Different approaches strengthen Church


The Feb. 2 issue of The Catholic Messenger was a bit of a study in contrasts. The lead article was a truly refreshing one about the sacrament of penance as a “blessed embrace of a merciful Father.” On the other hand the letters to the editor regarding Father Richard McBrien had a rather negative tone.

Psalm 133 says “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” That unity is, of course, charity.  Any one of us has our personal preferences: The Council of Trent or Vatican II, Pope John XXIII or Pope John Paul II, Fr. McBrien or Father Robert Barron. However, let’s not carry the acrimonious attitudes of American politics into the Church. Differing approaches have their place and the Messenger would not be doing its job by being one-sided.

There are differences of approach in today’s Church as there have been from the beginning (Peter vs. Paul, Council of Jerusalem). The psychology of some persons leads them to Christ more directly by a route that has firmly structured ideas and behaviors. The psychology of others will lead them more directly to Christ by a path that is more open to the searching of possibilities and pondering of many sides of an issue. Both approaches are necessary and the Church is strengthened by each.

Certainly, the Church has, in the phrase of one letter writer, “clay feet.” Not to admit that would be disingenuous. Looking clearly at the strengths and weaknesses of the Church is important. However, as St. Paul said: “Bear with one another. Forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgives you” (Col. 3:13)


My prayer would be that Fr. McBrien recover his health and Fr. Barron continue in his so both can contribute in their way to the richness of the Catholic tapestry.

James Connolly


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