No one is perfect. Why, when it was brought to his attention, Bishop Robert McElroy cowered away from addressing the financial mismanagement of the lay employees' health care program in the Archdiocese of San Francisco is a mystery. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that the Archdiocese is benefitting handsomely from that mismanagement. In any case, I don't think it's fair to define a person by one issue. I had the opportunity to see a very different side of this man when I read his letter to Catholics in the Diocese of San Diego, where Bishop McElroy will now serve as the sixth bishop of the diocese.
The American cultural landscape is festooned
with walls that separate neighbor from neighbor.
Black and white, rich and poor, Red State and
Blue State, gay and straight, Believer and Atheist,
Muslim and Jew, citizen and undocumented, man
and woman, young and old — the list goes on.
But as Saint Paul notes in his letter to the Galatians,
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave
nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you
are all one in Christ Jesus." And Our Lord Himself
prayed in John's Gospel, "that all of them may be one,
Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." Clearly,
separation is not Our Lord's desire. Perhaps nowhere
do we see this more clearly than in the parable of the
Good Samaritan, when a wounded man is rescued by a
member of an enemy tribe. Indeed, our very name as
Catholics implies our assent to this worldview, as it is
taken from the Greek katholikos, which means
"universal." Our Catechism states clearly that God wills
the salvation of all persons — not some, but all.
And yet, if we are willing to take an honest look at the
signs of the times, we will see that the name "Catholic"
now serves to defeat its own purpose. Instead of
extending the Good News of salvation to all, the
Church is now seen as an institution of separation and
discrimination. We do not allow women to be priests.
We forbid the remarriage of divorced persons, and the
marriage of homosexuals. We condemn abortion, as
well as contraceptive sex in marriage and all kinds of
sex outside of it. There are even some who argue that
Catholic politicians who publicly reject the teaching of
the Church should be barred from partaking in the
Eucharist — the ultimate sign of our spiritual unity as
Clearly, we're getting in our own way, and in so doing,
we're getting in the way of Christ as He attempts,
through us, to reach out to the world. And Christ had
stern words for people who served as stumbling blocks
on the way to Him. So perhaps it's time to reassess.
Maybe it's time we stopped pointing out our affiliations
and memberships, as if they somehow made us special
or better. Maybe it's time we stopped with all the
arcane rituals and weird clothes. Maybe it's time we
were just people loving other people in a broken world,
and let all the rest of it go for a while.
While Bishop McElroy failed to identify one other significant divide in our Church today, that between clergy and laity, I find this statement to be quite hopeful. Perhaps he, unlike some of his fellow bishops, is listening to Pope Francis with an open heart.