In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis outlines the role of the bishop in evangelization. Where is a good bishop? Sometimes in front. Sometimes in the midst of people. Sometimes behind.
31. The bishop must always foster this missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul (cf. Acts 4:32). To do so, he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and – above all – allowing the flock to strike out on new paths. In his mission of fostering a dynamic, open and missionary communion, he will have to encourage and develop the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law,[canons 460-468; 492-502; 511-514; 536-537] and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear. Yet the principal aim of these participatory processes should not be ecclesiastical organization but rather the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone.
There are two observations that strike me.
Given recent prepared statements and limits on journalist questions, it seems that many old guard bishops are far too concerned about being pampered with friendly words. It is important to listen to everyone, as the Holy Father suggests. In the hyper-ventilated political climate, there are concerns about the mere association with some people. Too many Catholics, usually conservative ones, are not only self-identifiying as the elder sibling on the porch, but the fussy Pharisees. (Does Jesus know what kind of person that is?) Listening does not equal accepting.
The goal is reaching everyone. Not just the low-hanging fruit of the tree.