Friday, August 27, 2010

The Mad Hatter

Lately I have been really feeling called to pray for Cardinal Ouellet. Recently he has been appointed by Pope Benedict to head the Congregation of Bishops. That means he takes the lead in deciding which priests get elevated to the office of bishop and which bishops get the most important diocese. Bishops get to wear high hats at liturgy (I hate to explain jokes but I thought some people might be confused about the title).

Cardinal Ouellet is Canadian, in fact before this appointment he was the primate of Canada. So I have been following him for a while. He is one of the real solid bishops. A few years ago he seemed like one of the few we had in Canada but the last few years have seen many good appointments. Now he gets to bless the whole church.

From an interview before he left:
We are in a world where the Christian heritage being strongly contested, so we have to recognize that and propose it better, though not through an attempt to restore the past, he said.
“We have to tell people about the Crucified and Risen Lord, who is shaping the Church today, with people faithful to His Word, to His Divine Presence and to the community he wants to see living of His Spirit.”
A bishop must always take a personal approach, he said. Bishops not only must state dogmatic positions, they must believe in them deeply, “then you have the power of conviction.”
“If you state it only formally and in the end you do not really want to see it applied because you don’t believe that it is possible that people accept it, you are in trouble for the transmission of the message,” he said.
So the message to any bishop with ambition is clear. If you want to impress Rome you need to not only state dogma but you need to teach it in a creative and compelling way. You need to be confident that the truth will attract even if human wisdom tells you nobody will listen. In other words you need to teach like Pope Benedict teaches.
The Cardinal also called for a new intellectual dynamism, especially a reform of education to “recapture the spirit of Christianity and “create a new Christian culture.”
“We need intellectuals for that, theologians, philosophers, Christians who really believe in the Gospel and share the doctrine of the Church on moral questions,” he said.
“We have suffered from this mentality of dissent” that is “still dominating the intelligentsia.”
“There is no real discipleship there, real discipleship,” he said. “The discipleship that is emerging is from those who believe and who really love the Church.”

This guy just gets it. What is more he is willing to say it out loud. Catholic theology and philosophy is so amazing. Yet most people whop have degrees in Catholic theology and philosophy are pathetic. The "mentality of dissent" is a good way to describe it. It embraces the liberal elements of protestantism but lacks the honesty of protestants to say they don't respect the church or the pope.

The good news is such thinking is unable to grow because it lacks real discipleship. The bad news is once it dies it will be a huge challenge to replace such widespread error with a new intellectual dynamism. But saintly bishops help a lot. Not just in exercising spiritual discipline but in being holy. Catholicism is more about following a set of leaders than it is a set of teachings. Sure the leaders teach. But the blessing of apostolic succession is going to be easier to see if we have strong men doing the job well. 

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