Leadership In Peace


I shouldn’t feel so provoked, but it is hard to hold my temper when I see shepherds running for cover amidst the sheep.

Amy posts on the Anglican Archbishop of York’s public action fasting and praying for peace. As a pacifist, and a person who prays for peace, I can appreciate his example. Not so the open book posse who largely has had a feast day paging to Matthew 6:16-18 to suggest that ha ha, this bishop isn’t following the Gospel. It doesn’t count. And besides, he said nasty things about Bush, so it really doesn’t count.

When it is time to call a fast, the Old Testament tradition suggests (cf Joel 1:13ff) that “the priests, the ministers of the altar” lead the way. I know many clergy who respect (if not occasionally relish) the notion that sacramentally they represent Christ to the faithful. Fair enough. So let me make a suggestion.

When a cleric fasts publicly, it is not for himself. If he indeed has responsibilities as shepherd and leader, an example should be set for those in need of example. I could envision a mature community in which members took it upon themselves to follow spiritual practices. Personally, I think fasting for peace in the Middle East is a no-brainer. But not everybody believes that. The war there is someone else’s fault: the Israelis, the oil companies, the devil, Bush, the terrorists, the Muslims, the crusades, or whatever. The Christian is not bothered with fault outside of the self. If we recognize our own culpability in sin, then we fast, if not in solidarity, then in thanksgiving, that we have not been victims of the evils of violence.

Let me suggest that each Catholic bishop and pastor might have a ministerial responsibility to demonstrate for peace. And to publicly do so. And if such a bishop or pastor is worried that in light of Matthew 6:16-18, it wouldn’t count, let me say, “Too bad; you don’t possess the luxury of a totally private spiritual life. You have an obligation to be an example for others.”

Certainly, any pastor is free to withhold some spiritual aspect from public knowledge. That’s fine. But hiding behind one Ash Wednesday reading to avoid the prescription of another? That strikes me as a bit hypocritical. Like turning tail and hiding in the midst of the sheep when it’s more convenient.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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