Pope's rep: Bishops must show gospel not just talk about it

Written by Peter Smith on .


Catholics Bishops need to show the gospel in their lives, not just talk about it, to combat the lure of everything from drugs to assisted suicide to Islamic State-like fanaticism, Pope Francis' diplomatic representative to the United States said Monday morning.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, asserted that the recently completed family synod at the Vatican laid the groundwork for affirming church teachings but called for more than a rules-oriented approach.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrapped recent news headlines into an address to American bishops in Baltimore. His address, while affirming church tradition, reprised his words from a year ago when he told bishops the pope was looking for shepherds not ideologues.

"As Pope Francis has repeated many times, it is not just by preaching or by words, but by example that people will grow in faith," he said.

The meeting comes just days after the news that Pope Francis had removed one of the most outspoken conservative American clerics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, from his post as head of the Vatican's top court. Cardinal Burke was instead assigned to a relatively ceremonial role.

Archbishop Vigano talked about how his dying mother took strength from his reading of the life of a saint to her. "What a contrast for someone who takes their own life into their hands, for example, through suicide and euthanasia," the archbishop said. His comments did not mention Brittany Maynard by name, but it came as the national debate continues over Ms. Maynard's decision to end her life rather than go through the full progression of her terminal cancer.

Archbishop Vigano also asked "why young people, submerged into the culture of these times, so often called the 'culture of death,' are searching among the most excessive and challenging experiences," including the murders organization calling itself Islamic State. 

Young people, he said, are searching "beyond just so-called 'happiness." They are searching for meaning and purpose."

He told of recently presiding at the funeral of an adolescent who overdosed on drugs while "fooling around" with friends.

"We have to let our young people know that their lives are worth living and that they were born for eternal glory, not for glamor, or guns or sensationalism."

Archbishop Vigano, admitting the church's credibility has been "deeply wounded" by the "deplorable actions" of some priests or bishops, but he said the church could restore credibility through the "shining example of so many saints in our very midst."

Bishops must both teach with confidence and listen to others, he said.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the bishops conference, sounded a similar theme when he said that when he visits parishioners' homes, he doesn't start by "telling them how I'd rearrange their furniture. In the same way, I wouldn't begin by giving them a list of rules."

For those whose romantic and family arrangements don't fit the church teaching, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, "I'd first spend time with them, trying to appreciate the good that I saw in their hearts" and then "accompany them as we, together, follow the gospel invitation to turn from sin and journey along the way."


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