Not long after I published my recent column about Robert McCarty and the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministries (NFCYM), I started receiving emails from concerned and in some cases very well informed parents. One of the emails included screen shots from Facebook postings of one of McCarty’s senior employees.
On Facebook this fellow celebrates the recent Supreme Court rulings in favor of homosexual marriage as “historic” and an “affirmation of the love and dignity of all human beings.” In another post he congratulates Rhode Island for legalizing homosexual marriage. To his credit, on his Facebook page he also celebrates the recent pro-life victory in Texas.
There is a certain ho-hum quality to this news. Are we really surprised to find that an employee of a quasi-official Catholic organization is squishy on a key teaching of the Church? Sadly, no. Dissenters from Church teachings have occupied senior positions in chanceries, rectories, seminaries and certainly in quasi-Church organizations for at least 50 years.
Yet in these days of increasing orthodoxy isn’t it at least a little bit surprising that a senior official of a Catholic organization would flaunt his dissent so publicly? Some compare Facebook to a cocktail party, others to an office water cooler. But it is even more public than that. And in this public forum, in front of his boss McCarty who is on Facebook with him, this youth ministry leader felt quite comfortable announcing his dissent from this Catholic teaching that so deeply affects children. Maybe these views are de rigueur at the NFCYM water cooler. Did they all celebrate homosexual marriage after the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions? Do they know the teachings of the Church on homosexual marriage? More importantly, how do they instruct Catholic youth on the subject?
It makes sense that one of the last redoubts of the failed Church revolution would be youth ministries. As the revolutionaries are driven from the chanceries, rectories and bishops conferences, it makes sense they would remain imbedded in an area with so many impressionable minds and so little adult supervision.
Most of us would not come within a mile of Catholic youth ministries, for a whole host of reasons. It is not for adults, though adults run it. And much of it is simply strange to us. The floridly tattooed Bryan Kemper, who runs a thoroughly solid youth outreach for Priests for Life, says a certain level of excitement is necessary to keep the kids’ attention and I believe him. While many young people are attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass, many others need something quite different. But, do they need what McCarty’s annual conference offers them?
He regularly features a comedienne who makes fun of—or at least light of—Catholic practices. A campy Christmas skit from a recent NFCYM youth catechist conference featured adults dressed as Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men. While the choir sings Christmas hymns, the Mary character makes periodic comic grimaces, presumably from labor pains, to audience laughter. Other adults sashay and shimmy on stage until the climax of the skit, when, as the choir crescendos to the words, “This, this is Christ the King,” a man in a bear costume stumbles onto the stage. Hilarity ensues.
The skit was proudly posted on YouTube by the head of an archdiocesan Catholic youth ministry who attended the conference, but after it appeared among the comments of my last column on this topic it has been taken off YouTube—not likely because it is blasphemous, but because shining a spotlight on it is a danger to McCarty’s project.
Most of us steer clear of youth ministry. Other than a sojourn in a Methodist youth singing group called New Faith, so did I. My time in New Faith was mostly about girls. The whole scene was just too touchy feely, and not in the way I sought in those days.
Maybe kids need pop music and silly skits to keep them interested in the Church, but you have to wonder if this is the only way to pass along the faith to kids. And you have to ask if it is working. Look around your Church on Sunday and count the number of teenagers. You will be shocked at the how small the number is. So, you have to wonder if McCarty’s way is really working. After all, he and his have been at this for decades. Yes, he turns out 20,000 for his annual conference, but where are these kids on Sunday? Not in Church.
Not all diocesan Youth Ministry offices are content with the hippy-dippy way. Informed sources tell me the Diocese of Arlington has pulled out of the NFCYM, or at least its annual conference. There are probably many others.
Other groups offer a different and a better way. Curtis Martin and his Fellowship of Catholic University Students put on an annual conference for several thousand students that is respectful and thoroughly orthodox. His group is growing exponentially. The Steubenville youth conferences draw many thousands of young Catholics, too, where they hear about the love of Christ and the call to purity, chastity, and self-sacrifice.
Scott Hahn, once a charismatic himself, told me the charismatic movement was one lane coming into the church and six going out. What is the calculus for Catholic youth ministries? How many lanes in? How many lanes out?
The next national conference of McCarty’s group is in November in Indianapolis. Let us hope some fearless and faithful videographers attend.