And when Bishop Gumbleton says: “Those of us who stay have to keep on working for that change to make our church the institution more faithful to the way of Jesus,” I think of the important work being done by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform - a group within the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis of which I’m honored to be a part. That’s exactly what we’re dedicated to: identifying and working to reform those areas of church life that many people have long recognized as being at odds with the Gospel message of love proclaimed by Jesus.
Sometimes people will say to me, “Why do you stay?” Maybe people say that to you sometimes: “Why do you stay?” When you look at the church, sometimes you become disappointed. I’m talking about what we think of as the institution of the church. . . . especially the leadership of our church, the leadership that refuses to really probe the problems that are going on in our church:
Why are people leaving?
Why do we have so few who are willing to enter into religious life, or especially into the priesthood?
Why do the bishops not look for other people who can serve in our parishes so we don't have to close them, as we're doing all over this country?
Or why now is the Vatican, under the auspices of the pope, doing an investigation of religious orders of women? Why should they be investigated? For what? They’ve been the most faithful ministers in our church, especially here in the church in the United States for hundreds of years now.
Maybe there should have been an investigation of the bishops. Why did they continue to hide those who were predators against little children? No investigation of that has ever been made; no bishop has ever been held accountable for sending a priest from one parish to another.
So we could be discouraged with the church, but you know, it isn’t the church that you’re being asked to say yes to.
Oh yes, we want to belong to a community and it’s important that we share our faith with one another – that’s how we strengthen our faith, grow in our faith, when we come together like this as believing people and declare together, “Yes, I do believe. I will follow the way of Jesus.” So we do want to belong to a community, but there has always been the problem that human institutions, which the institutional church is, can become deficient or even corrupt.
So when you are asked, “Who will you follow?” it’s not a question about really the institutional church or not. The deeper question is, “Will you follow Jesus?” Will you really become a disciple of Jesus? That’s the challenge that’s being presented to us today.
Certainly, we can respond to that challenge within the Catholic church, and my hope is that we would not have so many people leaving the church, but if they find Jesus in another way, that’s what they must do. If the institutional church is unwilling to reform itself, then perhaps more people will leave, but those of us who stay have to keep on working for that change to make our church the institution more faithful to the way of Jesus.
Above: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton at the inaugural Prayer Breakfast for Hope and Justice in St. Paul, MN – Friday, June 29, 2007.
Organized by a coalition of Twin Cities Catholic justice and peace groups – including Call to Action MN, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), and Pax Christi Twin Cities – the June 29 Prayer Breakfast for Hope and Justice saw over 100 people gather in St. Paul for a Eucharistic liturgy followed by a continental breakfast and a round table discussion - the focus of which was on ways of finding and sustaining hope in the context of both the contemporary Catholic Church and wider society.
Since that first prayer breakfast in 2007, two others have been held in the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis. The 2008 Prayer Breakfast for Hope and Justice featured award-winning Catholic author and historian Robert McClory, while this year’s event launched the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform and featured Janet Hauter of the American Catholic Council as keynote speaker.
Above: At the inaugural Prayer Breakfast for Hope and Justice in 2007, Bishop Gumbleton was presented with a “Lifetime Achievement Award for Justice and Peace.”
Recommended Off-site Links:
Bishop Gumbleton: “For Gay Catholics, Conscience is the Key”
The Peace Pulpit: Homilies by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Stamping Out the Light
What It Means to Be Catholic
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs
The “Underground Church”