I had avoided commenting on Archbishop Gomez’s speech from earlier this month. I find the talks and comments of bishops not my own to be far less interesting these days. But this chat got a lot of attention, even here in the secular media.
I think pastors are in a tough spot. It’s unhelpful and intemperate for a bishop to preach this:
But people are increasingly turning to these “woke” movements, rather than religion, for “an explanation for events and conditions in the world,” he said. “They offer a sense of meaning, a purpose for living, and the feeling of belonging to a community. … Like Christianity, these new movements tell their own ‘story of salvation.’”
“Now more than ever,” he said, “the church and every Catholic needs to know” the Christian story, “and proclaim it in all its beauty and truth.”
First, people interested in social justice don’t turn to organized religion because organizations self-identify with the privileged. Maybe not always the 1%–though that is part of it. The Church fails to tell the story of the Exodus, the prophetic voices of the Old Testament, and the healing miracles of the Lord.
I detect a bit of envy in the sense of the archbishop’s words.
I see the word “beauty” connected with the Church quite a bit these past several years. But there is a lot of ugliness in human behavior, even in humans associated with the Church.
Perhaps ignorance as well:
(T)hese strictly secular movements are causing new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance and injustice.
Well, no. They are bringing these elements into the light.
Let’s take a page from Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on penance and reconciliation. Individuals are responsible for sin, not social movements. Individual people in any association–BLM, bishops, or whatever–make errors, have flaws, and commit sins. Bad behavior reflects poorly on an organization as a whole, and the more responsible a person is perceived, the more tarnish on the group. The cover-up of sexual abuse has gone as high as cardinals, which is pretty far up in the Church. Therefore, we operate at a handicap, and a significant one in circles close to us.
Let’s get back to that tough spot. A nice parishioner couple left our parish some months ago. They were among the first people I met when I arrived. But they found the emphasis on racism and social justice difficult to swallow and they felt over-emphasized. It may be that the loss of members is inevitable. If it is, we might do better to do the right thing, rather than look to that secular value of the preservation of the institution.
Image credit: CNS/Bob Roller