Twenty-first century bishops and a twenty-first century church

Twenty-first century bishops and a twenty-first century church March 24, 2010

Earlier this month in his regular NCR column, John Allen described Archbishop Charles Chaput as a “twenty-first century” bishop, not so much for his ideas and viewpoints but for the way he “compete[s] in [the] secular marketplace of ideas.”

Today in NCR’s story on the sainthood cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose anniversary of martyrdom we celebrate today, Fr. Dean Brackley SJ notes that the hesitancy with which the church seems to be moving toward “Saint Oscar” is in part due to the fact that, by canonizing Romero, the church would hold him up not only as a model Christian but as a model archbishop. As Brackley says, “not everyone in the Catholic hierarchy is comfortable with presenting him as a bishop to be imitated.”

What kind of bishops does the church need in the twenty-first century? Bishops known for their (sometimes loud) participation in the “marketplace of ideas,” or pastors known for their continual conversion and for their humble walk with the oppressed even unto death? Indeed, what kind of church shall we be in the twenty-first century? A church that competes for political leverage or a treasonous church of solidarity, a church of the poor?

Today’s anniversary is a good opportunity to reflect on these questions, not only for bishops, but for all of God’s people.


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