On November 6, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. In his talk, entitled “Rekindle the Fire,” Bishop McElroy discusses his experience attending the recent Pan-Amazon Regional Synod in Rome and citing Pope Francis, noted that the “synodal pathway” offered an opportunity to “rekindle and renew” the Catholic Church in the United States.
During the month of October, I had the great privilege of participating in the Synod on the Amazon in Rome. It was a gathering overflowing with the Spirit of God that constituted a dramatic, prayerful effort to address a central question: How can the Church in the Amazon ever more effectively proclaim the salvation of Jesus Christ in its fullness, so that all men and women of the region, especially indigenous peoples, might find in the Church a true sacrament of God’s love and the pursuit of justice for the poor and for the Earth?
In order to begin to answer this question, the Church in the region had engaged during the previous two years in a massive process of discernment reaching into the depths of the Catholic communities in the villages and the forests, in the cities and among the landless communities of itinerants. Through conversations with catechists and liturgical leaders, with village congregations and with the urban parish communities, with bishops and priests and local parish leaders, most of whom are women, the Catholic community sought to identify the dreams and the hopes, the sufferings and the questions, the frustrations and the spiritual joy which the people of God find in the Church and need from the Church.
This process of consultation and discernment gave particular priority to hearing the voices of those who are usually excluded from meaningful participation, particularly the indigenous peoples of the region who have historically been the victims of discrimination within society and in the life of the Church….
I have been asked in this lecture so suggest how the Church in the United State might move forward from this most painful moment in its history. My suggestion would be to embrace the type of synodal pathway that the Church in the Amazon has been undergoing — one filled with deep and broad consultation, the willingness to accept arduous choices, the search for renewal and reform at every level, and unswerving faith in the constancy of God’s presence in the community.
….An authentic process of synodality must never be an elite process, for it represents the action of the whole people of God.
….It is my reluctant conclusion that the Church in the United States is now adrift on many levels, and that a fundamental moment of renewal is needed. A synodal pathway would be an opportunity to set that type of renewal in motion.
If the Church in the United States were to embark on such a synodal renewal, it would need to make hard choices. The Catholic community could not hold back from difficult and piercing questions or searing dialogues. It would have to include a process of consultation that reaches into the heart and the soul of the Catholic community at all levels, asking men and women how they have found salvation in Jesus Christ, what graces the Church has brought into their lives, how the Church has hurt them.
Two major elements of the culture of the Church in the United States are particularly burdensome today, and cause us to turn inward, rather than outward toward the evangelization of the world.
The first is the bunker mentality that suffuses the life of the Church, especially for those of us who are bishops or Catholic lay, priestly, and religious leaders in the United States. We are frequently paralyzed by the constancy and substance of attacks launched upon the community of faith which we love so deeply and to which we have given our lives. In great part this bunker mentality has arisen because of the pervasive failure of the Church and its leaders to recognize the enormity of the crime of clergy sexual abuse, particularly against minors. But this bunker mentality within the Church is also the result of secularizing trends in society that have led to drift and alienation from the Church, especially among the young, as well as the disaffection of mainstream Catholics from elements of Catholic teaching on sexuality and the moral life. There is a palpable sense of siege among the leadership of the Church in the United States. It saps our ability to engage constructively with the world, to find the energy and the hope-filled zeal to undertake new initiatives and our ability to clearly discern where the call of Christ is truly leading us.
Let us rekindle the fire.
The above comes from a story on sdcatholic.