NZ Bishop: No hierarchy of age – listen to young people and learn

listen to young people

Bishop Charles Drennan of the Palmerston North Diocese in New Zealand says “We are a communion of people. There is no hierarchy of age in the Church, yet so much of our formal written expression and documentation of who we are is produced by older men (cf. Joel 2:28).

“Even the recent final document of what was a very dynamic Synod on Young People is disappointingly dull.

“It could have been so much better if young people had been entrusted with being a part of the writing group.

“I am confident though that slowly the Synod Office in Rome will evolve its working methods and better equip itself for the renewal that Papa Francesco is calling for.”

He was speaking before he left for the 2019 World Youth day in Panama.

The bishop had been invited to lead one of the three Catechesis sessions for English-speaking pilgrims.

Posting on Facebook from the World Youth Day, Drennan gave an example of what it means to listen to young people.

The Catechesis session he led was followed by a Q and A session.

The bishop said he had emphasised that any question was welcome; nothing was off the table.

The first three questions were all broadly speaking about sexuality. Transgender, and being gay – were the first two.

“To pretend that homosexuality and gender dysphoria do not exist or are somehow outside God’s plan for humanity is a rejection, not defence, of truth and thus nonsensical.

“The inadequacy of the commentary on sexuality of some within the Church I believe is impacting negatively on the entire credibility of the Church.

“And in some areas, it’s time theology caught up with science. Thankfully the recent Synod in Rome on young people acknowledged this.”

Drennan said it was the third question, however, which left him speechless, choking.

“A girl from Jamaica stood up, looked me in the eye, and said: ‘All life is a blessing, right Bishop?”‘

“Sure,” I responded.

“Then why does the Church define me as being the result of fornication?”

“I was reduced to silence for some time, not because I didn’t have a response, but because the thought of that young woman’s pain (and I assumed also her Mum’s) left me only with the language of a lumpy throat: silence.

“We, the Church, will always fall short in communicating God’s love.

“We are human and limited. But every privileged moment of truly sharing another’s pain will be a step of purification and hope for us all and those we encounter.”

After the questions were over and the crowds dispersed, Drennan found the Jamaican girl and hugged her. “And through her tears, she simply said: thank you.”


  • Supplied Sophia Macris Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North
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