Fledgling social justice movement connects young Catholics

fledgling movement

A fledgling movement of social justice and environmentally conscious young Catholics is emerging in Europe.

Among the movement is a group of doctoral students and young activists in Belgium.

In common with young people in other countries, they’re concerned about the various crises the institutional Church is facing.

It is also intended to oppose the “Christian identity” embodied by one of France’s most far-right politicians, Éric Zemmour.

Despite his failed bid to become president in recent elections, he attracted the support of many practising Catholics.

Posing the question “What can Christians do to work for the common good?” the Belgians are organising a summer seminar to discuss the question.

The three-day gathering at the end of this month will be held outdoors at a retreat centre created in the spirit of the Communion de La Viale, a group founded in 1968 by the Belgian Jesuits.

The programme of planned events includes conferences on capitalism and liberation theology.

Attendees will also share “moments of fraternity and prayer” and have the opportunity to forge links with other believers committed to social justice.

A big issue will be the systemic dimension of clergy abuse and the “tenacious misogyny embedded in the institution”.

The idea for the gathering came from a group of friends. They saw something “lacking” in the Church’s proposals and wanted to help.

“In retreats or camps, there may be topics on moral commitment in society, but that’s as far as it goes,” says one.

He and his friends are deeply concerned about the “structural origin of poverty and the ecological crisis”.

They believe there are Christian resources that can provide conceptual tools for building a coherent critique of the “capitalist system”.

Their challenge is to “think how the Church can reconnect with its social tradition while it is becoming gentrified”.

One driver for their initiative was the magnitude of the clergy sex abuse crisis revealed last October by an independent commission in France (CIASE).

“I feel like the scandals have uninhibited me,” one of the friends says.

“Before, I didn’t feel right opening certain debates, but I think that from now on the laity must speak up, we can no longer leave governance of the Church to the clergy alone.

“We no longer want to collaborate with a guilty institution without being heard.”

While the majority of the organisers are Catholic, one of them is Protestant. All are driven by the same desire to raise their voices.

It is an ecumenism that is more obvious for the Belgians than for their French neighbours, says one.

“We don’t have a large enough Catholic community, as in France, for events of this type to gather only practising Catholics,” he explains.



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