Posted May 23, 2006
A Cry To Youth Ministry and Especially Its Need Today!!
Solidarity With the Next Generation
Rome Meeting Highlights Responsibilities and Challenges
ROME, MAY 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A recent Rome meeting looked at the
"generation gap" from a different perspective. Instead of the normal worries
about youths' bad behavior, the topic under discussion was the adult
generation's obligations to help younger people.
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences held its 12th plenary session
April 28-May 2 on the theme: "Vanishing Youth? Solidarity with Young People
in an Age of Turbulence." On the first day's morning session, Cardinal López
Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, took up the
topic of "The Gift of Life."
He focused on the earliest moments of the relationship between the two
generations: that is, the transmission of life. Human procreation, the
cardinal explained, is seen by the Church as the fruit of total self-giving.
In this context children are considered as the supreme gift of marriage, and
the family is a sort of sanctuary of life.
Children are both a gift and a responsibility, the cardinal pointed out -- a
gift that comes, in first place, from God. They are also a joint
responsibility for husband and wife. The "we" of the parents becomes the
"we" of the family and from the first moments of a child's life a process of
education begins. Unfortunately, if the parents do not fulfill this
responsibility, then children pay a high price. In some cases they can be
considered as "orphans with living parents," said Cardinal López Trujillo.
Families also face challenges from outside, he added, referring to pressures
from neo-Malthusian circles that seek to restrict the number of children.
Other difficulties stem from within, when a selfish view of sexuality
prevails, in which love is not given as a gift, but is reduced to pleasure.
In the face of these difficulties Cardinal López Trujillo called upon
families to provide children with values on which they can build to give
meaning to life and to themselves. This "urgent need to communicate
certainties," he said, is all the more important in a world that extols
subjectivism and moral relativism.
In his presentation, Kenneth Arrow, an economics professor at Stanford
University, argued that the ethical obligations of parents to children have
not been thoroughly explored. Today's secular discourse sees all individuals
as having rights and obligations, Arrow said, "but there is no special
emphasis on the parent-child relation."
Seen from an economic perspective, resources flow from parents to children,
who are not yet productive members of society. So, in a utilitarian
perspective it is difficult to develop a theory of justice that would
provide sufficient accommodation for children. Nobel Prize winner Gary
Becker took economic theory a step further, by considering children as
durable consumer goods, hence allowing their welfare to enter into a
family's welfare. Seen from this perspective, parents act as trustees for
Arrow considered it important to further develop this concept of the
trusteeship of parents. This is particularly important in the light of the
ever-greater number of single-parent households. The spread of unilateral
divorce has had a significant negative impact on children's welfare, he
added. Moreover, the state's capacity to compensate for the defects of poor
family situations is very limited.
Pierpaolo Donati, from the University of Bologna, also looked at some of the
problems faced by children and young people. Among the challenges he
-- Science and technology applied to human procreation threaten the dignity
of the human being right from the moment of conception.
-- The erosion of the family as a social institution removes one of the
primary protections for children.
-- Economic pressures have diverse manifestations: the exploitation of
minors as workers; a disregard for those who are not producers; and pressure
to adopt a lifestyle centered on materialism.
-- Psychological and cultural pressures make the transition from adolescence
to adulthood more problematic.
Donati also noted that, paradoxically, the proliferation of declarations and
charters of children's rights and reports on their situation has done little
to improve matters. In many cases they have become little more than an
indicator of problems, more than achieving any real progress in protecting
Overall, Donati insisted, we need to question the type of world civilization
we are building and what place children and young people will have in this
civilization. Too often, he said, today's secularized culture is taken up
with a fear of the future, perceiving only the risks and difficulties.
Against this view the Church expresses hope in young people. Donati quoted
Pope John Paul II's words in "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," No. 58: "The
future of the world and the Church belongs to the younger generation."
A diversity of challenges
Some of the presentations during the meeting made evident the widely varying
nature of problems facing young people. Paulus Zulu, from the University of
KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa, dealt with the problem of excluded children
in Africa. In many cases governments are unable to deliver basic goods and
services to the population. This leads to high levels of infant mortality,
hunger, and serious deficiencies in education.
Mina Ramirez, from Manila's Asian Social Institute, in the Philippines, also
noted problems related to health and education. Child labor and sexual
exploitation also present a series of challenges.
Kevin Ryan, from Boston University, spoke about the condition of young
people in North America. He noted three dominant factors:
1) A troubled and weakened family. The United States and Canada combined
have 88.3 million people under age 20. Changes in family life in the last
few decades mean that there is much less contact time between parents and
children, along with a reduction in parental authority. Looser marriage
bonds and economic pressures further stress the family.
2) Resource-rich, but uneven schools. North America is home to many fine
universities, but many of its elementary and secondary schools are
academically poor, with mediocre results. Whereas education once served as a
social leveler, the tendency now is for it to be a source of social
3) The highly sexualized, media-driven cultural world of the young.
Television, the Internet, music, instant messaging and a growing number of
portable devices means that young people spend more hours in contact with
the media than in the classroom. Often the media exploit sexuality and drown
out awareness of the physical and psychological costs of uncontrolled sexual
Added to this last factor is the difficulty in transmitting the faith to
young people. Catholic teen-agers, moreover, fare worse than other Christian
groups when it comes to questions of religious practice and beliefs.
Ryan called upon the Church to launch a global effort by both clergy and
laity to evangelize the young, starting with parents who have to be the
first religious educators of their children. This new education program must
develop improved educational materials and will require the participation of
large numbers of the laity.
It must, however, not be limited to learning, Ryan said. The young need to
be taught how to act as Christians and to be given opportunities to witness
to their faith. Ryan also urged that a large part be given to prayer and
worship as part of a renewed educational effort. Handing on the faith, then,
is a key way adults can show their solidarity with the next generation.