I’ve spent the last 21 years traveling the highways and byways of the US Catholic Church. I’m always astonished at how narrow even a Bishop’s perspective can be. The clergy of the global Catholic Church make up ONLY 3/100th of 1% of the Body Catholic. 99.97% of us have never darkened the door of a seminary because 99.97% of us aren’t priests. If you hang out and work with and listen to the laity, especially on the left coast and the mountain west and the midwest and deep south, you’d know how few people know or care about Newark. If you were a seminarian on the east coast – it is possible but by no means certain that you had heard something. But if not?
There are tens of thousands of meaningful Catholic circles of influence in the immense space of the US. 17,200 parishes plus all the missions, schools, hospitals, apostolates formal and informal, home-schooling networks, families, informal bands of friends, etc. The seminary in Newark is just a tiny sliver of the richness, the reality of the American Catholic Church. In 2002, I hardly knew who McCarrick was. I don’t think I had grasped that he was Archbishop of Washington DC.
I’ve never been to Newark but I have driven 9 times across the vast empty quarter of the high plains to and from Dodge City, Kansas. I’ve worked in dioceses from Seattle to Sydney, London to New Orleans. LA, Singapore, and Jakarta. I knew all about the amazing things that God was doing in one particular parish in Boise, Idaho. I marveled at the stunning story of a new convert in Twin Falls Idaho, who entered the Church because when a friend invited her to a local evangelization retreat, a force came out of the odd round metal circle that the priest held up and hit her in the chest. “What is that?” she gasped to her friend. And a year later, I met her as a week old Catholic sitting on the steps of her parish in Twin Falls.
The Catholic insider chattering classes who dominate the US social media and hang out in chanceries is just a tiny slice of the real thing. Not understanding that fuels the blindness that is at the heart of clericalism. The most significant things that God is doing in our midst most frequently take place in Nazareth, not Rome. So the vaaaaast majority of Catholics in the US didn’t know.
Just yes. The work that God is doing in human hearts around the globe is soooooo far beyond struggles, stupidities, and pettiness of ecclesial politics. I want Caesar to open the files in ever diocese in the US and take a firehose to whatever and whoever is there so the Church can get back to doing the only thing that God ever created the Church to do: make saints.