WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Standard) - Archbishop Donald Wuerl stepped onto the stage at the archdiocesan sponsored Theology on Tap on Oct. 17 to cheers and applause from the young crowd. "That's the warmest welcome I've ever received in a pub," he said. And then added, "That's the first welcome I've ever received in a pub."
It was the new Washington archbishop's first Theology on Tap and the standing-room-only crowd appeared enthusiastic to hear what he had to say. The gathering, sponsored by the archdiocese's Young Adult Ministry, was held at Ireland's Four Fields, a pub in Washington.
HOW TO LIVE
During his talk, the archbishop answered the question, "What does the Church have to say to me?" He began saying the Church gives answers to questions such as, "How shall I live? What are the values I'm going to use to live my life?" Either you answer those questions by default, Archbishop Wuerl said, or you listen to your heart and find answers out of your Christian identity. Then he asked, "What makes the Church worth listening to?" He said, "We need to take the time to reflect" on the bigger picture. The Church brings "2,000 years of reflection on the human condition guided by words of Jesus brought to us though the Spirit."
The Church does not tell people what they can do, but rather, what they ought to do, Archbishop Wuerl said, and he gave the examples of embryonic stem cell research and violence. "Who would want a society to say, 'you can kill one person for the good of another?'" he said. "We're stewards of life." On violence, the archbishop noted, "We turn to the Church" to define "moral parameters." Jesus "gave us purpose and understanding to our lives. I have chosen to follow Him when I make the big decisions in life. The Church brings the echo of His voice," Archbishop Wuerl said.
After the talk, the archbishop opened the evening up to questions, noting the listeners might have "alternate views or positions." The first question regarded what the Church says about Catholics' relationship with Muslims. The archbishop noted that because the world has become much smaller and people have become more familiar with each other, we "bump into each other in our views or ideology." But, he continued, there are "fringe elements" of the two religions that are "true of both." He said that what the Church will have to do is focus on is the "commonality rooted in human nature. We're made in the image of God. We need to hold each other to that and isolate the fringe elements...We all share the same human nature. The moral law that grows out of that is the one thing that holds us together."
One person asked where the Islam moderates are and another asked if the pope's recent apology to Muslims after he made reference to an ancient text that referred to Islam as a violent religion was justified. The archbishop pointed out that a person can buy a conservative newspaper, a liberal one or a newspaper somewhere in the middle, but "be careful" he warned, "not to be led by opinions" instead of facts. One young woman expressed frustration that the pope apologized after the disrespect that was shown him. Archbishop Wuerl said, "There are going to be a lot of hurtful things said. We don't want to bring ourselves to that level" and "react in a way that would make us less of who we are."
Another question came regarding the challenge of spreading the faith. "We tend to be very modest when it comes to sharing the Good News," the archbishop noted. The job of Catholics, he said, is to "proclaim, teach and let everyone know this is what the Church teaches."
One man wondered why it was that some Catholic knew so little about their faith. Archbishop Wuerl noted the nation's Catholic bishops recognize "we have a learning deficit," so they recently wrote the new United States Catholic Catechism for Adults which "attempts to explain the faith in clear, uninhibited chapters."
How should a good Catholic vote, another person asked. The archbishop advised to make the defense of human life a priority and noted 150 years ago defending human life meant working to abolish slavery.The archbishop told the crowd to bear witness to the faith, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, whose feast day was Oct. 17.
When the archbishop descended the stairs from the stage after his talk an hour later, he was met with even more cheering and applause. As the young adults lingered, finishing their beers, they described the archbishop as "charismatic" and "impressive," "fatherly" and "clear." Mary Beth Muething especially appreciated the archbishop's willingness to answer questions. "He was warm and down-to-earth," she said.
This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Standard (www.cathstan.org), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.