NCR has an exclusive interview with him this morning. It sheds more light on his thinking, particularly his ideas about Pope Francis and challenges facing the Church today.
I know Chicago, just like many other dioceses in the U.S., is facing a number of issues — downsizing, priest shortages, population changes. What lessons have you learned about those kinds of things in Spokane and Rapid City that you think might help you in Chicago?
I would say that in both Rapid City and Spokane we’re dealing with more limited resources, human resources as well as financial and other. And I think you have to be real. You cannot base your decisions on a past era where things were different. I think that’s where we’re going to get in trouble.
If we really don’t do a calculation of what the situation is from the present circumstances, we’re going to get caught up in either an ideology about things or maybe an illusion about the way things should be because of the past. I think the pope has been very clear. One of the lines that he uses, he says, ‘Realities are greater than ideas.’
I think that he’s asking us — this is one of things I brought up in my talk in the response to Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga at that conference that we had in Washington last June. I think the pope is giving us a new epistemology, a new way of learning, of knowing — another way in which we’re informed.
We can really get caught up in living in our own little bubble of an idea or an illusion of things the way they have been in the past.
It’s important not to have just a 30,000 feet perspective on life but to really be there in the reality of the situation and pay attention to the observables right now around you.
For me, that ties into your recent pastoral letter in Spokane, ‘Joy Made Complete.‘ Reading through that, I was struck by one of your conclusions at the end that Catholics should be ‘stepping out into unknown and largely uncharted territory, and trusting each other to share responsibility and ownership for the Church.’ What does that mean for you?
I think it means that we don’t have all the answers to the vexing problems and challenges that we face. But that should not paralyze us from trying to move forward because it’s in the very unknown that we really do encounter Christ, who is different.
We have the beautiful passage today from scripture that ‘our ways are not God’s ways.’ Well, sometimes we’re hesitant to move forward into the unknown because we don’t have control of the situation — when, in fact, it really is an invitation to respect the fact that the unknowable God is working in our lives and calling us into a future that we’re not creating, but that he’s creating for us.
But the way we do that is doing it together. We can’t force things on people just because you have an idea it should go this way. We really do have to be a pilgrim people together. And so I’m confident if we do stay together and we do pray — allow the word of God to move our hearts — that God will unfold the future for us, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it.
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