Rocco posted the text of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s talk to the bishops of the Americas. I’d like to devote a few posts to it. Most of you probably know I’m not a particular fan of a man largely perceived as a culture warrior. I appreciate he speaks his mind, and frankly. I’ve seen him speak and I’ve heard him respond off the cuff to questions and comments. When he doesn’t know something, he doesn’t hide it. And if he does know about something, he certainly has an opinion.
I find it a personal discipline to read and study people I’m not inclined to agree with. On some blogs, people openly wonder why I bother their insular, congregationalist views of Roman Catholicism, especially the reform2 movement. The reason is that I believe in being a thinker, and in engaging things that might prove to be uncomfortable.
At any rate, I do recommend his talk. He opens up with some words of affirmation for his brother bishops. But most of his talk is on the challenges of the present day. He cites Pope Francis’s assessment of people, mainly the young, being “crushed under the weight of the present [without] a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something; a future, a family.”
Tonight I’m going to zero in on one aspect of the archbishop’s examination of poverty. He does cite one in six North Americans living below the poverty line, but compared to the more literally crushing abuses of the South, perhaps many of our poor suffer not as much as there. He moves on to the spiritual poverty cited by Mother Teresa.
That kind of poverty, as Mother Teresa saw so well, is very much alive in my country. It’s like a parasite of the soul. It leaves us constantly eating but constantly hungry for something more – all the while starving the spirit that makes us truly human.
Quite true. I was struck by this description of moral poverty:
It brings fear of new life, a turning away from children, confused sexuality and broken marriages. It results in greed, depression, ugliness and aggression in our popular culture, and laws without grounding in truth.
All of this happens in the Church, and in its some of its hierarchy. Fear of new life? That’s embodied in the resistance to renewal and creativity. A turning away from children? Not just the sexual abuse of the innocent, but the denial of evil and the sheltering of predators. Confused sexuality? People lassoed into lives of celibacy without ever having completed a healthy adult integration of sexuality. And perhaps priests and bishops do not marry, but how often are their relationships with parishes and especially dioceses broken?
Archbishop Chaput’s analysis is spot on, not only for many lay people, but also for a significant number of bishops. His later appeal to brotherhood and collaboration among bishops: this is a laudable start. But bishops must also be open to their own people. It’s a matter far beyond egalitarianism. It’s more than just getting the smell of the sheep. In AA, it’s known as a searching and fearless moral inventory. An inventory must be full. It doesn’t consist in just cataloguing information already known. A much wider consultation is needed.