The following is a response to the remarks on Nov. 2 by Cardinal Christophe Pierre on the U.S. Church.
….It is simply false that there are bishops who use Pope Francis as a scapegoat for the ills of our culture, as Cardinal Pierre alleges. I don’t know of a single bishop who claims this. The cultural crisis we face is not one of the pope’s making. To suggest that there are bishops who claim this, much less state it explicitly, is unfair to the U.S. bishops. How disheartening it must be to read what their representative from the Holy See thinks of them.
The claim that most young priests are enthusiastic about the cassock is also plainly false; it is the exception, not the lived experience of the typical young priest. It is odd to focus on this when there are more pressing concerns facing the Church (like the clericalism that still protects predator priests or expensive meetings that deplete limited Church resources, to name just two).
His Eminence states that “almost no one comes to church anymore” in the United States. This is also disconnected from reality. Yes, numbers are down, but there are many vibrant parishes around the country that are growing. I have seen it, and I don’t know why the nuncio seems unaware of this. It makes me sad, especially since in his backyard the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington have plenty of examples of thriving churches. Perhaps he should go to fewer meetings and more parishes. I’d be happy to have him accompany me incognito.
These comments from His Eminence come with more than a little irony, considering the mass exodus from pews in Europe and South America — notably France and Argentina, to say nothing of Germany. If the evangelization efforts inspired by the Aparecida meeting, which in turn inspired the synodal way, is the path forward, then why are the local churches in South America doing worse than those in the United States? (Curiously, shortly after the 2007 Aparecida meeting, the number of priests in South America began to decline sharply, a trend that continues today.) By many metrics, the Church in South America, including in Argentina, is sclerotic and doing dramatically worse than the Church in the United States. Your Eminence, please explain.
Here in the United States, there has been a measurable increase in vocations over the last twenty years. We have evangelization initiatives that exist nowhere else in the world, like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Christ in the City, and Creatio, among a dozen others just in my home archdiocese of Denver. We have small Catholic colleges and universities that are actually forming students in the faith, as well as vibrant student centers on secular campuses. The bishops have largely reformed the seminaries, cleaning up the theological and moral dissent that was common for a generation. We have charitable organizations that take care of the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society, with tens or maybe hundreds of millions of non-government dollars and countless living saints driving this charitable work. We have Catholic schools serving Catholics and non-Catholics alike, providing an alternative to the woke education now common in public schools. We have a vibrant Catholic press that is forming the faithful through books and media that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else. I am tempted to go on, but I think I’ve made my point. The Church in the U.S. is far from ideal, but it is not the arid, dying institution Cardinal Pierre portrays.
With respect to the question of immigration, I don’t know of any country more generous than the United States. Our arms (and borders) are open to the refugees, immigrants (legal or otherwise), and those who are seeking a better life. It is a calumny to suggest we are a closed society or a closed Church. Take a walk around any major city and it is a melting pot of cultures with Catholic churches welcoming everyone. The bishops themselves run major immigration and refugee services and partner with others. They should be celebrated for this, not belittled.
And this notion that American bishops are fixated on sexuality is also false. It is the leaders of the Synod on Synodality and many of the papally-appointed delegates who are focused on homosexuality, marriage, and priestly orders. The major priority of the USCCB is the Eucharistic Revival, which seeks to draw Catholics back to the very heart of Catholicism. Hardly a fixation on sex….
From First Things