Imagine you are arriving early for a Friday-night youth event at a nearby Catholic parish. The youth minister is busy strumming the three chords of his newly created worship song, so you strike up a conversation with the longtime parish youth coordinator, Joan, a former nun who has never had a job, nor a life, outside a Catholic Church.
“Hi, Joan. What’s up?”
“I’m just getting the beer and pizza ready for tonight’s youth group event,” she states as a matter of fact.
“Beer?!” you exclaim while staggering backward, intoxicated with shock.
“Oh, don’t worry — it’s low in calories and sobering,” replies Joan.
“But, um, what are you planning to do?” you ask, still dumbfounded by the beer revelation.
“Oh, it’s going to be fun! We’re building tapiris for the cosmos. They are a type of Amazonian shelter, I think.”
“Huh? Out of what?” you wonder, your jaw still almost touching the ground.
“With the empty beer cans, of course,” Joan retorts, as if it is as obvious as her dyed black hair. “Don’t worry, though; we’re recycling the cans after. We’ll be saving the Amazon River tonight, mostly because we’re evil Westerners.”
You ponder that statement, the logic at the moment escaping you.
“That’s why we don’t eat fish anymore,” continues Joan. “Jesus commanded pigs to run into water, and so our pizza has bacon.”
You take the bait and ask, “Pigs?”
“They mostly float if round enough. At least the ones by the Amazon River, I think,” answers Joan, with a hint of uncertainty.
Joan then opens up three cans of beer and pours them one by one onto the bacon pizza. The cans are then tossed into the nearby trash can.
“All ready to go,” squeals Joan happily. “Hey, Kevin, come help!”
The youth minister strolls over, guitar still in hand. He breaks a string off his guitar and uses it to slice the pizza. By now the table is a river of chaos, with boozy bacon and soggy sourdough.
Kevin bows his head and whispers, “And I will make you fishers of all creation. Sing the song of the Amazon River and dance, dance, wherever you may be.”
As you carefully inch your way to the exit, you murmur faintly, “Joan, um. I thought you were recycling the beer cans.”
“They are from the evil West and are inadmissible, you Pharisee,” snaps Joan, signaling the end of the conversation.
* * *
I loosely mimic a memorable article written some time ago by Anthony Esolen. In it he surmised that the modern world is no longer fixated on what is real, nor unreal, but rather on what is completely ridiculous and irrational: the irreal. He opined, “Reality is too dull for us. The imaginary is too real for us. So we have turned to the irreal: to what could not be real in any conceivable universe.”
I struggle to even invent irreal situations. It racks my brain to write about an Amazon-themed cosmic youth group event drowning in beer. Yet it is true: we are surrounded by irrealist agendas. Just research your local library story times if you do not believe me. While I would love to mock the modern world’s attempt to twist truth, or even create truth ex nihilo, unfortunately, I am obliged to raise my children in its midst, and must take it seriously. There is no refuge.
Most concerning is that the Catholic Church, having opened its windows to the fresh air of the world, is also prone to thoughts of the irreal. The working document for the upcoming Pan(theist)-Amazon Synod is proof.
In the working document, we are treated to babble that simply defies imagination. Apparently, the life we receive in Christ reflects the biodiversity and cultures of the Amazon — “[t]hat is to say, a full and integral life, a life that sings, a song to life, like the songs of rivers. It is a life that dances and that represents divinity and our relationship with it” (par. 11). This is a far cry from the definition of grace I learned through studying St. Thomas Aquinas.
Later, we are advised that the unique diversity of the Amazon “suggests a new Pentecost” (par. 30). How many new Pentecosts are we going to have in this Church? Rather, how many beers must one consume to fall for this again?
And perhaps most irreal of all, we are told to learn from the original peoples of the Amazon (par. 29), the same ones who engage in child sacrifice. Burying an unwanted child alive is unthinkable for most. But the Church praising “the ancestral wisdom” which has wrought it? That is irreal.
No, it seems that many in the Church are conceiving the inconceivable, thinking the unthinkable, and realizing the irreal. Disturbingly, the irreal is then placed in the laps of our youth.
Catholics need young people; there are only so many ex-nuns to fill a church on a Sunday morning. We need the youth so much that nine out of ten Catholics support birth control to prevent children from ever being conceived, while bishops and priests look the other way. In the true sense of The Princess Bride, this is “inconceivable.” It is irreal.
Then, as a young Catholic boy grows, he observes the Church around him. He will notice that the banal music at Mass sounds worse than the banal music on the radio. He will see people dressed for the beach coming to the greatest banquet of Christ’s Body and Blood. If the boy is fortunate to be told of the Real Presence of Jesus, he will observe Communion hosts being passed out like at a street vendor, as if this Real Presence teaching is actually a myth.
The boy will be urged to get involved. He will serve at Mass, like a little apprentice to the priesthood, but with girls at his side. He will be taught the sacrament of Confession, though Jesus loves him just as he is. He will attend youth gatherings where a Modernist agenda is imposed at will. Saving Amazon insects will replace saving souls. Pious traditions like fish Fridays will be mocked, but meatless Mondays will be praised. Strumming guitar strings will supersede thumbing rosaries. He will be told that it must be so, for he is standing on holy ground, but he will observe that it is deeply profane. It will not be real to him, but irreal.
Is this not enough? It is only the beginning of what to expect in the Catholic Church. We have feeding Holy Communion to someone spiritually dead. Thinking a footnote in an encyclical can make mitigate adultery. Naming serial sexual abuse “clericalism.” Believing that two plus two equals five, or that God wills a pluralism and diversity of religions. Having two men in the Vatican dressed up to look like popes, with the one who speaks truthfully and lucidly not being the actual pope. Saying Mass to God, all the while turning away from God (in the tabernacle) and facing the people. Removing God altogether from His house, placing Him in a closet, and declaring that “now is the new Pentecost.” Only the blind fool should ponder, “Why are there no youths in our churches?”
We do not need the songs of rivers, interculturality, tiresome new Pentecosts, and the ancestral wisdom of child sacrifice. Nor do we require eco-youth groups instilling this profane, irrational, surreal, and even irreal “theology” to our children, while naming it holy and Catholic.
We simply need Truth. Now more than ever.
Dan Millette is a husband and father of five. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.