Thursday, March 28, 2013

From the Management. . . .

Once again I apologize for not blogging as frequently as I would like.  On the other hand, the reasons are wonderful ones: my ministries on behalf of the diocese, the teaching I am doing, especially graduate students in pastoral ministry, and the ministries of our parish are all life-giving and time-consuming.  All of which is wonderful!

I have also been considering prayerfully whether to keep this blog running in any case.  Without re-hashing what is now ancient history, I was recently "uninvited" from a scheduled talk in an archdiocese on the East Coast over concerns related to my writing and research.  Unfortunately, that work was largely misinterpreted or (in at least one example) unread.  The decision, we are told, was also based on concerns raised in certain unspecified "blog postings."  Not knowing whether that was a reference to something I may have written here on this blog, or comments made by other bloggers, was never fully revealed.  Needless to say, I have been reticent to return to such a nebulous environment.

What has changed my mind has been the election of Pope Francis.  As I have written before, I was a seminarian during the papacies of John XXIII and Paul VI.  The world has changed drastically since those years, but I can safely say that I have not experienced the nearly universal outpouring of hopeful enthusiasm over the papacy which we are now experiencing since the days of John XXIII.  I do not write this from some naive expectation that "he will change church teaching," as some like to say.  Rather, it is in the way he is approaching his ministry as Bishop of Rome (his preferred style of self-reference).  He is clearly a man of the people, and the people are responding in kind.  People who might be complaining that all he has done thus far is more "style" than "substance" are missing their Marshall McLuhan, that "the medium is the message."  I also find an echo of John XXIII's insight during his opening address to the Second Vatican Council, that religious truth is one thing, timeles and unchangable, but the ways and means by which we communicate that truth is quite another.  Where Pope Benedict was brilliant at communicating religious truth through the theological enterprise, Pope Francis is demonstrating through his earthiness.

A parishioner recently complained to me that she was upset about all of the media "hype" surrounding Pope Benedict's retirement, the run-up to the conclave, and then the conclave itself.  She felt that all of this attention from the media trivialized the moment.  I can understand her concern, but at the same time, I felt completely the opposite: the world -- and not just the Catholic world -- was genuinely interested in what was going on and who might appear in the (black) shoes of the fisherman.  What I felt was the hunger of people who had often been disappointed by other people in the name of Church, but who still longed to be a part of all of the wonderful aspects of church that thrive despite our best efforts sometimes to sabotage.  Francis is emerging as the best example of a true pontifex  -- builder of bridges -- that we have seen in a long, long time.  I saw all of that media involvement as a marvelous example of evangelization at its best, an opportunity to be in dialogue with others about what matters most.

What Pope Francis will do in the future remains to be seen.  What he has already done has generated hope and enthusiasm for the papacy itself and the Church.  One person admitted to me recently that, as a gay man, he struggled with many aspects of the church's approach to homosexuals.  I reminded him that he shouldn't expect the new pope to make any substantive changes to the teaching itself.  He readily acknowledged that, but then said something quite remakarkable: "Oh, I understand that, Deacon.  But you know something?  There's just something in this new pope's approach that shows me that I am loved by God.  If the teaching doesn't change, I can live with that because I know now that God loves me and that this pope truly cares."

The medium AND the message.


  1. Welcome back; I hope (and look forward)to seeing more frequent posts. Somewhere further back in our pasts, our paths crossed but I can't remember where, perhaps at a sub-urban Washington parish when I was in graduate school at CUA. But alas, my memory is foggy. As already stated, I do hope that you will continue to post to this blog. I had noted your inactivity and wondered about the cause. God bless.

  2. I agree with "K.D." although I know where and when we last met. You do need to keep this blog going. It is important to all of us because your voice is a singular one. Your "connections" in Rome alone make your voice extremely important.

    AND I was extremely blessed to be able to get a review of your famous book published!

    Only the very best of blessings!

    Deacon Norb in Ohio

  3. Thanks Deacon Bill. I agree completely. It is so tragic that you are facing opposition and censorship from misinformed conservatives.

    There is certainly scope to develop Church teaching and Cdl Bergoglio has given an excellent example of how to do that, supporting gay civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage and according to what Leonardo Boff told Der Spiegel, expressly approving a gay adoption only a few months ago.

    Deacon Chris

  4. Beautifully stated Deacon. Francis has restored my faith in where the Church is heading.