Canadian Catholic News: Canadian church faces big challenges as more bishops near retirement age
religious, and lay people.
Completely confidential, these consultations allow people to speak freely and to say things they may not be able to say to their own bishops. They are asked to give reasons for their opinions. When the nuncio presents his shortlist or terna of recommended candidates to the Congregation of Bishops, he has to justify his opinions.
The needs of a Northern diocese might be completely different from an urban diocese like Toronto or Ottawa.
Canada as a whole faces special challenges, challenges the pope acknowledged when the Canadian bishops made their every-five-year ad limina visits to Rome this year. Those challenges perhaps provide insight into the kinds of shepherds Canada needs.
“The reality of the Church is very wounded in contemporary society,” said Msgr. Crotty, noting the breakdown of marriage, increased divorce and the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
“Nobody can be in any doubt about what the church teaches on marriage, on life issues, but there is a large misunderstanding,” he said. “The pastoral challenge is to explain, catechize, set forth the church’s teaching.”
Yet the despite the problems, Msgr. Crotty, like Archbishop Prendergast, is optimistic. He sees a growing enthusiasm among young Catholics the Canadian Church can tap into. Worldwide, the church is reaping the benefits of 20 years of World Youth Day (WYD) observances instituted by John Paul II, and Canada is seeing the fruit of World Youth Day in Toronto five years ago.
Msgr. Crotty mentioned youth evangelistic movements like Catholic Christian Outreach, and the growing influence of Salt and Light TV as evidence. He points to how the 2008 Eucharistic Congress is using some of the same advance preparation involving catechesis as the WYD model and is actively involving youth across the country.
The challenge is to keep the enthusiasm of the young people alive, he said. These Catholic youth are seeing the church as “countercultural,” he said, adding that they want to know why. “The big pastoral thrust is to reach out to young people and give them answers why.”
The pope is framing those answers in a positive fashion, he said, proving false his unearned reputation as a scold and naysayer, who as Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was portrayed as always saying “No.”
Instead he is laying out a vision of “being positive, of being open,” Msgr. Crotty said.
“The church is a church that says, ‘Yes!’ Yes, to life, yes, to marriage,” he said.
The pope is inviting people to be positive, to say “yes,” accepting a new life in Christ, he said. Christ doesn’t ask us to say “no,” Msgr. Crotty said, “he asks us to say “yes” because he wants what is good for us.
Msgr. Crotty noted how the nuncio’s address to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) annual plenary last October stressed the importance of three of the pope’s major texts. They included: his encyclical God is Love; his Regensburg speech on the crucial relationship between faith and reason; and his Dec. 2005 address to the Roman curia where he talked about two views of the Second Vatican Council. One view sees the council as “one of discontinuity and rupture,” the pope said, and the other as one of “reform and renewal in the continuity” of the church. The pope critiqued the view that the “spirit” of the council could be separated from its texts.
Msgr. Crotty notes a more liberal paradigm has operated over the past 30-40 years that seemed to suggest the church’s teachings had to change to “go where the people are going.”
“That paradigm has actually failed,” he said. “You can’t change the teaching of the church because it belongs to Christ. Christ’s message doesn’t change. We have to change. Sometimes it’s easier to ‘change Jesus’ than to change ourselves.”
”Those who set out in the 1960s to go out and change the world and wanted to change the church didn’t succeed,” he said. “The process of trying to ‘changing Jesus’ has been going on for a long time,” he said referring to society as a whole with its Jesus Seminar and now the new Jesus Project, aimed at debunking Jesus’ historical existence.
Now it’s time to “allow Jesus to change us,” he said.
The Canadian Church’s challenges concerning vocations go hand in hand with growing secularization. “God is less and less a part of people’s lives and culture,” he said. “Vocations are the fruit of the faith community. It’s not a question of increasing church personnel, there is a need to grow the faith, to nourish the faith, and the faith will bear fruit in more vocations for the priesthood and religious life.”
“We need to be full of enthusiasm,” he said. “You don’t attract people to your ranks if you lack enthusiasm about who we are and what we are.”
The ultimate way to promote vocations, however, is to focus on the family as a “domestic church,” he said, pointing to one of the teachings stressed in Vatican II. There is a tendency to pray for vocations in the abstract, but not for vocations from within one’s own family. He said there is a “NIMBY” (“not in my backyard”) approach to vocations, with some of the greatest opposition to holy orders coming from a prospective priest’s own family.
Msgr. Crotty points out that in dioceses where there has been a more “radical engagement and commitment” to young people, for example in dioceses with fulltime vocations directors, vocations are up. That, he acknowledges is a long term solution. In the short term, priests can be drawn from other parts of the world that were once mission fields for Canada.
Sometimes priests, however, decline to become bishops. Father Morrissey said some might say no for health reasons, perhaps because there is a “skeleton in their closet” from their past, or the individual does not feel up for the responsibility. He added a bishop must be “thick-skinned. “No matter what a bishop does today, he’s criticized.”
Father Morrisey pointed out that originally bishops assigned to Canada came from overseas. “Someday we’re going to look to other countries, too,” he said.
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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Canadian Catholic News Service.- - -
Among CCN governing members is the Western Catholic Reporter (http://www.wrc.ab.ca), serving Catholics in Alberta and published by the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
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