Msgr Charles Pope, that is, of the archdiocese of Washington DC, writing of bishops and their detractors. His concern about unity is dead-on accurate. I think the Church has been damaged by leaders who have placed the credal value of unity to the rear of a concern for a more strict ideology. Every Sunday and holy day, we profess a Church that is one. It’s not two: right and left, laity and clergy, before and after, in and out, cool and geeks, men and women. Bishops, and especially the pope, are responsible for maintaining unity. And when Msgr pope complains openly, part of it is on his boss, and his boss’s colleagues in the episcopacy:
I have written here before, (often to the great consternation of more than a few readers) of my concerns about disunity in the Church. In particular my concerns center around the dismissive attitudes many have developed toward the bishops. While this attitude was once the domain, largely, of dissenters on the theological left, it has now become quite a common attitude among many theological and ecclesial conservatives as well.
First found at the Deacon’s Bench, I’ve commented there, as well as on Msgr Pope’s blog. I don’t have the answers, but I do have more questions.
Most observers concede that American bishops chosen the past ten to thirty years are trending more conservative and more ideological. So why has dissent become “quite common” from those in the Church more in agreement with these bishops? Have the liberal just given up talking to their bishops? Have the conservatives become so emboldened they feel they “own” the episcopacy? Is it the internet? Is it the mismanagement of sex offenders? Is the translation of angry political behavior to the ecclesial sphere? These are questions Msgr Pope should want to ask. He should want to know the answers.
If I were to think the best of my conservative sisters and brothers, I might come to a disturbing conclusion that the Congregation of Bishops has been giving us poorer bishops for the past ten to thirty years. Msgr Pope disputes this point in his response to me.
I am unaware that the quality of Bishops has declined, but even if it has, they are the Bishops God has placed there and they deserve respect.
Every human being is deserving of respect. That is a bottom line. Bishops, as human beings, deserve no more or less respect because of their office. But in their sacramental role, they are entitled to respect, but again, no less so than my wife and I are entitled to respect each other because of the sacrament we share. Or because of our situation as a domestic church, the inclusion of children in this circle of mutual respect. But if bishops are teachers, then perhaps what some are straining at is the notion that they could lead by example.
Bishops have power to do almost as they wish. As a parent, I have similar power over my daughter. The question is one of effective leadership. If I use my authority unwisely, I’m not likely to net an optimal result in my father-daughter relationship. The same is true of bishops. If they do not respect women and men, adults and children, clergy and religious, liberals and conservatives, employees and volunteers, they are not likely to enjoy an optimal relationship. Their preaching will be forgotten. Their initiatives dismissed. Their motives questioned. And, alas, respect will be withheld. Unless or until a bishop father children or suggests a discussion on church discipline, he can continue to preach, hire, fire, and vacation where he pleases.
Which brings me back to the issue of quality. If the Right is so p***ed off these days at bishops cut from the same ideological cloth, maybe ideology isn’t at root here. Maybe the shepherds are just p***-poor. And perhaps the conservatives are on to something.
God has summoned us to unity and obedience. And unity and obedience should not be reduced to theoretical concepts. There is an actual and real bishop to whom you and I each owe respect and obedience. And even in those rare cases when the Bishop is clearly at odds with a Church teaching or required practice, we humbly seek dialogue. And, if that is not successful, we appeal to higher authority in the Church. Other things being equal, we should seek and cultivate unity with the local bishop. We should seek to understand his priorities, along with that of our pastor. And even if these priorities do not perfectly match ours, we do well to remember who is the anointed leader and who is not. There is a reason that the Bishop is the leader and I am not. At some level we have got to trust God and accept that he works even through imperfect men.
Here are some points on which I feel Msgr Pope falters:
- He speaks of unity between bishop and laity, but a more real danger is the unity within the Body. Few, few bishops are addressing the real chasms, especially that of Left and Right among Catholics today. An unorthodox approach would have these guys working amongst and with the laity of disparate ideologies and serving the greater good. I’m not dismissing the need for bishop-lay unity–not at all. But that’s just a part of the problem.
- Unsuccessful dialogue seems rooted in the sense many lay people get of disrespect from the clergy and their bishops. One of my favorite bishops quizzed me on how my wife’s and my adoption was going. He asked my opinion on a church interior. He listened to a suggestion or two I made when I was playing at a Mass he was to preside at. I didn’t bug him with correspondence (but once) or emails. I didn’t seek him out at meetings. I sensed the respect when he listened to me. And especially when he lunched with my wife once and listened to her. I respected him, though I knew he was put in a difficult place liturgically on some points. Respect meant I wasn’t going to grill him on small points to add juice to my blog. Can a bishop listen to thousands of laity in his diocese? I have just a few hundred parishioners, and I’m concerned I don’t listen to them enough. I can only imagine the hurdles of a bishop. But face it: respect is a two-way street.
- Actions or inaction have consequences. Adults live with consequences. Complaining does not help. Complaints up the “chain of command” are practically useless. I knew a priest with bad knees who opted to bow deeply instead of genuflect. One of his parishioners videotaped him and complained to the bishop. The bishop said genuflection was needed. The pastor complied, and a chain of command was thus established: the videographer, then the bishop, then the slightly embittered pastor. Msgr Pope and the curia itself have placed the complainant on a pedestal. The Culture of Complaint is well-established.
- While focusing on the rights and privileges of bishops and complainers, we’ve lost focus on the responsibilities of each office. A bishop is responsible for unity amongst the people of his see, not just his own gladhanding. Each lay person is responsible for the exercise of charity, good will, and importantly, good presumption (see Catechism 2478) on the part of sister and brother believers. Rights are indeed important. Rights are trampled on in both secular and ecclesial societies. But maybe it’s time to cease harping on our own rights.
Maybe we would be all best served by speaking of the rights of others, and the responsibilities we possess. Bishops, and their well-respected priests might do better to complain less about what they are being denied, and more about what others lack. And perhaps we laity might consider less our right to appeal up the chain of command, and do more praying for the people we detest, and hopefully, shoulder our responsibility for a flawed, sinful, and imperfect Church.
I do know this vent of mine isn’t going to open any doors. I’m likely still on any number of spit-lists for my open and particular criticism of bishops. There’s no question I could look very closely at the remarks I put into print here. I don’t think I offer untruths. I’d say every criticism is well-reasoned, if not heartfelt.
But I do think if Msgr Pope is serious about this essay, some people other than conservative Catholic laity may need to undergo a serious self-examination to get at the bottom of the bile of it all. These matters go far deeper than political ideology. It’s time to quit complaining about Left, Right, and in-between. Time to look for real answers.
A brief piece from the WaPo on MLK’s favorite hymns:
His love for a range of music was reflected in his sermons, where he sometimes recited lines or whole stanzas of sacred songs. In a 1957 sermon, he said the Easter message was reflected in such hymns as “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and “In Christ There is No East or West” as well as words from the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel’s “Messiah.”
In that way, lyrics became more important than the musical notes that accompanied them, helping King deliver his message, said James Abbington, who teaches church music and worship at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
“King was a trained theologian,” he said. “Music becomes the platter or the handmaiden for theology.”
The article cites gospel and other styles. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Here’s a very nice instrumental presentation of that second “Easter” hymn. The original text is altered here and there, depending on the hymnal, but here’s verse three from OCP’s publication of it:
Join hands, disciples in the faith,
Whate’er your race may be!
Who serve each other in Christ’s love
Are surely kin to me.
Music and theology with joined hands: a nice image. Black and white, certainly. What about that great divide of this century, left and right? Who, I wonder, will be the person to bridge such a divide within the Church itself? Music is so often the locus for ideological discontent; does it have a prayer of bringing hands together? What handmaiden will accomplish this joining?
Picking up from the end of the Gospel Acclamation and Procession:
134. At the ambo, the Priest opens the book and, with hands joined, says, The Lord be with you, to which the people reply, And with your spirit. Then he says, A reading from the holy Gospel, making the Sign of the Cross with his thumb on the book and on his forehead, mouth, and breast, which everyone else does as well. The people acclaim, Glory to you, O Lord. The Priest incenses the book, if incense is being used (cf. nos. 276-277). Then he proclaims the Gospel and at the end pronounces the acclamation The Gospel of the Lord, to which all reply, Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. The Priest kisses the book, saying quietly the formula Per evangelica dicta (Through the words of the Gospel).
Any parishes sing the acclamation after the Gospel? I was pleased to land in a parish in 2008 that did.
135. If no reader is present, the Priest himself proclaims all the readings and the Psalm, standing at the ambo. If incense is being used, he puts some incense into the thurible at the ambo, blesses it, and, bowing profoundly, says the prayer Munda cor meum (Cleanse my heart).
136. The Priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo itself or, if appropriate, in another worthy place, gives the Homily. When the Homily is over, a period of silence may be observed.
One colleague liked to roll right from the end of the homily into the Creed. He was a good preacher; I don’t know why he was so hurried about moving on.
137. The Symbol or Creed is sung or recited by the Priest together with the people (cf. no. 68) with everyone standing. At the words et incarnatus est, etc. (and by the Holy Spirit . . . and became man) all make a profound bow; but on the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all genuflect.
Show of hands … Who bows? Who genuflects?
138. After the recitation of the Symbol or Creed, the Priest, standing at the chair with his hands joined, by means of a brief address calls upon the faithful to participate in the Universal Prayer. Then the cantor, the reader, or another person announces the intentions from the ambo or from some other suitable place while facing the people. The latter take their part by replying in supplication. At the very end, the Priest, with hands extended, concludes the petitions with a prayer.
I think I mentioned this once or twice before: Clergy, please don’t add your own petitions to this. If something is important enough, scribble it in the margins for the person announcing these intentions.
The Gospel message is “of the Church.” One would expect the Church to preach this, as it desires to gather believers under its roof.
105. The ecclesial nature of catechesis confers on the transmitted Gospel message an inherent ecclesial character. Catechesis originates in the Church’s confession of faith and leads to the profession of faith of the catechumen and those to be catechized. The first official word of the Church addressed to those about to be baptized, having called them by name, is: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The candidates’ reply is “Faith”. (RCIA 75; cf. Catechism 1253) The catechumen who has discovered the Gospel and desires to know it better, realizes that it lives in the hearts of believers. Catechesis is nothing other than the process of transmitting the Gospel, as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it and communicates it in many ways.
This is a great ideal, and few of the Church’s rites are more moving, vital, or profound as the Rite of Acceptance where this question is asked point-blank of the inquirers. The question for the rest of us watching and receiving this testimony: do we live it? Do we turn this audacious concept into the truth?
An original paragraph (note no notes):
Hence, when catechesis transmits the mystery of Christ, the faith of the whole people of God echoes in its message throughout the course of history: the faith received by the Apostles from Christ himself and under the action of the Holy Spirit; that of the martyrs who have borne witness to it and still bear witness to it by their blood; that of the saints who have lived it and live it profoundly; that of the Fathers and doctors of the Church who have taught it brilliantly; that of the missionaries who proclaim it incessantly; that of theologians who help to understand it better; that of pastors who conserve it with zeal and love and who interpret it authentically. In truth, there is present in catechesis the faith of all those who believe and allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Apostles, martyrs, saints, doctors, missionaries, theologians, and pastors: a fine hierarchy of formative influences. These people form the community. The Church claims the community “transmits” the faith of these fathers and mothers:
106. This faith, transmitted by the ecclesial community, is one. Although the disciples of Jesus Christ form a community dispersed throughout the whole world, and even though catechesis transmits the faith in many different cultural idioms, the Gospel which is handed on is one. The confession of faith is the same. There is only one Baptism: “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism one God and Father of us all” (Eph 4,5). Catechesis, in the Church, therefore, is that service which introduces catechumens and those to be catechized to the unity of the profession of faith. (Cf. Catechism 172-175 where, inspired by St Irenaeus of Lyon there is an analysis of all the riches contained in the reality of one faith.) By its very nature, it nourishes the bond of unity (354) and brings about an awareness of belonging to a great community which cannot be limited by space or time: “From Abel the just to the last of the chosen ones to the end of the earth, to the close of the age. (Evangelii Nuntiandi 61, which takes up St Gregory the Great and the Didaché)
(354) Catechism 815: “…the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion: profession of one faith received from the apostles; common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments; apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family”.
A great community which cannot be limited by space or time: I love the sound of that. If only we could live it more resolutely, gently, and with awareness and trust.
My wife has her third round with the flu. With tonight’s descent of bitter winter on central Iowa, we enjoyed a movie we picked up a few weeks ago and hadn’t gotten around to seeing: The Lake House.
The young miss has determined Sandra Bullock is one of her favorite actors, so it sort of supplements one of her Christmas gifts–a movie four-pack of comedies. Tonight’s film, however, is definitely not a comedy.
My wife warned me that this had better not be a sad movie. Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I had heard very little about it before pressing the play button. I knew the premise: two people correspond despite being separated by two years in time. It plays out fairly well in the beginning. It keeps a logical flow throughout. It takes one premise outside the realm of the known, namely that two people can correspond though separated by two years in time. It doesn’t clutter up that notion with any other fantastic ideas; it only explores the consequences of just the one.
The Rotten Tomatoes people didn’t get it. But I’m not as cynical as most movie reviewers, especially when I’m watching a romantic film with my wife. That said, I also viewed it with a science fiction eye, and I’m going to offer some dissent from the groupthink of the sf world as it addresses so-called time paradoxes.
There is no such thing as a time paradox. Let me say it again:
There is no such thing as a time paradox.
If it were possible to go back in time and change the future, a time traveler could do it. There is no magic wall around “what was supposed to happen” and if an architect wants to plant a tree for a woman, it’s darn well going to appear over her when she needs it. Case closed.
I was distracted by the “conversation” between the two correspondents until I remembered that there is an early scene in which they banter back and forth through the lake house’s mailbox. Problem solved. The screenwriter and the director carry it off well. They’re not going to sit Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in front of a mailbox when all of architectural Chicago beckons. The conversations were filmed the way they needed to be filmed. What’s important is to show (not tell) the lovers communicated, and they did. Case closed.
That reminds me: the cinematography was excellent.
Roger Ebert nails my sense of it all:
Enough of the plot and its paradoxes. What I respond to in the movie is its fundamental romantic impulse. It makes us hope these two people will somehow meet.
Of course. One science fiction idea: communication through time. Two people in love. Case closed.
My science fiction mind would probably discredit this movie as sf. It’s really a fantasy. Same genre as It’s A Wonderful Life. More playing with time: what if a person had never been born. I don’t think audiences and critics got that film at first, either.
As for this movie, I enjoyed it as a romance. No problem with the
science fiction fantasy aspect, either. It made perfect sense to me. As a film it was enjoyably filmed and soundtracked. Solid recommendation, especially with the one you love.