Pope calls for unity and conversion in letter to US bishops

Washington D.C., Jan 3, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis has written to the bishops of the United States calling for a “change of mindset” to restore the Church’s credibility and trust among the faithful.

“Clearly a living fabric has come undone, and we, like weavers, are called to repair it,” the pope wrote in a letter to the American bishops, dated Jan 1 and released Thursday by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

This repair process must involve a “change of mindset” by bishops in relation to prayer, power, exercising authority, and handling money, he explained, with the change rooted in an acknowledgment of the “sinfulness and limitations” which necessitate God’s grace.

The letter was sent ahead of the U.S. bishops’ weeklong retreat at Mundelein Seminary, in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The retreat was proposed by the pope in October as an opportunity for them to reflect and pray after a year of scandals which have rocked the Church in the U.S. and worldwide.

Following months of scandals, including the allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, American bishops met in November for their annual general assembly in Baltimore, at which bishops vocally disagreed with one another on the root causes of the crisis facing the Church, and on the best means of addressing it.

Acknowledging that recent abuse scandals have undercut the credibility of the Church in the United States, Pope Francis said that a cover-up mentality “enabled them to fester and cause even greater harm to the network of relationships that today we are called to heal and restore.”

A unified body of bishops, he said, would be helpful in regaining this credibility.

“Credibility will be the fruit of a united body, that, while acknowledging its sinfulness and limitations, is at the same time capable of preaching the need for conversion,” he said.

Francis also condemned what he called a sense of “division and dispersion” among the communion of bishops that has erupted in the wake of abuse allegations. This discord, the pope said, goes beyond the typical disagreements bound to arise among any group of people and comes from “the enemy of human nature” taking advantage of current crises to further divide the Church.

The bishops must take a “renewed and decisive approach to resolving conflicts,” said Francis, as he cautioned against a reliance on structural solutions that would reduce the role of a bishop to “a mere administrative or organizational function” in the “business of evangelization.”

The paramount task facing the American bishops, Francis said, is to create “a shared spirit of discernment” leading to true communion, without giving in to the “relative calm” of a sterile compromise or a vote with winners and losers.

The pope said that the bishops must abandon the “modus operandi of disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim or the scold in our relationships,” and instead should focus their attention on “the gentle breeze that the Gospel alone can offer.” Instead, he said, the bishops should work to avoid “gossip and slander” and promote dialogue, discussion and discernment among one another.

“As a Church we cannot be held hostage by this side or that, but must be attentive always to start from those who are most vulnerable.”

In his letter, Francis expressed regret that he was not able to personally attend the retreat, but that he still wished to “reflect with [the American bishops] on some aspects I consider important,” and to offer encouragement for their “prayer and the steps [they] are taking to combat the ‘culture of abuse’ and to deal with the crisis of credibility.”

The pope warned that while many responses were being considered by the bishops, they must be cautious to avoid those that do not necessarily align with the “flavour” of the Gospel.

“To put it colloquially,” said the pontiff, “we have to be careful that ‘the cure does not become worse than the disease.’”

For this to be accomplished, he said that the bishops must engage in “wisdom, prayer, much listening, and fraternal communion.”

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

1 Comment

  1. America’s bishops chastised in this letter by Pope Francis for the McCarrick imbroglio. Fair? Cardinal de Aviz Prefect of the Dicastery for Religious Life just shockingly announced the Vatican knew of Legionary of Christ founder Marcial Maciel’s homosexual abuses since 1943. That a homosexual network had covered for Maciel similar to Cardinal McCarrick. Cardinal de Aviz another credible “accuser” supports the allegation of such a network that we’ve heard from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Flawed saints and pontiffs share responsibility for the current impasse. I’m convinced John Paul II was a saint and Cardinal Dziwisz is at least partly correct in his defense in this scandal. We can discover flaws of complacency refusal to believe lack of determination in virtually all from Paul VI on. That Benedict XVI upon election immediately removed Maciel and initiated investigations of homosexual abuse removing many clerics indicates the malaise. Benedict had his own tribulation when as Archbishop of Munich a notorious Essen Diocese priest was transferred to Munich for rehab then placed with youngsters who he abused and was placed under arrest. Benedict claimed he was unaware. Our problem is leadership must be aware. He apparently learned from the incident. Nonetheless there was alleged pressure on him from the St Gallen Group to retire. That group of prelates again seeking to install Jorge Bergoglio this time to insure it by overstepping canon law. “What the Pope asks of us” (Cardinal de Aviz) is at this late stage in serious question. The Pontiff by all indication including his letter is redirecting the Church away from correction of Hierarchy who are mainly responsible for the crisis of an adult network of clerical homosexual abuse including victimized young priests, seminarians – as evident in his handling of McCarrick and placing focus instead on abuse of minors, a dilemma that has been largely corrected. He’s apparently willing to refuse Cardinal DiNardo delegated authority and prevent him from initiating any form of forceful investigation of Ordinaries. He’s willing to replace DiNardo at home and at the Feb Synod with his favorite Cardinal Cupich. He’s willing to permit US States attorneys general to open old files of abuse cases many unsubstantiated and have the US Church besmirched without recourse of meaningful correction. Only the Pontiff is authorized to investigate and sanction bishops. If our Bishops, Cardinals are not aware of this they suffer self inflicted somnolence and are morally responsible. The Church, including our American Bishops must respond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.