The Bishops' Secret Letter
The Bishops' Secret Letter
CRISIS Magazine - e-Letter
July 30, 2002
When I started this e-letter in April, my primary motivation was to have a way to get urgent information to you immediately. There are some things that just can't wait to be printed in the magazine.
This is one of those things.
As you may already know, the Catholic world has been buzzing about a confidential letter composed by eight American bishops in which they called for a Plenary Council to address problems in the Church.
Journalists and pundits have been speculating and debating about the alleged contents of the letter and the identities of the authors. But no one really knew for sure.
This morning, CRISIS managed to obtain a copy of the letter that was sent on July 18 to all the American cardinals and bishops. In it, a group of eight bishops asks that a Plenary Council be called as soon as possible to discuss the "root causes" of -- and possible solutions to -- the current crisis in the Church.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what a Plenary Council is and why this letter is so dramatic. Basically, a Plenary Council is a meeting of all the bishops of a given area -- in this case, the United States. This isn't an ordinary meeting though. It's the highest form of council that can be called on a national level. It would be like a Vatican Council for the States. In fact, the American bishops haven't called a Plenary Council in more than 100 years.
And it's much different from their semiannual conferences, too: There, the administrative business is done. A Plenary Council, on the other hand, is much more proactive, focusing on "teaching the truths of the faith" (as the letter says). Priests and laypeople would also be able to participate.
The eight bishops who wrote this amazing letter are taking a brave stand by urging discussion of those issues that were swept under the rug at the June bishops' meeting. While I can't send you the whole body of the letter, I can share some of it with you.
First, the authors of the letter seem to have a pretty clear understanding of the crisis. Here are a few of the issues they want to face head-on at the Plenary Council: "What has happened to the life and ministry of bishops and priests that makes us vulnerable to the failings that have humiliated us all? What things need to be going on so that in this cultural milieu priests and bishops will preserve their celibate chastity along with all the other virtues that constitute the life of holiness proper to pastors? How can the purification upon which we shepherds have embarked help us, in turn, support our people in achieving greater holiness?"
Notice the absence of wishy-washy bishop speak. These men know there's a problem, and they're going to face it squarely.
But it gets even better. The bishops get very specific about what they hope to accomplish at the meeting:
Goal 1: "Solemnly receiving the authentic teaching of the Second Vatican Council...on the identity, life and ministry of bishops and priests; on matters of sexual morality in general (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Humanae Vitae, Veritatis Splendor, and Familiaris Consortio); [and] on celibate chastity as an authentic form of human sexuality renewed by grace and a share in Christ's own spousal love for His Church."
It's heartening to hear these bishops raise the issue of sexual morality as taught by Humanae Vitae, as well as "the very soul of holiness" for a priest! These topics have been taboo for so long that it's phenomenal to see bishops address them head-on.
Goal 2: "Giving unequivocal endorsement and normative force to the means outlined in the documents of the Council...to foster the acts of virtue required of pastors and the means needed to achieve those virtues, especially celibate chastity (e.g., daily celebration of the Mass, frequent Confession, daily meditation, regular acts of asceticism, obedient submission to Church teaching and discipline, simplicity of life)."
You can't argue with a return to the fundamentals of the priesthood. This is EXACTLY what priests need to hear: a public endorsement of their vocation and the support of the bishops in encouraging a real back-to-basics approach to religious life.
Goal 3: "Confirming the bishops in the authoritative exercise of our ministry for the health and well being of the church, and strengthening our coworkers in the Presbyterate in their ministry of teaching the Gospel, especially in regard to sexual morality, so that we can give support to the lay faithful in responding to their call to holiness."
Who hasn't been demanding greater accountability and action from the bishops? Clearly, these men seem to understand what's really been bothering American Catholics.
The bishops who drafted the letter also listed the benefits of calling a Plenary Council: It "would provide a galvanizing focus that is authentically evangelical and true to the Church's identity and tradition...[witness] unambiguously to the fact that the Church relies on the grace of the Holy Spirit...involve all strata of the People of God in the experience...have maximal impact in shaping the ecclesial culture...[and] give a definite stamp to identifying what is the authentic heritage of the Second Vatican Council."
"Galvanize"..."witness unambiguously"..."maximal impact"..."definite stamp"... the "authentic" heritage of Vatican II... These are strong words for bishops -- a group usually known more for its inaction than its decisive action.
One last thing. Unfortunately, I can't reveal the names of the authors at this point. However, I can tell you that the list is surprising. These bishops represent the entire theological and political spectrum. That in itself is reassuring: The idea that we need a deep and lasting change isn't limited to any political or theological ideology.
My hat is off to these eight courageous and dedicated bishops -- all that's left now is to hope their colleagues will follow suit and sign on.
In 10 years or so, when this current crisis has hopefully faded away, we may look back on this letter as the event that triggered the renewal of the American Catholic Church. Let's all say a prayer of thanks for the eight bishops who took the first step.
P.S. Please forward this to anyone you think might be heartened by it. With so much bad news in the Church, it's great to finally have something positive to say.
http://www.crisismagazine.com DC, US
Deal Hudson - Editor, 202 861-7790
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Hypocrite millennial terrorists who live with their parents want guns ...
- Day 5 - Novena for Workers, the Unemployed and Underemployed HD Video
- Day 4 - Novena for Workers, the Unemployed and Underemployed HD Video
- Scientists discover a scary Antarctic mystery - how worried should we be?
- Daily Readings for Tuesday, April 25, 2017
- The Blessed Virgin or the Samaritan woman at the well? Ancient ...
- St. Mark: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, April 25, 2017
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 HD
- France's Presidential Runoff: Another choice between a nationalist and a globalist HD
- Day 3 - Novena for Workers, the Unemployed and Underemployed HD
- Day 2 - Novena for Workers, the Unemployed and Underemployed HD
Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.