“We can't just go back to business as usual”

From 3. to 28. In October, Pope Francis invited bishops from all over the world to a youth synod in the Vatican. The BDKJ Federal President Thomas Andonie expects that there will also be a discussion about sexualized violence in the church.

Catholic News Agency (KNA): Mr. Andonie, in the U.S., in Chile and here in Germany, numerous facts have come to light about clergy sexual abuse of minors. Does this influence the choice of topics for the upcoming Youth Synod?

Thomas Andonie (Federal President of the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ): The ie of sexualized violence in the church has been coming up again and again since 2010, and particularly. We can't just go back to business as usual at the Youth Synod. That doesn't work. We have to see that we give the topic appropriate space. This is something that was explicitly demanded by all young people already at the presynod. They say: dear church, when you deal with us, we must also talk about ies of sexualized violence.

CBA: What consequences the Church must draw from the latest findings about the extent of abuse?
Andonie: It's also a matter of looking at where hierarchies are that encourage abuse. Pope Francis very aptly calls this clericalism. That's about power and cover-up within the church. It is an unimaginable suffering that is being inflicted on young people, and by people who are very close to them in a pastoral relationship, of all people. We need to talk about which structures are conducive to this and what consequences this has for the regional implementation of reforms in the individual bishops' conferences, in the dioceses, in the parishes and in the other church structures.

CBA: The Dutch youth bishop has canceled his participation in the synod, saying it is not "the right time" to do so. Conservative U.S. bishops recently called for the synod to be scrapped altogether in light of the situation. Comprehensible?

Andonie: I have no understanding for this at all. Because it is precisely this subject that must be discussed above all with the young people.

CBA: What other ies are on the agenda?

Andonie: Young Catholics around the world are concerned with the question of the role of women in the Church. Why are women not allowed to be ordained? In the same way, young people wonder why celibacy, that is, mandatory celibacy for priests, is absolutely necessary. In general, young people demand more right of co-determination. Figuratively speaking, they don't want to come into a room where everything is already set up, where the table, bed and sofa are already there and nothing can be moved. They want to help furnish the space that the church offers them.

CBA: Is the Youth Synod a first step in this direction??

Andonie: I think so. Pope Francis has said he wants to know in advance, through the survey, what moves young people. And there was the presynod. It has been a very important step. But of course the first step must be followed by a second step, and I hope that we will now see at the Youth Synod that the opinion of young people is not just taken note of by the bishops, according to the motto: Nice what you say, but we'll do it differently after all.

CBA: What concrete demands were made during the presynod??

Andonie: We want a commission in the Vatican staffed by young people to advocate for their concerns and to act in an advisory capacity. We need to be heard in decision-making processes.

CBA: Could this make the church more attractive to young people again?

Andonie: Yes, because there are many who are quite religious, or who are in search of spirituality. But many say, in the Church as it is now, too many things don't fit for me. But if they are now heard and can participate, I can imagine that the church will become more attractive for young people again.

CBA: One demand is also for credibility…

Andonie: …Which will become apparent in the current situation. The church must be sincere, take responsibility, name the guilty and give a voice to the victims. She must reach out to victims and, if possible, provide compensation. And with regard to the guilty, it must cooperate with the judiciary and then draw consequences accordingly.

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