Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Catholics want the truth not sentimental paternalism...

In an essay entitled "People's Needs, Moral Truths and Priests," Dr. William E. May, a professor of moral theology, wrote, "Jesus' yoke is sweet and his burden is light for those who love him and the truth that he came to give us. Like his, their will [priest's] is to do the will of the Father, to shape their lives in accordance with the truth, even if this means that they too must take up their cross and bear it. Catholics have, through baptism, died to sin and have risen to a new kind of life. They know that their baptismal commitment requires them to love even as they have been and are loved by God in Christ. They know that at times fidelity to Christ and his truth will cause them to suffer, but they likewise know that by uniting their lives and sufferings with Christ's they can come to share ever more deeply in his redemptive work, a work that reverences fully the great and good gifts of human existence, the goods meant to flourish in human persons, the goods protected by absolute moral norms. They know, too, that with God's unfailing grace they can choose in ways that fully respect these goods. They want the truth, not sentimental paternalism. And they know, deep in their hearts, that the priest speaks the truth if and only if he affirms Church teaching and offers them the help and support they need to make it real in their lives."

In an interview with The Boston Globe Magazine back in 2006, Father Richard Erikson was quoted as having said that, "I expect people to judge us by our actions. I can go down to the Boston Common with a megaphone and proclaim Christ, but it's how are we living our lives, and how are we leading, are we healing? And are we doing so in a way that would imitate what Jesus Christ would do out of love and care? And let me say something about upholding Christ. It may sound almost arrogant, unlivable - you know, I'm going to uphold Christ? He doesn't need me to uphold him. But I need to uphold him. It's about what I need to do to be centered in Christ. Because if my life here becomes primarily about finances and about structure and about corporations, and if I'm more concerned about the heater than I am about people's souls, then I have lost perspective.

When asked what his priorities were for the Archdiocese, Father Erikson responded, "The priority is leadership in the Catholic Church. Our priority is to continue Cardinal O'Malley's effort of healing, of rebuilding trust, of welcoming people home to the Catholic Church who've gone away, continued care and outreach and support of victims of sexual abuse. And also, besides sexual abuse, there are other people who've been hurt by actions of the church, and reaching out in a healing way to them. Those are the structural priorities. And my personal priority is to uphold Jesus Christ and bring whatever leadership and healing I can in his name." (See here).

Father Erikson spoke of being a "father figure" during his interview with the The Boston Globe Magazine. But, as Dr. May has said, Catholics have a very definite idea of what a loving father should be. They are looking for truth and not sentimental paternalism. And yet, when faithful Catholics have expressed their legitimate concerns over dissent within the troubled Boston Archdiocese, the response they have received from Father Erikson is not that of a loving father concerned with people's souls, but that of a bureaucrat anxious to dismiss complaints with a wave of the hand while accusing those who have meticulously documented their concerns of engaging in falsehood. This is not the proper approach if one is sincere about "rebuilding trust."

Father Erikson has gone on record as having said that he expects people to judge Archdiocesan officials by their actions. That they are now beginning to do so should not then come as a surprise.


BostonCatholic2011 said...

I'm concerned over the lack of commitment toward magisterial teaching and moral absolutes in Boston. There seems to be an attitude which holds that carving out endless exceptions to norms shows compassion by lightening burdens. But, as you've noted in previous blog posts, this is a false compassion. It is wishy-washy. It is an attitude which does not reverence truth.

Susan G. said...

BostonCatholic, you are not alone. So many are concerned. So many are leaving the Church because of the spiritual negligence and violence against the faithful. If we cannot rely on our leaders in the Church to give us the truth, we cannot trust them at all.

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