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A Leaven In The World . . . Pope Francis Seeks “Pastoral, Not Ideological” Bishops

November 24, 2013 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


(Editor’s Note: When space permits, Fr. Cusick will conclude his column with a Catechism reflection to go with the Sunday readings.)

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Pope Francis by now is well known for short-round staccato bursts of teaching that can be as hard to parse as they are quick to say. One recent example is, “Sinners yes, corrupt no.” Without explanation someone might think he is approving of sin. In fact, Pope Francis is saying that we are all sinners and must seek forgiveness through the mercy of Christ while at the same time shunning all corruption, that is, appearing to be Christian while lacking the humility of repentance.

His teaching in this area can be very helpful to priests who, for example, are trying to teach and help their people to practice properly the Sacrament of Confession which requires not only the enunciation of sins but also a sorrow for them that extends to avoiding the near occasion of sin in the future as a component of sincere contrition, leading to amendment of life.

Pope Francis’ guidance for bishops was shared by Archbishop Carlo Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, with our prelates at their annual fall assembly in Baltimore. Pope Francis’ usual economy of expression was in evidence as two counter-posed terms were used to describe both the positive and the negative approaches to the episcopal mission.

As reported by Catholic News Service Archbishop Viganò said, “While each of us must take into consideration our adaptability to the many different circumstances and cultures in which we live and the people whom we serve, there has to be a noticeable lifestyle characterized by simplicity and holiness of life. This is a sure way to bring our people to an awareness of the truth of our message.”

The nuncio went on to say that the Holy Father “wants bishops in tune with their people,” saying that when they met in June, Pope Francis “made a special point of saying he wants ‘pastoral’ bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology.”

“Pastoral, not ideological.” Without any further guidance as to how Pope Francis might define “ideological,” we have to assume a dictionary would serve as well. Oxford defines ideology as “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy; i.e., the ideas and manner of thinking characteristic of a group, social class, or individual.”

Pope Francis appears to mean here that the bishops when they speak should first address the spiritual needs of the local Church at large before appearing to remedy issues which affect only a part of the flock. I don’t believe that Pope Francis could mean here that the bishops should neglect pro-life issues, for example, but rather perhaps that they should address the underlying spiritual issues that can lead to crimes against life in a more holistic way, arising from crises of personhood and relationships, and therefore perhaps be more pastoral in approach, thus enabling every listener to live the pro-life message in every aspect of existence.

This would address the issue as it affects the whole flock, rather than simply focusing in only on those who have personally procured or suffered abortion, used contraceptives, or seek to redefine marriage.

This emphasis of the Holy Father is good news for the whole Church, if it means that bishops are to lead by serving the pastoral needs of the entire flock of each local Church. One example of this would be a more thorough implementation of Summorum Pontificum by generously supporting priests and seminarians who desire to train for and celebrate the Extraordinary Form Mass.

Some dioceses currently seem to operate as if Ecclesia Dei is still in force, with only a few designated churches offering the antique Mass each Sunday. When diocesan officials in seminary leadership roles verbally discourage any regular association with the Extraordinary Form, then ideology is surely in evidence. Pope Francis’ injunction against ideology would appear to rule out efforts to frustrate the implementation of the pastoral document of Benedict XVI that sought to meet the needs also of Catholics with an attachment to the earlier form of the Mass where they are, without examining their motives.

Official representatives of our bishops appear to be bullying subordinates out of purely ideological motivation when they take the bizarre course of publicly discouraging worship that is part of the fabric of the Church’s life of public prayer and worship.

Pope Francis’ call for an ideological-free approach to pastoral work is most welcome and an invitation for everyone to cooperate with our bishops in meeting the needs of all Catholics, to include those who have an attachment to the Extraordinary Form of holy Mass.

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(Follow Fr. Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITL.)

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Meeting Christ in the Liturgy for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: “Shepherd my people”….“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
“Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal: In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in his Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God…may attain to salvation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 874).

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