Friday, January 4, 2019

Retreat Day Four

Today is the fourth day of a retreat by the bishops of the US called for by Pope Francis. The very fact that they are beginning with a retreat is a great sign that this time they are on the right path. The other great sign is the letter a Pope Francis sent to them as they begin the retreat. 

In the letter he addresses, with his usual directness, “the crisis of credibility” and the “culture of abuse.”  He addresses the all to common church as “evangelization business”model that we often see in the U.S. We have too often fallen into what he calls the “trap of functionalism and efficiency that govern the business world.” He is blunt about the seeking places of honor, jealousy, envy and machinations that are present in the Church. 

But he also reminds us that these things are not new.  We have only to read our Bibles and we will find that these issues have been with the Church from its beginning — James and John seeking to sit at His left and right. 

As Pope Francis reminds us, our current crisis will not be solved by creating more committees or redoing the org chart. Many people cried out when “Rome wouldn’t let the bishops” (that’s how it was portrayed) pass new rules. Pope Francis understood that binders filled with regulations will not solve the problem, unless there is first a true conversion of heart, a change in mind-set (metanoia). It is not a problem of “self-preservation, defensiveness” (the diocesan attorneys) or “marketing or strategizing to regain lost prestige” (the PR consultant); it requires pastors, shepherds whose first concern is the flock and a “collegial awareness of our being sinners in constant need of conversion.”

Will our bishops emerge from this retreat ready to remove the plank from their own eyes?  On a human level, it is completely understandable that every bishop is afraid of being sued, afraid of having to join the list of those who have filed for bankruptcy. Of course it will be embarrassing to admit what they knew and when they knew it and no one wants to be the one to “rat out” a brother bishop.  But sins of omission, when we fail to act, can often be the worst. 

Let us pray for our bishops. From those to whom much has been given, much will be expected. May they be given the courage to look inward.