A week after Donald Trump’s stunning election as president sent the country’s governance lurching to the right, the nation’s Catholic bishops sent a message of their own — at least on immigration — by putting Mexican-born Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles in line to become the first Latino to lead the American hierarchy.
But the vote at their annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 15 also suggested that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is still hesitant to fully endorse the more progressive and pastoral approach to ministry that Pope Francis has been championing since his election in 2013.
Pope Francis has called on Catholics to adopt a “healthy realism” in their approach to their faith, and he decried rigid idealists as heretics.
Speaking during morning Mass on June 9, Francis told congregants at the chapel in the Vatican guesthouse to try their best to seek reconciliation with others rather than pushing strict rules and a “take-it-or-leave-it” style of evangelism.
As the U.S. Catholic bishops began their annual fall meeting on Monday, they were directly challenged by Pope Francis’ personal representative to be pastors and not ideologues — the first step of what could be a laborious process of reshaping the hierarchy to meet the pope’s dramatic shift in priorities.
“The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., told the more than 250 American churchmen as he recounted a personal meeting in June with Francis.
The pontiff, he added, “made a special point of saying that he wants ‘pastoral’ bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology,” Vigano said. That message was seen as an implicit rebuke to the conservative-tinged activism of the bishops’ conference in recent years.
Almost since his election in March, Francis has signaled that he wants the church to strike a “new balance” by focusing on the poor and on social justice concerns and not overemphasizing opposition to hot-button topics like abortion and contraception and gay marriage — the signature issues of the U.S. bishops lately.
Driscoll appreciates strong males. He respects them.
As I understand it, in India where rural people live and work with elephants, they’ve come to learn things about elephant behavior. Like humans, elephant calves stay close to their mothers side longer than most other animals. When young male elephants are finally sent forth on their own, they sometimes form wild gangs that terrorize villagers with their rampages.
The villagers have learned that introducing a fully grown bull elephant into the gang of hoodlums mellows them out almost instantly. They thrive when there’s a large male around who they all know could kick their butts (that’s the paradigm that Driscoll operates out of). It’s not really about the potential to kick-ass. It’s that they respect a fully grown mature male and know that they can learn much about how to socialize from being around him. They learn patience, self-control, and they blossom into maturity.
I would submit that
we need to introduce the Christian equivalent of some bull elephants into Driscoll’s village where he is on a rampage.
In recent days I've been thinking through with a friend one of the enduring challenges of pastoral and catechetical ministry: how to dispel the notion that worship should be entertaining. It's not as hard as it used to be -- there are books (and blogs) on the subject; it gets preached on fairly often these days. But it's not as easy as it ought to be. It seems we are a species ever in need of amusement.
One of the most compelling arguments against the persistent idea that worship ought to entertain, dazzle, distract, or otherwise charm us is found in James Alison's insight that true worship is "orchestrated detox."
During my last year of college, my pastor lent me the book Living Gently in a Violent World, co-authored by Jean Vanier and Stanley Hauerwas. This book is an exploration on how followers of Christ ought to live in broken world.
The introduction of the book recounts the story of Jean Vanier teaching a course on pastoral care. During one class, Vanier asked the students to share some of their spiritual experiences. One of the students, Angela (who was deaf) began to share a dream she had where she met Jesus in heaven. She recalled talking with Jesus for some time and never experiencing so much joy and peace. "Jesus was everything I had hoped he would be," she said, "And his signing was amazing!" Vanier explains to the reader that "for Angela, heaven's perfection did not involve being 'healed' of her deafness. Rather, it was a place where the social, relational, and communication barriers that restricted her life in the present no longer existed."
Hollywood isn't real life, but when real life (mine and the lives of the actors) and Hollywood converge it is great fodder for thinking and conversation. Peter and I can't stop talking about a recent date night movie, Up in the Air, starring Vera Farmiga and George Clooney.
On Saturday, Jan. 30, I attended a service in which one of my colleagues was being ordained as a deacon in the Anglican Church together with ten others who were being ordained either as priests or deacons. The presiding bishop was Archbishop Desmond Tutu! He delivered the sermon.