Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

15 November 2013

Rebuild My Church

Just recently, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops elected a new president, the Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky. (I am honored to note that Abp. Kurtz hails from the Diocese of Allentown, and more specifically from Mahanoy City, all of ten miles from my hometown of Saint Clair.) Kurtz served the diocese for over 25 years as an assistant pastor, pastor, and diocesan official. He was the favored candidate for USCCB president, and was handily elected for a three year term.

On CBS news, the rather outgoing president, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, introduced Archbishop Kurtz to the nation. The duo commented upon the "Pope Francis Effect," the term given to the reported upsurge in Mass attendance and positive regard for the Catholic Church owing to the words and actions of our Holy Father. Other topics of discussion included a renewed estimation of women's contributions to the Church, and a questionnaire released in preparation for an upcoming synod (gathering) of the world's bishops to discuss topics of marriage and family life.

Archbishop Kurtz wisely noted that women have always played a vital role in the Church. He cited the 1988 encyclical letter Mulieris Dignitatem ("On the Dignity and Vocation of Women") of Blessed John Paul II. He would not speculate (as did the National Catholic Reporter, perhaps a bit too hastily) whether this vital role might extend into governance and papal election, specifically in the appointment of female cardinals.

It seems certain, however, that the Synod will incorporate the voices of married persons, male and female. What better contributors could the Synod include, Cardinal Dolan noted, than the very persons about whom the Synod is concerned!

The Synod has released the lineamenta, or preparatory document, for the Synod, which also includes the survey questions. Consult this link for more information, provided by the bishops of the United Kingdom. I haven't seen anything on the USCCB site so far.

A venerable priest friend once and often shared with me this old chestnut: "The wheels of God grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine." The Church established by God the Son necessarily shares these qualities of slowness and fineness. This age, and most others, I'd bet, is eager for quick change. Is this a trait of the Western world in general, or most especially of the United States, herself a revolutionary experiment?

This questionnaire will likely reveal popular discontent with the way things are. I hope it does, and I further hope the survey participants suggest ways that the Church on every level can improve her presentation of her teachings. The teachings will not change because of popular opinion; it doesn't happen that way. But (and this is the marvel revealed by the very proposal of a questionnaire) the Church wants to hear from people how things are being presented and received.

I'd like to be involved with that process on the local (i.e. parochial) level, if our people would permit. They'd have to grant that, on the doctrinal level, I can't change anything, and I don't want to change anything that the Church wouldn't change. I'm not just saying that because I'm "on the payroll." But to suggest that there are better ways of conveying Church teaching is good; to suggest better ways of conveying Church teaching is better. The "one soul at a time" approach seems to work best. That's how Pope Francis seems to be rebuilding the Church: affirming the Real Presence in people even as he affirms that Presence in the Eucharist.


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