XII ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin October 17th 2012
I would like to make some comments on the New Evangelization and Language, not in terms of the language of the New Evangelization but of the culture of language within which the New Evangelization takes place. The challenge of language is especially felt in those countries where English dominates and which are often greatly influenced by linguistic philosophies with known epistemological challenges. There is however a further challenge of the day-to-day language, not just of the media, but of a culture of the manipulation of language and the management of information where the meaning of words is changed and manipulated for commercial, ideological or political motives.
A strongly individualist vocabulary is often developed and then applied in areas such area of human sexuality, where the concepts of relationship and mutuality of the sexes become obscured. Such language can become enshrined in an individualistic understanding of human rights language, with a consequent distortion of juridical and political language. The notion of right becomes separated from its ontological roots. Individual rights are treated as absolutes or attributed a dominant place over and against other rights and responsibilities.
Let me give one current example from public debate in Ireland. In discussions advocating the legalization of marriage between homosexual persons, the terms of the debate are shifting from ‘same-sex marriage’ to ‘marriage equality’. The debate is thus moved away from any debate on the nature of human sexuality into one apparently of equal rights.
Such a manipulation of language and meaning is cleverly developed to shape the debate in society about public morality in a particular direction. The concept of dialogue as robust confrontation of ideas in the search for the truth is replaced by vague interpretations of consensus and tolerance.
The concern I wish to particularly address is the challenges that this manipulation of language represents for young people in their search for the message of Jesus Christ. Young people live in this culture of relativism and indeed often of the banalization of the truth without being fully aware of it. It is a culture which they did not create. They may not know any other culture, yet they must find Christ in the midst of this culture while they have little familiarity with the language of faith.
I am not thinking here of the large groups of young people who have found strength and support in events such as World Youth Day, but of the many young men and women in our cities who, at what is a complex and difficult time in their lives, in their search for meaning find themselves very much alone among their classmates and fellow students, even in their families, and indeed may experience hostility and incomprehension as they try to find or maintain their faith in Jesus Christ.
What type of catechesis do we provide for these young people? Where are the places where we provide such formation? Where are today models of evangelizers like Don Luigi Giussani who was able almost singlehandedly to engage young people in the less than favorable culture of the schools of his time and take the time to lead them to understand how an encounter with Christ could lead them to find themselves?
Where are we present among the large student population of our State universities, especially for those whose basic Christian education may well have been all but superficial in either family or school?
There is the temptation on the part of some to think that evangelization can be accommodated somehow within the culture of superficial language. The challenge of the New Evangelization requires a truly robust confrontation of ideas in search of the truth, not in terms of ideological aggression, but in helping young people in the discernment of ideas.
A culture of noise and hyperactivity can only be confronted with the offer of silence, allowing young people to be silent with themselves, not in an introspective way, but open to contemplation and prayer and to communion with the Lord. It is possible to build on the idealism and sensitivity of young people through exposure to the poor and the less fortunate in order to create a sense of self- giving as pre-catecheses for appreciating the God of love.
The culture of individualism can be counteracted by the creation of a variety of new ecclesial communities, not just those of the ecclesial movements, but around our parishes, which will be the building blocks of the Eucharistic communities of the future.
A robust presentation of the attractiveness of Jesus must be accompanied by an insertion into a culture of the Church as communion, a place of ‘Communion with Christ and with one another’, which was the title of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.