety
This week, as more gruesome details of the global Catholic child sex abuse scandal were revealed, Catholic TV, a national Catholic television network, had the unfortunate timing of launching its 3D video programming aimed at making the faith relevant to youth.
“Our faith is not a flat picture we hang on the wall, or a photograph we place in a scrapbook. No! Our faith is alive and brilliant with color and dimension. It calls us to action, to growth, to love,” reads an article from Catholic TV explaining the innovation. Get out your 3D glasses and check out some of their programming online here.
The 3D programming, though a fun innovation, is reminiscent of a more innocent time for Catholic youth. What will it take to engage a younger generation of Catholics? Public penance. With a global child sex abuse scandal horrifying Catholics across the world, it’s going to take more than eye-popping visuals to keep the faithful from jumping ship. The sex scandal may be a political and moral crisis for the Vatican, but it has the potential to permanently disillusion the group most affected by the abuse: Catholic youth.
My generation (Gen Y/ Millennials) of Catholic youth came of age during our president’s impeachment, experienced 9/11, watched the American Catholic sex abuse scandal unfold across our churches, has had friends and family shipped off to two nearly decade-long wars, and is living through the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. We barely had enough time to gain confidence in institutions before we lost that faith.
Faith requires trust. If young Catholics can’t trust their church, which claims to be the way to salvation, why would they bother with God? Many of my friends and even some members of my Irish Catholic family have turned away from Catholicism because of the moral failure of our leadership.
There is reason to believe that the pope understands this connection. George Weigel wrote this weekend, in response to the pope’s letter on the Irish abuse case, that, “‘Sinful and criminal acts’ against the young ‘and the way Church authorities dealt with them’ are, the Pope suggests, among the reasons that Irish Catholicism has imploded in recent decades.”
This scandal is as solemn as it gets, and requires a gravely serious response.
What kind of penance does the church need to do? How can the Catholic leadership start to gain back moral authority? How can the Catholic Church prove that it is trustworthy and relevant to a disillusioned generation?