I have observed the misery of my people . . . ;
I have heard their cry. . . .
Indeed, I know their sufferings,
and I have come down to deliver them (Exod 3:7f).
“Do Not Be Afraid”
How to Safeguard Yourself, your Family, and your Parish in harmony with Pope Francis
The forward progress of preaching the Gospel of truth and justice and of promoting Church reform is impeded by a series of bad decisions inside the Church that have turned the sheep into wolves and turned love into hate (Did 16:4). These decisions were arrived at without adequate consultation and without the collegial process that was the hallmark of discovering the truth at Vatican II. These decisions were based upon defective biblical studies, faulty historical studies, and the near absence of pastoral and psychological consultation. When free and informed consent was not forthcoming, the Vatican abandoned the route of persuasion and resorted to the use of raw power to impose their views on dissenting bishops, priests, and theologians. This mounting use of coercion runs against the way of Jesus and further discredits those using authoritarian measures to prop up positions inherently flawed. Fear and distrust have replaced the faith-filled discussions and mutual love that are necessary for a Church community to survive and to thrive.
Pope Francis is keenly aware of this problem and he invites you to work in harmony with him to bring the Good News into your heart, into your family, and into your parish church. The purpose of this chapter is to offer some strategic orientation that will empower you to bring about the kind of Church that Jesus wants us to be. . . .
Pope Francis met with his fellow bishops in the Cathedral of Saint Matthew, Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, 23 September 2015. At that time, he presented the model and the strategy that someone attached to Jesus must use if s/he would enter into a grace-filled dialogue. In the chapters in this book, I have informed you of the shaky ground that our bishops have used to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that you are taking stock and getting yourself ready to challenge these misguided and harmful positions as unworthy of the Gospel and as an obstacle to God’s truth, it is helpful to consider how Pope Francis directs his attention to his fellow bishops at a time when he is keenly aware that many of them distrust the path he has taken and that his measures are calculated to ruin the Church rather than to reform it. Consider, therefore, the points that Pope Francis made in his twenty-minute address. Ask yourself if this is the strategy that you yourself need to take when addressing those who disagree with you:
#1 I have not come to judge you or to lecture you. I trust completely in the voice of the One who “teaches all things” (Jn 14:26). Allow me only, in the freedom of love, to speak to you as a brother among brothers. . . .
#2 It [our mission] is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake. The “style” of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant “for us”.
#3 Certainly it is helpful for a bishop to have the farsightedness of a leader and the shrewdness of an administrator, but we fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us.
#4 We [bishops] are promoters of the culture of encounter. . . . The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.
#5 [Without authentic dialogue] we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realize deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain.
#6 Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing. . . . The richer the heritage which you are called to share with parrhesia, the more eloquent should be the humility with which you should offer it. . . .
#7 Whenever a hand [of yours] reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God… know that the Pope is at your side, the Pope supports you. He puts his hand on your own, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support and encourage.
Address to the American Bishops (complete text).