I set this letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich aside a few days ago. Kinda wish I had set it aside indefinitely. Just a waste of ink with the endless spin to tell us how much “they” care.
The bishops’ retreat and a new ecclesial season
January 9, 2019
I am writing this as the retreat held for the Catholic bishops of the United States at our seminary in Mundelein concludes. The weeklong retreat was the idea of Pope Francis.
He recognized that the crisis of clerical sexual abuse had created a great deal of anger and confusion in our church and among the bishops. It is in such moments, he observed in his letter to us before the retreat, that “we need to be attentive and discerning, to free our hearts of compromises and false certainties, in order to hear what the Lord asks of us in the mission he has given us.”
I never had a problem with the retreat. That said, I think being locked in a room with a bunch of super angry parents would have made more of an impact, but that’s just me. I do have to focus on the message from the Holy Father I highlighted. Are they just now doing this??? I would think that this would have popped into their heads long before one is made a bishop.
Again, while I never had a problem with a retreat per se, the timing on this one smacks more of a pause on dealing with this issue hoping people will forget about it than a thoughtful way forward. Seriously, the “Let’s just wait to deal with this until we can have a retreat to contemplate something we somehow woefully missed before” really doesn’t cut it with the vast majority of people, or at the very least people with children.
The Holy Father sent us his personal preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa. The 84-year-old priest told us that he had received lots of letters telling him what he should say to the bishops. While respecting the wisdom of the voice of the people, he agreed with the pope that in moments like this we need to discern what God is saying to us.
“What God is saying to us???” Seriously? I would think “Stop being perverts, protecting perverts, recruiting perverts, etc.” would be a no brainer. But, I suppose, since it’s been missed so far, the good friar might be right about going back to kindergarten on this.
Cantalamessa’s talks were both inspiring and encyclopedic. His grasp of Scripture and the rich tradition of the church allowed the bishops to hear truths we have long held but in a fresh way. I am pleased we have the texts to review in the days and months ahead, but I also carry with me a number of images he offered, which I want to reflect on.
How about reflecting on the image of a person abused by a priest, bishop, or cardinal? Seems like that might be the central image to focus on. Yes, the spiritual lives of a good chunk of these bishops and cardinals seem wanting, but this is ridiculous. If we have to go back to what should have been taught day one in seminary, then you’d think Cardinal Cupich might get a clue that the formation has been lacking for a long, long time in most areas of the country. Somehow I don’t think this is going to be his take away.
One was the difference between moving over water in a rowboat and a sailboat. The rowboat requires our effort, as we pull against the inertia of the water, relying on our own power and devices to steer the direction ahead. But believers are called to trust in the Holy Spirit to move us forward, much like the wind is needed for moving the sailboat forward.
With that image our retreat director asked us to reflect on our approach to challenges, not only this one, but in all cases. Do we see ourselves in a rowboat that makes everything depend on us, or are we attentive to the prompting of the Spirit to chart a pathway ahead? I can honestly say I am not satisfied by how I answer that question some days.
I will keep in mind what Cantalamessa said: “The wind is caught by the sail of prayer.”
Uh, I’d have to say many of you are not piloting a sailboat or even a rowboat. You’re more like the drug runner on a luxury yacht with someone else doing the “hard work” of ruining souls while you socialize with the elite and try to keep your hands clean. So, honestly, we’re not satisfied, either. We’d like you to be on the Barque of Peter. That, however, seems a little too much to ask.
He then shared another image to further develop this point. A professor lecturing on time management conducted a small experiment for his students. Taking a large glass jar, he placed tennis-ball-sized rocks in it until there was no room in the jar. “Is it full?” he asked. “Yes,” the students replied.
But, then he began pouring in small pebbles, rattling the jar until they settled in vacant spaces between the rocks. “Now is it full?” he asked again. “No,” they replied. Agreeing with them he then poured sand into the jar, filling up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles. Yet again, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” Without hesitation, the students replied in unison, “NO!” “Correct,” replied the professor.
So he poured water into the jar until it was absolutely full. Then the professor explained. “What we learn from this experiment is that if we don’t put the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later.”
Cantalamessa’s point was simple. Our prayer life, our turning to God to discern where he is leading us, has to be the priority. For if we do not prioritize the discernment of God’s will, other concerns and voices will absorb our attention and render our decision-making impoverished and partial, especially in a moment of crisis.
I’m thinking the stories of the saints, Church teachings, etc. might have been a little more pertinent than time management stories from Facebook, but that might just be me. The problem is, some of you can’t seem to figure out what the big stones are even if they hit you in the head. If you’re going with Facebook memes, you might want to go with a simple flow chart of decision making. Some of you can’t get past the first branch correctly and probably should rethink your career (and I’m very intentionally using career because it seems more like that than a vocation for many of you)!
His reflections also underscore our commitment to the protection of children and the healing of victims, which grounds all our responses to the crisis. We must make sure nothing ever crowds out that priority.
You and many other bishops and cardinals already blew that one! Let’s just remember you were the one that said there was more important things to worry about like “climate change.” The fact that you had to have that “underscored” just shows how completely out of touch you are with, well, Catholicism.
It is clear, however, that the Holy Father’s intentions in calling us to make this retreat expand well beyond this particular moment or challenge facing us bishops. Pope Francis wants us to see that we are in “a new ecclesial season,” as he calls it, that will require a new approach to our ministry.
I’m sorry, but the public relations tactic of a “new” anything is ridiculous. This is an abuse crisis of epic proportions. This isn’t time for a new buzzword or ad campaign for the Church. It’s time for repentance and reform. This is “old”, not new. The problem is, you guys spend so much time on spin and rebranding that you can’t just do what needs to be done. Sure, not all of you are doing that, but many are and the many are hampering the rest of us.
We cannot be “mere administrators,” but must take up the task of teaching those we serve “how to discern God’s presence in the history of his people.” As he remarked in his letter to us: “Amid the upset and confusion experienced by our communities, our primary duty is to foster a shared spirit of discernment, rather than to seek the relative calm resulting from compromise or from a democratic vote where some emerge as ‘winners’ and others not.”
Oh. My. Gosh! We’ve already discerned the immorality which led to abuse which led to the cover-ups is evil. Duh. Enough said. You’re the one who’s been trying to avoid it from day one. The US Bishops wanted to address the reality, but you and your cronies, Cardinal Cupich, managed to get it put on hold. I don’t care if it takes a democratic vote to clean up this mess. The only ones who do care are you and your buds who were going to be the losers because you are the ambassadors of evil and immorality. There most certainly should be a winner and loser. The winner should be GOOD and the loser should be EVIL. You want so badly to move your agendas forward that you are all willing to throw victims under the bus. We’ve had enough!
The task before us is to work together to find a way to embrace “the present situation, one that, most important, can protect those in our care from losing hope and feeling spiritually abandoned.”
If that was truly your goal you would have jumped on this long ago. All the psycho-spin you’ve spilled here does NOTHING to help those you’ve betrayed. We embraced the present situation about 17 years ago. Where have you been?
“This will enable us to be fully immersed in reality, seeking to appreciate and hear it from within, without being held hostage to it.”
If you haven’t been “fully immersed in reality” by now, you’ve missed whatever boat you’re supposedly on all together! The TRUTH which you seem to want to keep everyone from is freedom, not a hostage situation. You, Cardinal Cupich, are the one seeking to take hostages. You’ve been trying forever to make people a slave to their sins and you’ve been perfectly happy to keep the victims of abuse slaves to their captors. I’m pretty sure you’re hoping for full blown Stockholm Syndrome at this point. Sorry, we’re not falling for it. We will do everything possible to escape your trap.
We are not leaving this retreat with all the answers to the important questions facing the church in these days, but we are leaving with a renewed sense that it is time to turn in our rowboats for sailboats, and take our cue from the guidance of Christ’s spirit rather than our own efforts.
Well, let’s avoid YOUR efforts for sure.
We also come away reminded that we will need to keep our priorities straight. One other blessing from our days together is that it drew us closer to each other and to the Holy Father. One bishop told me, “Pope Francis was right to call us to take a retreat and it shows that he cares deeply about our ministry and the church in this country.”
Do you know how I know this was a complete waste of time? It’s because you have not mentioned sin once. You didn’t leave this retreat with anything. I’m sure those bishops and cardinals who truly long to guide Christ’s people are still longing for this, but you are just looking to get off the hook. You are simply looking for some good PR and are hoping words like “discerning” and “mission” are going to assuage the faithful. Wrong. These are the same things we heard almost two decades ago. You’re really, really counting on us being that stupid?
I have no doubt that just as the early church relied on Peter’s unique ministry to meet the challenges of the day, so we will draw strength and insight from our unity with his successor.
Ah, and there it is. If we are angry with you, somehow we are removing unity with Peter’s successor? Yeah, sorry. You can keep pushing this line but it’s not going to keep us from holding you accountable.
It doesn’t get said enough, but a huge thank you to the bishops and cardinals who are really trying to bring healing to the victims and to the Church. We’re praying you succeed. Please stay the course. #USCCB #DontMakeSameMistake