Addressing the ‘credibility crisis’ Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Mar. 19, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

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Dear friends,

As we come to the midpoint of Lent, it is a good time for us to remember to look ahead and to mark down in our calendars the many celebrations and commemorations of Holy Week, and especially the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night -- the most important liturgy of the Church year.

We continue to pray for those women and men, and boys and girls, who will enter our Church at Easter, that they might continue to have a grace-filled time of preparation.

Let us all look forward to the Easter Vigil, that we might celebrate with joy, and faith, and a good deal of enthusiasm!

It is a temptation for us, during Lent and even otherwise, to fall short in that enthusiasm which should be ours as Catholics. There is a temptation to get caught up in the comings and goings of our everyday lives, and to get caught up in the politics of our day and age and to forget that which is really most important, that is Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

Rebuilding the temple, founding the Church

This past Sunday we heard Jesus say, after coming into the temple and being angered at seeing it defiled, “you shall destroy this temple and on the third day I will raise it up!”Now, I myself do not get angry often, but sometimes I get angry, and it is consoling to me that Jesus got angry too when things went too far -- when they turned His temple into a market place. He Himself got angry and he made a whip of cords, and we should think about that from time to time.

But let’s consider his words, Jesus said, “you will destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” and St. John comments that, of course, He was speaking of the temple that is His body. Jesus meant His human body that would be raised up from the dead, but also His body the Church, that would be born out of His death and Resurrection.

No one should ever say that Jesus did not intend to found the Church (and there have been theologians who have said that) because it is right there in Scripture. Jesus will lift up “His body”: His body in which He lived in His human nature on  earth and His body the Church. Jesus clearly intended to raise up His own body and also His body the Church.

The Church is in the Truth business

And my second point is that the Church is here to teach the Truth and thus to sanctify the world. The Church is in the Truth business. On Sunday, I referred back to our first reading, which spelled out the Ten Commandments and I discussed how each of those Commandments transcends even our Jewish and Christian tradition, how each of them is understandable and arguable from reason alone. And, indeed, that is true.

But in this column, I would like to focus on who we are as a Church and what we are called to in light of our being in the Truth business. For, in addition to those Truths which we can know by reason alone, by the Natural Law, there are Truths which we, as Catholics,must accept both from Divine Revelation in Holy Scripture and through the Authentic Magisterium of the Church.How often are we left confused, thanks to the many different voices we hear, both within and outside the Church, and how often are we left doubting the Truths which the Church Christ Himself has founded and has promised to build up, proclaims.

We are, as I said recently at a catechesis session with my staff, in the midst of a credibility crisis.And, very briefly, I would like to lay out the core reasons for this crisis of credibility from which we, the body of Christ, are suffering.

Proclaiming the four ‘marks of the Church’

As we all should know from our Catechisms, there are four “marks of the Church” which are fundamental to our being the Church founded by Christ. We proclaim that we are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

We are called, as a Church, to be one -- that is, to be united and undivided, according to the true teaching of Christ Himself. Likewise, we are called, as a Church, to be holy -- to strive to be that which we truly are, the Church of Christ himself, begun by Christ Himself.

Now, clearly the Church here on earth is made up of sinful people (and in this I think of myself first) but we are called to aim at holiness always.

We are called, thirdly, to be catholic -- that is, universal.We are called to reach out to every woman and man, in every part of the world, and to be unified in our consistent teaching and worship of God. (As an aside, it is interesting to me that

objectively speaking, the religion which today seems to be most fervent in its “catholic-ness” is Islam.) To be catholic, we must recognize that there is a continuity of faith. The faith does not change from parish to parish, from nation to nation; it is the same. There are not pre- Vatican II Catholics and post-Vatican II Catholics, there are not Pope John XXIII Catholics and John Paul II Catholics -- there is only Catholic.We are one, and we are universal, and there is continuity in our faith.

Finally, we as a Church are apostolic. This means that the Church, founded by Christ Himself, is passed down through the ages and across the world, by the apostles, the bishops. It means that we bishops, as unworthy as we might personally be, are called to continue to preach the Truth of the faith (not our own ideas) in season and out of season, whether it is popular or not.

Only one way to address the ‘crisis’

And so, when we consider each of these “marks of the Church” which are essential to who we claim to be, it becomes easier to understand how we are suffering from a credibility crisis.

We proclaim that we as a Church are one, but how many examples of division can we point to which call into question whether or not we are one? How many times have we failed as a Church, especially we bishops, to proclaim with ourlives and as a Church that we are holy?

How often do we declare, through our attempts to say that we are one type of Catholic or another, that the Church is not universal? And how easy is it to see our brothers and sisters, or even ourselves, insisting that the Church is not apostolic by attacking the bishop?

My friends, we have a credibility crisis and the only way to address it is for each of us, especially me, to consider what we are doing in our personal lives, in our families, and in our parishes, to live out the life of the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Christ said that He would remain with us and He will give us all we need if we cooperate in building up His Church!

Making a Lenten resolution

I, for my part,make my Lenten resolution first to start where we all should start -- to work harder at holiness. I know there are times when I can fail in being as patient and as charitable as I should. I try always to do everything in love, but if it does not seem that way, I must say I’m sorry, and try harder once again. I spend much time in the chapel each day and sometimes in the middle of the night, and I continue to try to grow in holiness, but it is a lifetime of work for each of us. Please pray with me, that it might be the case that I grow in holiness.You will continue to be in my prayers in this regard, as well.

I will also continue to build up oneness and universality in the Church. I seek, each day, to draw all the people in this diocese closer to one another and to our Holy Father, that we might see clearly the Catholic faith, and might embrace it more and more. I pray that we can stop seeing ourselves as one type of Catholic versus another, or as members only of one parish, or followers of this or that priest, but that we can recognize our life of faith in the Church of Madison and in the  universal Catholic Church. Please pray and work with me that we might be successful in that regard.

And I will continue to be faithful to my calling to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ! I will continue to work to put Christ before my own desires and needs and to stay close to His teaching.Despite any temptations to take the easy way out and to be silenced in the face of adversity, I will lead this Church, which has been entrusted to me, in the Truth which Jesus has given us and which the Holy Spirit has promised to sustain.

Please pray with me, let it be so!

Praised be Jesus Christ!