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San Diego Bishop McElroy… Brings Message Of A New Day Under Pope Francis To National Priests’ Conference

July 1, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pope Francis has launched a wonderful pastoral moment that is “unfolding with a new depth” in the life of the Church, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy told members of a progressive priests’ organization here that was founded in 2011.
“The emergence of this pastoral theology” in the last five years is like the spirit of change in the years leading up to Vatican II, McElroy told more than 200 people, mainly priests, attending the seventh annual national conference of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) meeting from June 25-28 (uscatholicpriests.org) here in New Mexico.
The gathering’s theme was “The Church in a Post-Modern World: Spirituality and Ministry in a Secular Age.”
McElroy recurred to themes of mercy, the call to accompaniment, and the “field hospital” popularized by Pope Francis during his 39-minute presentation on June 26, followed by a standing ovation.
The Pope’s pastoral theology rejects the blindness of a law that is insensitive to human problems that need healing, the bishop said, adding that it’s wrong to ask the wounded person about his cholesterol level or blood sugar. Instead, say God is good and God forgives.
The Church as a field hospital begins as Jesus did, by healing women and men of their brokenness, McElroy said, as the “saving love of God” arrives in a setting that’s earthly, rough-hewn, much like the manger in Bethlehem.
In this sequence, the bishop said, the Lord first embraces the person, then heals them, then calls the person to reform.
The order in which the three are done is essential, he said.
The organization’s website proclaims a view like McElroy’s: “The AUSCP supports Pope Francis in his efforts to move the Church in the direction pointed by the Spirit through Vatican II.”
This article is being written as the conference continued. Next week’s Wanderer will include additional information, including the results of votes on various resolutions including the status of women in the Church, climate change, seminary formation, Gospel nonviolence and gun control, and pastoral ministry and LGBT people.
The LGBT resolution begins by saying, “It is timely that AUSCP raise its voice in defense of informed and compassionate ministry with LGBT people.”
The Wanderer was welcomed into all of the conference’s sessions and fellowship except two colloquia and the business meetings where the resolutions were to be discussed. However, veteran media representative Paul Leingang promised to inform this newspaper of the results of voting on the resolutions.
The AUSCP mission statement says it is “to be an association of U.S. Catholic priests, offering mutual support and a collegial voice, through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and world.”
Fr. Bob Bonnot, chair of the organization, told a June 25 evening session that the organization has about 1,200 members.
The morning of June 26 the conference Mass started promptly at 7 a.m. after the celebrant cited Scripture at Mt. Tabor, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” His homily focused on trust in God, something that he admitted humans may find hard to practice. But, “Lord, I come to do your will.”
Communion was distributed under both Species, with a traditional wafer being used, not slices of bread or something else unconventional.
About 80 people attended.
McElroy told his June 26 audience, “We are privileged to be living at this, the pastoral moment” of the Church. The bishop told The Wanderer that the text of his talk should be posted at the San Diego diocesan website soon after he gave it.
Later, during a question session from the audience that lasted 25 minutes, McElroy said he gets so many negative reactions, he buys flowers for the diocesan receptionists. He joked that he’ll come in to the office in the morning, “and they say, what did you do?” — apparently a reference to a barrage of new reactions.
The bishop said the answer is to speak the truth, but do so lovingly.
“It’s simply clear on certain issues” when people are dissidents from Pope Francis’ authority, McElroy said, “and we have to say that. . . . We do have to underscore, when you dissent from the Pope, you’re dissenting from the Pope, and from papal teaching.”
The San Diego bishop soon was put to his own test on a question of dissent.
One member of the audience posed this situation to McElroy: A convert to Catholicism was a daily communicant who had nine children. Because of the size of her family, she asked a priest in Confession if she could use birth control. (The audience member didn’t distinguish between licit and illicit methods, not did McElroy address this necessary information in his reply.)
The confessor “got infuriated” and wouldn’t give her absolution, said the audience member, who asked what the woman should do if she honestly feels God is calling her “to follow their conscience” in a different way.
McElroy didn’t directly affirm Church teaching but said a San Diego diocesan working group was “blown away” by examining the Church’s attitude on conscience.
They were looking for what God calls for “in excruciating situations.” This wasn’t just to get “a get out of jail free” card, he said.
He said the question arose after World War II about “how could it have been that people followed the law in the Third Reich?”
Still not directly addressing the questioner’s contraception issue, McElroy said, “The great enemy of the Christian moral life is rationalization. . . . Conscience is a great gift.”
A different question from the audience mentioned the problem of young people leaving the Church because they see it as judgmental.
The bishop began by acknowledging that everyone fails, and that it’s important to communicate what failure is.
“I think we too much concentrate on sexual. . . . That is not the heart of the Christian moral life,” McElroy said. “That is one of the virtues. It’s not the most important one. . . I think that’s a disservice in the life of the Church.”
The audience applauded.

Bitter Springs

In a separate session the morning of June 26, before McElroy spoke, conference participants joined in “the Baca Valley Lament,” a reference to a place of “bitter springs.” Seated at about 18 round tables, they were asked to confer over things they would lament, then what they would give thanks for.
A table representative would rise and report for that table.
Among lamentations: Having no solution but a political solution; a lack of women’s role in church; tensions between Christians; priests leaving their role to get married but then lacking a ministry they could do; a lack of leadership that inspires the community; and a narrowing of vision of Church leaders, “excepting Pope Francis.”
Among the blessings identified: thanking God for the laity “who put flesh and blood on Vatican II”; for people opening doors to refugees and for newfound relationships with Muslims and other religions: for discovering God’s unconditional love, and for DACA youth; the openness that Pope Francis offered to the world; for ministry to Latinos and other nationalities who have enriched lives; and for courage to take action on social issues.
The emphasis in general news coverage about opposition to “families being separated at the border” was the subject of repeated comments at the conference here.
More information follows in next week’s Wanderer.

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