Why So Critical?

Astute readers might notice that Crisis ran two articles today criticizing World Youth Day. This is in addition to last week’s podcast about the event that was also mostly critical. So a fair question to ask might be: Why is Crisis so negative about an event that brings hundreds of thousands of young people together for the purpose of proclaiming the Catholic Faith?

We often hear complaints like this whenever we are critical of “positive” events in the Church, particularly popular ones like WYD. In an era of scandal, heresy, and corruption, is it really worthwhile to find fault in those things that appear to be doing good in the Church? Are we just looking for problems and refusing to see the good?

I would simply respond that a main reason the Church is in the (poor) shape she’s in is because Catholics have long accepted a status quo that doesn’t work. And that includes the status quo of glossing over negligence in liturgical matters, sacrificing sacredness in a misguided effort to attract young people, and pretending that programs will save the Church. We justify these actions by claiming they are necessary (perhaps even necessary evils) in order to proclaim the Gospel in the modern world. But have we stopped to consider that it’s perhaps those very actions which are hindering the spread of the Gospel?

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That’s not to say there isn’t a danger in being critical. One can refuse to see the good happening in the Church. We can strain out the gnat and swallow the camel. But if we refuse to be self-critical in matters as important as how we treat Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, then we’ll continue to accept a status quo that’s seen millions leave the Church in the past few decades. If we shy away from any and all criticism because it seems “negative” or will bring about division, then we are no more than a political party with no underlying core beliefs.

I’m sure the Lord touched many lives at WYD this year. I’m sure that many, if not most, of the people who went were sincere in their desire to glorify God and had nothing to do with how Our Lord was treated by the organizers. Yet we are not called to give God our “hopefully good enough,” but instead our best, and until we do that, we can and should be self-critical about our status quo, including the sacred cow that is World Youth Day.

We commend every Church leader who is working tirelessly to bring people to Christ and His Church. But we must realize that good intentions are not enough; we need to learn from our mistakes and also learn from our predecessors in the faith on the best methods for doing that important work.


  • Eric Sammons

    Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine.


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