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A new bishop in Richmond Will promote the new Springtime of the Catholic Church

Rev. (Mr.) Keith A. Fournier
(c) Third Millennium, LLC

I read with disappointment a guest editorial in the Virginia Pilot, my local newspaper, entitled “Bishop’s retirement could produce conservative diocese” (May 27, 2003).

I live in the Diocese of Richmond and serve as a deacon in Norfolk, Virginia. I was disturbed by the article and sincerely hoped it was not the last word on this extremely important local issue. I wrote a letter to the paper that expressed a shortened version of the concerns I will raise in this article in order to make sure of it.

This article, rather than being a legitimate “other opinion”, was an anti-Catholic diatribe from a former Catholic.

After setting the issue up as a “straw man, a kind of “conservative” versus “liberal” struggle in the Church, the author, a former Catholic who has now become a Unitarian Universalist, purported to critique the coming transition in our Diocese. He warned that a “conservative” Bishop would lead us into a “pray, pay and obey” Catholic experience.

The observation was shallow, misinformed and simply completely off the mark. However, it was more than that. It revealed the serious misunderstanding concerning what is happening in the Catholic Church.

First, this editorialist was not a Catholic and he did not understand the Church he purported to analyze. In fact, he has renounced Christianity. In his own words, “I walked away from the Church I was raised in and joined a more liberal denomination, the Unitarian Universalism church. When changes to the Catholic church begin to occur in Hampton Roads, I wonder if more Catholics will make the same move.”

As a Catholic Christian I certainly affirm his freedom to walk away from his baptismal commitment. I wish he had not done so and would be happy to see him come home. However, integrity requires honesty. He has not joined a more “liberal denomination.” He is no longer a Christian. In the Unitarians own explanation of what they believe about Jesus Christ taken from their own web site:


“Classically, Unitarian Universalist Christians have understood Jesus as a savior because he was a God-filled human being, not a supernatural being. He was, and still is for many UUs, an exemplar, one who has shown the way of redemptive love, in whose spirit anyone may live generously and abundantly… .” Many of us honor Jesus, and many of us honor other master teachers of past or present generations, like Moses or the Buddha. As a result, mixed-tradition families may find common ground in the UU fellowship without compromising other loyalties”


The challenges being faced in the Catholic Church today have nothing to do with whether a Diocese or its Bishop is “liberal” or “conservative”. Rather they are questions of orthodoxy, faithfulness and embracing the full truth of the Catholic Christian faith.

I consider Bishop Sullivan my friend. He ordained me. I have pledged obedience to him and his successors as a member of the clergy, a deacon of the Diocese of Richmond. I appreciate his heart of love for the poor and his genuine commitment to the full ethic of life.

I do not “fear” his replacement. In fact I have complete confidence that what of his years of service was faithful to orthodox Catholic teaching will continue. However, I trust the Lord and the momentum in the Church as we experience the work of the Holy Spirit restoring and rebuilding a faithful, Catholic faith and life.

I know that those who live in the Diocese of Richmond will be led toward faithfulness and living a dynamic orthodox Catholic Christian life under the next Bishop.

Why? Because the Diocese of Richmond, like the universal Church of which it is a part, does not belong to any Bishop but to the Lord. He is, in the words of Pope John Paul II, bringing a “new springtime” to His Church.

There is much that I hope will change about Catholic life in this Diocese. For example, our liturgical practices and our embrace of the fullness of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as articulated and interpreted by Pope John Paul II and the Magisterium of the Church.

Simply put, we need to accept the teaching and direction of the Magisterium (the teaching office) of the Catholic Church. t is a gift and not a burden. Also, some of the clergy (and some of the lay leaders) need to stop trying to be novel.

Catholics want to be Catholic! Enough already!

As in many places in the Church, it is the “younger” clergy who are calling for more fidelity to the teaching office of the Church and the recovery of the beauty and dignity of the Sacred Liturgy. I recall the wonderful words of Francis Cardinal George upon his installation in Chicago, “the faith ...

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