Q : Archbishop J, can we re-imagine the Church for the 21st century?
Pope Benedict XVI, when he was elected pope chose the name Benedict, in a conscious and deliberate way. He saw the state of the Church as analogous to the time when the Roman Empire had collapsed in the West and Christianity itself was threatened by paganism. St Benedict seeded the foundation of monasteries for the Church and for the renewal of Europe.
The saint’s move led to the establishment of Catholic schools, universities, and libraries. The monasteries became the centre of learning, agriculture and commerce and impacted religious life and European culture. Cities grew up around them and culture thrived. Pope Benedict saw the Church in a similar fashion.
A generational challenge
Recently, I was at a gathering of Fatima Old Boys—all over 60. It was a lime, not a religious event. Their story was so similar. Most of them still went to church regularly. They brought up their children Catholic. Yet, most of their children are not practising, and thus not raising their grandchildren Catholic.
Hypothetically, let us say, of the 12 men in the gathering, nine were still practising. Of their 30 children, four were still practising the faith. And of the 50 grandchildren or so, only six were still practising.
We have lost the capacity to transmit the Catholic faith to the next generation and it is the single greatest challenge facing the Church today. It is a complex issue. There is much anger from the children towards the Church. Some is justified, for example over the sex abuse and our handling of it.
Over a form of Catholicism that is more cultural with a high dose of guilt and shame. Over our employment of sin and fear to curb the desires and control the social agenda.
They have a right to be angry that we tried to hand them a watered-down version of Catholicism that was judgmental of others, especially those who did not conform socially; strong on the human, but without a deep transcendental dimension that pointed to the ultimate; cliquish and territorial with strong indicators of who was in and who was out; that traded in power, by who was closest to the priest.
It was based on authority that could not be questioned. And great answers to hard questions were not forthcoming.
The grandchildren lament the way the “good Catholics” treat gay people and those who are sexually or socially nonconformist, the judgments we make and our outright condemnation of them.
They see the hypocrisy in the Church and compare it with Jesus and His way of relating to others. Because the religious quest of the grandchildren is not properly supported, many times—even for those practising—there is a coming of age during the Confirmation programme when they emotionally opt out.
Of course, science has raised many great questions which challenged many of our assumptions about the Bible and its authenticity. Rather than tackling these questions head-on we have retreated into “they have their truth, and we have ours” as if truth can be divided up between faith and science.
We have attempted to use authority to settle real questions that need real answers. Catechists have not been formed well to answer these questions.
Added to this, the birth control pill and the condom set off “an atom bomb” in the 1960s that is unleashing havoc today. Pope Paul had warned that once you disconnected the sexual act from conception, everything would change. He was right.
Although the grandparents grew up with contraception, the Catholic culture was still intact in its moral values, and everyone knew what was right, even if they did not do it.
In the 1980s with video cassettes, pornography became available and that changed things a bit. Today, with high resolution pornography streamed on the internet the sexual revolution of the 1960s begins to look like child’s play.
Our children are being sexualised from a very early age. The hook-up culture through dating apps, pornography and masturbation, and the proliferation of sexual identities have made for a tsunami. The rate of marriages is dropping steadily in the grandchildren’s generation because of all of this.
Technology has been the driving force of this social change. Over the last 50 years it has transformed us more than we understand. One dramatic change is how we learn and keep attention.
We cannot transmit our faith today the way we or our children were taught. Our grandchildren have access to more information that we could imagine.
Trinity TV 3.0
The Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, in their 2017 pastoral letter, New Ways of Being Church in a Digital Milieu write:
“Good News to the poor is the mission and goal of all pastoral communications (see Luke 4:18). Through signs, gestures, words, books, moving images, audio, and social communications, the Church has sought to proclaim her message so that all people will hear it in their own native language (see Acts 2:11). To be faithful to this mission of evangelizing communications to the people of the Caribbean today, we will need a new missionary spirit, one that is built upon participation, dialogue, and collaboration and one that speaks to the heart, soul, and religious imagination of our Antillean people. We need a new way of being Church” 1.
To assist each of us in our responsibility for our ongoing formation, Trinity TV has made a major investment in a new interactive studio.
During Covid all of us benefited from Trinity TV. I am sure many of you have great stories of how the Catholic channel assisted you in that difficult time.
Now with a major upgrade, Trinity TV will be able to offer more interactive shows that allow each of us a better opportunity to learn, grow and celebrate the faith of the Church.
Ongoing formation is not a matter of command, it is rather a matter of re-imagining Catholicism, in a way that resonates with our Antillean soul, giving us depth of humanity, perspective and relationship.
Trinity TV is giving us a great opportunity to delve into the depth of the Catholic tradition and experience all the ways Catholicism faces and sheds light on our most urgent issues. Our faith is a living faith that speaks to all the burning issues of the day.
In a 1983 address to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, St Pope John Paul II said: “Look to the future with commitment to a New Evangelisation, one that is new in its ardour, new in its methods, and new in its expression.”
Trinity TV is in most of the dioceses of the English-speaking Caribbean. It has given many Catholics access to ongoing formation from a Caribbean ethos. It now deepens its commitment to bring the Good News in a new and dynamic way.
Let us invite our children and grandchildren to accompany us as we explore faith together.
Faith for the grandchildren is caught, not taught. We need to be great exemplars of the faith if they are going to catch the faith from us. This is Pope Francis’ intentionality in proposing synodal church—a Church where we walk together, listening to each other as we journey towards Jesus Christ.
This is a process of ongoing pastoral conversion. As we listen to each other, we learn, and we see things differently.
Over the last 50 years, the world has changed in very dramatic ways. We need to reimagine Catholicism to reignite the flame.
Reflect on your commitment to your ongoing formation. See how Trinity TV can help you and your family.