Last weekend the annual Youth2000 main conference took place in Clongowes Wood College in Kildare. The Burkean went along and spoke to two attendees of a right leaning mindset to get their take on the weekend and the way ahead for Irish Catholicism.
Q: What kind of event was this year’s Youth2000 conference?
A: Youth2000 is a Catholic youth conference. It’s the biggest one of the year. There’s multiple events all around the country that happen throughout the year but this weekend was the big festival.
It was for four days and was held in Clongowes Wood school. A brilliant venue, very expansive with a lovely mix of both old buildings with a mix of more modern facilities. There were people from all different backgrounds, including clergy of all sorts and laypeople.
There were a lot of different kinds of Catholic organisations such as the Pro-Life campaign, Radio Maria, Pure In Heart, Holy Family Mission, Net Ministries etc. All were all present and they all had their own stalls from which they network with attendees. They also did workshops to help people get involved.
There was a lot of Mass being said and adoration and the kind of religious events you would expect.
Then there were also lots of activities like sports events outside and music In the halls where people would gather, a lot of conversation was encouraged between all the different people there. It was very well-run: security, registration, lanyards for everyone and the usual aspect of a good professional event. Everything was correctly labelled and signposted, where the accommodation was for example (and the accommodation was very nice). Nice food for dinner, three meals a day.
Q: What were the good points of the event?
A: Despite being cancelled for the last two years, there were still huge numbers of young Catholics there. That was a very good point.
Also, it breaks a bit of a kind of divide between clergy and laypeople. Young Catholics who want to get involved can’t really find anyone who you can make easy contact with or know when to engage with them. So it breaks the divide.
Also, there was a broad network of very, very good people. Serious and competent and, frankly, successful and attractive people there, the kind you want to spearhead a revival in the Church. Not just a rag-tag bunch as you might see in other culturally-alternative settings.
Q: And the bad points?
A: First of all, there was a tiny bit too much emphasis on a kind of happy-clappy Protestant or evangelical style rock concerts. A very modern take on things which I didn’t enjoy. I suppose this is good for people who are very uninitiated with Catholic celebration, but you can definitely see that some of the priests don’t really engage with that kind of happy-clappy stuff. They’re more for the you know, reverence, respect, kind of solemn, solemn way of doing things, and I would agree.
The solemnity vs entertainment way of doing things is not a direct proxy for the wider tradition vs modernity struggle in the Church at the moment however, that’s not my point. Most priests who do the whole “excessive guitar hippie” thing aren’t necessarily bad people, or even anti-traditionalism. But it does echo some of those questions.
Another let down was the fundraising aspect. I know people involved in these initiatives and they cost money. They didn’t make it easy enough to donate.
In fairness, on Sunday they emphasised the need to donate on that day somewhat more. Unfortunately a lot of people have gone by the last day.
Another thing that’s good and also bad is the workshops on various different things like marriage, wokeism, the Lord of the Rings and Jesus, all sorts of stuff like that.
Furthermore, there’s too much downtime, and too much of the kind of Protestant rock concerts I mentioned. And it’s just taking so much time and people are just sitting around on a hardwood floor, just kind of wasting time. Too much talk of emotions and music. It’s not practical. Rather than encouraging young people to actually do things, it’s more like “just be this emotional thing and love Jesus all the time”.
They didn’t really put on any activities to encourage the right sort of communication between young people, especially single people. One of the problems with Catholic events is despite this talk of socialising and relationships there isn’t the creation of the conditions where people could mix and form new connections. This is lacking in the Catholic community here and in other countries it’s done a lot better.
Another issue was the lack of music and activities rooted in Irish culture, whether that be songs or workshops et cetera, which most attendees would have been responsive to. This is an oversight because despite the presence of large numbers of non-Irish people there, taking a quasi-Americanised approach to these events feels shallow and awkward.
Q: What were the most encouraging takeaways for nationalist or Rightist-minded people?
A: Despite the missed opportunities I mentioned above, the entire event was impressively well-run and really worthwhile. The entire operation ran like clockwork and everyone enjoyed themselves.
I appreciated their approach of not politicising the event too much, the focus was on faith. People like myself have a strong political inclination but it’s better to keep these gatherings free of excessive culture war implications whether they be conservative or liberal, since that would only turn away many sincere young Catholics who want to gather with like-minded people.
And even though the networking aspect wasn’t as developed as I would like, it was still an encouraging setting to meet many impressive and dedicated laypeople and clergy who are serious about defending our faith in effective ways.
Overall I was surprised with how much I took from the weekend and I’ll be delighted to attend next year.
Events like Youth2000 are useful opportunities for Rightist Catholics in Ireland for various reasons. On the most basic level, engaging actively in your faith is a worthwhile activity and should be encouraged. Similarly, networking with other young Catholics is the basis for forming a family and social life with a strong basis in faith in the future.
More strategically, it is up to young conservatives to represent themselves in Catholic institutions and communities or surrender them to the pernicious and growing influence of liberalism in the Church. While some aspects of Youth2000 might not seem very useful, especially the weaker points of the event outlined above, it is the job of any activist to do hard work and participate in activities that might seem tiresome at the moment.
Conservatism (actual social conservatism and not the Centre-Right abomination that has co-opted the term) and nationalism in Ireland are inextricably tied to Catholicism, whether you like it or not. This link has only strengthened in recent years. Either we get involved in Catholic networks, get the most out of them (for your faith and also your social network), and possibly steer them in a good direction. The alternative is to watch Irish Rightism become more atomised.