Recently, it seemed as if a strong wind was rising and trying to refresh the faith environment. It came in the form of a series of articles and quotes by individuals of substance and reflection.
Robert Mickens, a regular contributor to this blog, described in La Croix the turbulence in Catholicism—at least in Europe—and changes in the old order; James Keenan, SJ, called on the hierarchy to learn humility and listen; Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the European Bishops’ Conference, noted that “The Church has the image of an institution that knows everything better than others” and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark in looking for dialogue added, “My favorite definition of heresy is a refusal to deal with complexity.”
It is astonishing how so many Catholics justify their silence by hiding beneath the indoctrination rather than listening to the wind of the Spirit. It is not necessarily a wind calling for change as much as it is urging dialogue. Of course, in a monarchical system, “dialogue” is not in the glossary—especially for many of the American hierarchy.
Such expressions of intolerance, accountability and calls for synodal approach are labeled as crossing the line. How dare anyone challenge? How dare the people of God lead? How dare we believe that the Spirit continues to refresh the Church?
There is a generation before us hungering for meaning, not simply for rules. It is a generation that certainly believes in God but has a difficult time understanding the moralistic and monarchical deafness of many of the Church’s leaders. Yet the Spirit teaches us that hope is before us as we hear the voices of Hollerich, Tobin and, most certainly, Francis.
Now for them, I am hopeful that many others are willing to cross the line.
John J. Petillo, Ph.D., is president of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.