Pope John Paul II’s teachings on gender difference and sexuality seems to be a main attraction for the small but growing movement of young adults drawn to conservative Catholicism.
In First Things magazine (August-September), Bronwen Catherine McShea reports that at Harvard and other Ivy League colleges, there is a phenomenon of young people converting or returning to traditional Catholic practice and beliefs. At Harvard, “student attendance has been significant at daily masses, regular Confession, and Rosary groups both at the College and at the Law School,” as well as growing prolife involvement.
McShea’s reporting of this trend is anecdotal [although surveys have shown some conservative beliefs and attitudes among a segment of younger Catholic clergy and laity], but her explanation of the motivations of many of these converts and returnees may be significant. “What I find particularly striking about many of my peers in this veritable young Catholic movement at Harvard–particularly the young women among them–is their fervent rejection of modern liberal conceptions of sexual difference, sexual relations and family life . . . They also support the Church’s stance that women cannot be ordained as priests, seeing in it a recognition that men and women [have] distinct natures, body and soul . . .”
The “beauty of orthodoxy” for these young people is revealed in Pope John Paul II’s teachings on contraception and gender difference, known as the “theology of the body.”
(First Things, 156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010)