Life Teen tainted

Life Teen tainted

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • I hate to break the news to this concerned parishoner, but Life Teen was “tainted” long before these sexual misconduct allegations came out.  This program has been a disgrace since day one.  Routine violations of liturgical norms are practically written into the program.  It is nothing more than watered-down Catholic teaching combined with the same tired and warmed over charismatic liturgical nonsense that passes as Catholic youth activity these days.

    This quasi-Protestant experiment began in 1985 as one of many pernicous outgrowths of the liturgical rebellion of the 1960s/70s/80s.

    To remain relevant to the fickle attitudes of adolescence, the program must constantly change and re-invent itself. This usually takes the form of on-going liturgical tinkering.  Such endless change will eventually cause the program to collapse under its own weight.  That cannot happen soon enough.

  • I know that I will not change the minds of those, such as “Restoration,” who are opposed to LifeTeen, but I felt I had to respond on two points.

    First, I am almost certain that Msgr. Fushek never drew a salary from LifeTeen.  Like all diocesan priests, he is paid by the parish.  With the exception of those in the military (I believe), it is forbidden for priests to have outside business interests.

    As to his status today, even though the allegation seems (to me) to be specious, Msgr. Fushek is separated from the parish he ran successfully for twenty-some years and from the international LifeTeen program he helped to found.  The parishioner in Denver has made an unfounded claim insofar as money donated there has absolutely no ties to Msgr. Fushek.

    Finally, in regard to LifeTeen being “quasi-Protestant,” “watered-down Catholic teaching” or “tired . . . charismatic liturgical nonsense,” it’s clear to me that you know only OF LifeTeen—and that, I’m certain, is second-hand knowledge.  I can’t speak for every parish and every LifeTeen program, but the teens to whom I minister (a) understand and love the Real Presence, and spend hours (plural) monthly in front of Jesus in the monstrance, (b) love the Word of God, and willingly come monthly to Bible Studies, (c) look forward to ORTHODOX liturgical celebrations (yes, you may not care for the music, but it’s definitely Catholic, not protestant, and the Eucharist is celebrated according to the rubrics here!), (d) look forward to retreats (2 per year) and opportunities for service, and (e) graduate and go on to college and not only continue to attend Mass at school but lead their peers to Mass as well.

    I am sorry that you are so negative and bitter towards a program that has done so much good.  If you would consider actually reading or listening to Msgr. Fushek’s directions for teens, or bother to speak to a priest like myself who, while in no wise is considered heterodox finds great value in LifeTeen, you might be edified.

    St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his instructions to exercitants, writes that we Christians are encumbered by the obligation to make the most edifying interpetation of another’s words or actions.  I challenge you to discern whether you have met that obligation in regards to your interpretation of LifeTeen.

    May God bless you all.

  • I was surprised to read that Fr. Clark is “certain” that I have never seen for myself the grave abuses of the Life Teen program.  In fact, I have, indeed, witnessed the bizarre liturgies of Life Teen. (e.g. a circle of teens around an altar in a parish hall during the consecration while the church sits locked next door, a dozen extraordinary ministers distributing communion to 30 people, etc…)  My wife and I served briefly as facilitators for the teen program at a local church before we resigned in disgust.  I am almost certain that Fr. Clark has at least heard of abuses at Life Teen, even though they do not occur within his ministry. 

    While I am pleased that priests like Fr. Clark are able to navigate the choppy waters of teen ministry, I saw all too clearly the dangers of this program.  Priests who long to be popular with the teens practicly do cart wheels during Mass to keep the kids engaged and “actively participating” in the the liturgy.  The music which Fr. Clark appears to dismiss as incidental is actually something that should be of greater concern.  It was not that I personally didn’t “care” for the “hymns”, but acutally, the hymns I heard were based on dubious theology and were something less than Catholic.  Music is a powerful aid to liturgy and should be taken seriously by all priests. 

    I appreciate Fr. Clark’s obvious dedication to the Life Teen program, but I must disagree with his characterization of my views as negative and bitter when all I merely point out is a legitimate concern over grave abuses that I have personally witnessed.

  • I haven’t investigated Life Teen, but my daughter, who was working with the lady at our parish who valiantly attempted but failed to get a youth program started, attended a Life Teen Mass in another parish.  She came home appalled and flatly refused to have anything more to do with a Life Teen program under any circumstances.  She never went into details.  I doubt that she was appalled by orthodoxy!

    Best advice to parents is investigate what your kids are getting into at the Catholic Church just as carefully as you investigate any other activity your kids are interested in.  Activities can vary greatly from parish to parish.

  • As Fr Jim Clark said, he will probably not change the minds of those like Restoration.

    Why nit-pick on how many EEM’s there are? Or that they circled the alter before it was loud and clear that this was not acceptable? In any case, these are small SMALL incidents, not “bizarre liturgical abuses” .  Bizarre would be saying strange creeds, women/nuns/anylay person concelebrating, lit dancers and the like. Lets have a little balance and not attack a program that has obvious good fruit.

    Regardless of Fr Fushek, the programs that are around the country are known for their orthodoxy, the youth having a profound love and devotion to the Eucharist and a deep commitment to the Church, the Magisterium and the Holy Father.  LT has been known to change things to be more in line with the Church.

    As for the “warmed over charismatic liturgical nonsense” know that the Charismatic Renewal in and of itself is NOT anti-Catholic or even anti-orthodoxy.  The late Pope John Paul II was supportive of the charismatic nature moving through out the Church.

    This is from his 1998 Pentecost Address:
    “The institutional and charismatic aspects are co-essential as it were to the Church’s constitution. They contribute, although differently, to the life, renewal and sanctification of God’s People. It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church’s charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been established for ecclesial movements and new communities. “

    Sorry to go ape about this, but I am so tired of good and excellent groups within the Church beating the snot out of each other. You may not fit, spiritually with the charismatic renewal. Fine! I don’t fit with the Augustinians, but I’m not going to deride them. 

    Did LifeTeen grow out of the Renewal? Yep. So did many excellent ministries and institutions like St Paul Outreach and Univeristy Christian Outreach, the National Evangelization Teams and absolutely transformed Franciscan University to be the bastion of holiness and orthodoxy that it is today.

    The charismatic nature of some of these groups, Life Teen included might freak some people out if they haven’t been around it before, but it is a legitimate part of the Church, charisms that are needed within the Church.  It would be better that we can support all forms of excellent charisms and valid spiritualities within the Church rather than nit picking them to death and then proclaiming them to not be “orthodox” when we think they don’t measure up.

  • Restoration – if a priest in a particular parish does clown ministry, or if he changes the wording of the Creed, does that mean that that’s what the Catholic Church does?

    No, and neither does some aberrant behavior in a parish mean that’s what LifeTeen is all about.

    Done as it ought to be, LifeTeen is about the Eucharist, first last and always.

    There will always be priests, nuns and laypeople who fawn for the attention and adulation of teens and others.  The fact that they have styled their ministry as in the mold of LifeTeen (as opposed to many, many other youth ministry programs that are out there and who have their own full share of loonies) does not make what they do “LifeTeen” any more than do two men simulating a wedding make them truly married.

    I apologize to you if I oversimplified your objections.

  • I’ve been to many more excellent LifeTeen Masses than I have crazy ones, and I am also a supporter of the program. I have seen many young, searching souls discover a greater love for the Eucharist, the pope and the church’s teachings through LifeTeen… a lot more at least than in your typical generic parish youth group.

    The problem with LifeTeen is that is so unregulated. Yes, there’s a national office, but it seems impossible for them to enforce any kind of major changes (and they have sent letters to LT parishes telling them to be in line with the rubrics). But I’ve found the interpretation of the LT Mass and respect for the rubrics vary from parish to parish with LT. So it all depends on which one you go to, I guess.