Damage control was once again the order of the day at the Vatican, in the wake of a week-long gathering of young men and women who came to town last month to help with preparations for the upcoming Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”.

The meeting was supposed to provide young people with the opportunity to express their view of the state and trajectory of the Church, articulate their feelings and make recommendations to the synod fathers ahead of their scheduled sessions in October. Criticism of the modes, methods and procedures that led to the final document – as well as criticism of the final document itself – was so vocal that the “pre-synod” meeting organisers and participant-leaders found themselves countering claims that the whole process was manipulated and even rigged.

Three hundred people divided into 20 different language groups worked over five days on a wide array of questions and issues. Some 15,000 virtual participants contributed to the discussion via social media. The drafting team had no more than two working days to produce the final document, which brought together the contributions of 26 discrete working groups. That there was anything to show after that is remarkable. That the text they produced is not only readable but also competent in form and style is quite an achievement.

Some of the major complaints came from young people devoted to traditional forms of worship. John Monaco, a graduate student at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and a participant in one of the meeting’s English-language Facebook forums, described the tenor of comments for the Catholic Herald: “[T]he youth’s ordinary experience of the Sacred Liturgy in the post-conciliar Church left them wanting something ‘more’, and many of these young people found their desire for transcendence and awe within the Extraordinary Form, a desire that could not be satiated by banal folk music and anthropocentric liturgical behaviour.”

The specific term “Extraordinary Form” was conspicuously absent from the 12-page final document, which did refer however to “reverential traditional liturgies”. An Anglophone member of the drafting committee, Isaac Withers, explained the absence: “There was a huge online community asking for the Extraordinary Form to be represented in the document, and I realised going through these comments that we as a writing team had not been shown the wealth of online commenting.

“We were given only a summary of these comments, and so I was saddened to see that many in this group felt disheartened or not listened to. I had turned to my Lebanese and Latin American editing colleagues and had asked them if the phrases ‘Extraordinary Form’ or even ‘Latin Mass’ translated for them. They both said that they did not know what I meant, so I included the phrase ‘reverential liturgies’, hoping to express those things, but looking online, I really saw that the document would have been different had the online world been represented properly.”

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