Last weekend approximately 5,000 young Catholics from around Australia converged on Perth for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival. Below are the observations from one of those who attended.
For those unaware, this event is famous for beginning without a Mass and instead starting with a pagan, animist and pantheistic ‘Welcome to Country’ that called on the blessing of the gods. All of them. As you will see at the end below, perhaps it is better that it began without the Mass at all…
The insights below are well worth reading. It is clear that this festival had speakers that can be charitably described as ‘questionable’ while the rock show approach to the final Mass was nothing less than sacrilegious.
The person who penned the observations below has asked to remain anonymous – they would like to attend future diocesan events and already feel unwelcome. I think that says it all about the true state of the Church in Australia today…
As everyone else who was in attendance for the entirety of the festival, I began by attending the opening plenary session at 9:30am on Sunday 8 December.
I was instantly struck by the lack of an opening prayer and the “welcome to country” which contained much questionable language including but not limited to: “May all the gods bless you” and “All things are created equal, humans, rocks, bees, magpies…”.
Additionally the Aboriginal elder who delivered the welcome to country spoke of many bizarre and blatantly non-Catholic things, such as invoking spirits for assistance. During the welcome to country, I walked out. I did not participate any further.
Following the opening plenary session, I attended the “Mary, did you know?” lecture by Br. Sheldon Burke. There was nothing that I can recall being questionable.
As I had attended Mass that morning prior to the plenary, I decided to have lunch while my friends attended the 12:30pm Mass on offer. I then attended the 1:00pm lecture “Pornography: Fact, fiction, formation?” by Paul Ninnes, which again I cannot recall containing anything questionable, aside from the topic itself.
I later attended the 3:00pm talk “Being a Catholic Man” by the Knights of the Southern Cross, the only criticism I can level against is that it was rather shallow.
I then ironically attended the 4:00pm lecture “Ready Player One: Let the Real Battle Begin” which spoke about gaming addiction. I felt as if it was an unnecessary talk on a subject not even tangentially related to the faith.
I then travelled around the Expo and watched live music for the remainder of the day until the closing plenary session, during which I decided to have a nap in a stairwell rather than attending.
I watched the Monday morning plenary session from the Riverview Theatre. The opening speaker was Grace Forrest from the Walk Free Foundation, who spoke of modern day slavery.
I am obviously not pro-slavery; however, I feel the topic was better suited to be in one of the lecture theatres, and not for a plenary session to start the day.
God or Jesus were again not mentioned once at the beginning of a day of a supposedly Catholic festival.
In addition to this, Grace Forrest made some rather ludicrous accusations including that people who are not feminists (the movement that gave us abortion on demand, no-fault divorce and the birth control pill) and people who do not agree with every last point of modern climate science are in fact pro-slavery.
She also blatantly lied on several topics (she used a photoshopped image of a polar bear – a well-known hoax – to peddle climate change in addition to making the easily disprovable claim that no religious texts support slavery).
Again, I found myself departing from the plenary and instead chose to find some other young Catholic adults who were also disillusioned. We had breakfast together instead.
At 12:00pm Monday, I attended a ‘Bishops X-Change’ Plenary Council sharing session. This one was entitled “A Church that is Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal”.
I have little to say about what occurred in this particular session other than I did not feel as if it was a fruitful discussion particularly after several youths called on the church to change her perennial teaching on sexuality. They were fortunately rebuked by others, although particularly aggressively by members of the Maronite community.
At 1:00pm I departed the room quickly and headed next door into another ‘Bishops X-Change’ session, this one called “A Church that is Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform”.
Unlike the previous session which had mostly been a long argument over what the word ‘inclusive’ meant, this one produced some stellar commentary…which was quickly shot down by Bishop Vincent Long, who in the words of his colleague, Bishop Bill Wright, “is big on change”. (I will note here that these two are the only bishops in Australia that did not encourage members of their flocks to vote ‘no’ during the 2017 postal referendum).
Evidently, Bishop Long does not care for input from others since his ideas quickly shutout our own, instead talking of his agenda, whatever that may be.
At 2:30pm I poked my head into the “Missa Terra Sancti Spiritu” or the so-called “Mass of the Land of the Holy Spirit”. I have nothing to say on this other than that it is not how you will produce converts or do inculturation correctly.
I returned to the expo and to try and flush the mess that I had been through in the day sat and watched Emma Oorschot and the St. Mary’s Cathedral choir preform polyphony.
I then attended the 4:00pm session “Navigating a sexed-up world: the sexualization of children and what we should do about it” by Melinda Tankard Reist. It was okay. I don’t recall the evening plenary at all.
Tuesday, however, was by far the most disheartening day of the festival I attended yet.
After meeting with some new people over breakfast, I attended the 10:00am ‘Bishops X-Change’ titled “A Church that is Prayerful and Eucharistic”. In addition to the two bishops on the docket (Bishops Paul Bird and Terence Curtin), a third bishop was in attendance.
The room was quite empty, with only two full discussion groups and a less-than-full strength group (which I sat in). In addition to two other young adults, I was in a group with a bishop, a deacon and a high ranking member of the Catholic Education Office from the Diocese of Sale.
This session stung more than any other I attended, despite repeated calls by the young adults and youth in all three discussion groups, the two docketed bishops ignored or shot down our concerns and the third, unnamed bishop, (who I had initially mistaken as a priest due to a lack of any identifiers), who was taking notes on a notepad, even had the gall to right up ignore six out of the other seven people in his discussion group!
The member of the Catholic Education Office in my discussion group even had the nerve to suggest that we (that is myself and the two other young adults) were being unnecessarily exclusionary when it came to the topic of liturgical abuses – and downright sacrilege – occurring at school Mass.
Despite the fruitlessness of the discussion, it did prove to be a fruitful networking event and we spoke at length with total strangers, all our age or younger on liturgy and the renewal and restoration of the Catholic faith. I also panic to think about what this could mean for the Plenary Council, especially since the bishops do not seem to particularly care for input that does not align with their own views.
I was forced to depart the festival at this point as I was rostered on to work.
I returned at 7:00pm that night to Trinity College in Perth where the closing Mass for the festival was to take place. I was not present for the entire Mass, but I saw more than enough in my time there, including but not limited to:
- “Liturgical” dancing – lots of it.
- Some form of bizarre incensing ritual with people dancing around the censer
- A large brazier to the right of the altar with people dancing around it until the consecration
- The gospel was ‘incensed’ by waving it through this brazier
- Use of a didgeridoo as music for the offertory
- Rock music hymns (still tossing a coin on if this is better or worse than the above)
- People lining up for food trucks and eating their dinner throughout the whole Mass (I am told, although unable to confirm, that the bishops gave a general dispensation from the communion fast as apparently people would be exhausted after the 30 minute walk from the convention centre to Trinity College)
- People quite literally still eating their dinner while in line for communion
- An entire “paten” (a plastic dish) dropping to the floor, laden with consecrated hosts
- At least one girl I personally witnessed tried to slide the host into her pocket (but was hunted down and had the host taken from her by the priest, thanks be to God)
- A consecrated host being found in the grass
- And, of course, the ever present thunderous applause during the mass
Please pray for the youth of Australia after what was such a spiritually damaging experience.