Thursday, April 08, 2010

Timothy Shriver in the Washington Post: Can the pope restore the purity of Catholicism?

Timothy Shriver, a Catholic himself and the Chair of the Special Olympics, writes in the Washington Post about what the Magisterium must do to regain the trust of Catholics. An excerpt:

The first part of the answer will depend on justice: Catholics and non-Catholics alike must hear a full confession -- evidence of contrition so pure that it cannot be mistaken. We must see bishops leave their teaching positions because their moral authority is lost. We must believe that civil justice will be served when crimes are committed.

But that isn't enough.

And it's not enough to say that 95 percent of priests and nuns are heroic and dedicated servants of the faith, baptizing our children, caring for the sick and the poor, ministering to our families and burying our dead. They are of course all of that.

It's not enough to say that the church has created an enormous diversity of religious practice and expression, giving birth to contemplative, monastic, scholarly and popular forms of faith that have brought the gospel to life for billions -- even though it has.

It's not even enough to argue that the church traces its roots to Jesus himself -- that it is His church. It does indeed trace its roots to gospel times. But not even that is enough to justify confidence in the bishops.

The capital of trust between the people of the church and their leaders is dangerously close to empty. The bishops cannot take the people for granted any longer. We were raised to love the gospel, to seek the truth, to serve justice, to grow in the bosom of the sacraments. But we will not do it under their leadership unless they change.

What's needed is a conversion of the bishops and the pope himself. That's right: It's time for the pope and the bishops to convert their culture to one that is centered on loving God from the depths of their souls and to leading a church that is as much mother as father, as much pastoral as theological, as much spiritual as doctrinal. It is time for them to listen to the deep and authentic witness of the people of faith, to trust the spirit that blows where it will, to abandon their defensiveness of their positions and trust only the gospel, and not their edifice of control. Conversion is a total experience -- letting go of the old and putting on the new.

The conversion we seek for them is the same conversion they invite for us: Put on a contrite heart and fall in love with God, recklessly, totally and passionately. Let the love of God be the only measure of their actions.

We live in a spiritual age, and until the bishops and the pope learn to lead a people hungry for authenticity, trust and spiritual nourishment, we will look elsewhere. There are millions of Catholics with deep spiritual wisdom -- millions of faith-filled people who love God in transformative ways. We will trust their faith and witness if the bishops fail us.

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