The Real Issues Cardinals Are Confronting, New Bedford Standard Times, March 7, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Conclave Series for the New Bedford Standard Times
March 7, 2013

When I was in the airport a few days ago preparing to come to Rome, there were television monitors at the gate showing one of the cable news networks.

During the half hour I waited to board the plane, there were four different references to the upcoming conclave, including a lengthy segment in which a reporter sought to identify the major issues facing the Church that the next pope will need to address.

The report was framed, revealingly, as to what “changes” need to take place in the Church. It featured two experts on comparative religions as well as two anonymous people interviewed on city streets. None of the four was even identified as a Catholic.

The first “major issue,” which took up half the segment, concerned whether my brother priests and I will be allowed to marry. I’ve always been somewhat bemused by how many people seem to lose sleep over the fact that priests sleep alone, but few priests — who are, after all, the ones most affected — would themselves list priestly celibacy among the major issues facing the Church.

The other issues concerned altering the Church’s teachings on human sexuality so that what are presently consider sins would now be considered quasi-sacraments; and “empowering” certain groups of people according to their skin color or sex, which would inversely perpetuate rather than eliminate the racial or gender inequalities which they imply should not exist in the Church.

To grasp how bad and unprofessional such coverage is, imagine a sports reporter doing a story on the challenges facing the Red Sox in the upcoming season. After interviewing two personal trainers and two people randomly at a mall, the reporter frames the three biggest issues as whether the bachelors on the team would get married during the season, whether the rules would change to allow foul balls to be considered fair, and whether we would finally have as many Asian players on the team as North and Latin Americans.

Would that qualify as genuine sports coverage? No matter how passionately the individuals interviewed might be interested in such matters, or a particular news organization would want to push a cultural points, would anyone ever believe those would be keeping manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington up at night?

Yet, somehow, that’s what passes for a major news network’s reporting on the conclave.

It’s important to consider the issues that actually are occupying the Cardinals’ serious attention during their pre-conclave meetings in the Vatican. There are several:

The Church’s response to an ever-aggressive secularism in the West that is trying to compel everyone to live as practical atheists in the public square and in educational settings, regardless of what they believe or may do in their homes or houses of worship;

The Muslim take-over of Europe, not by scimitars, but by birth rate, as Christians choose to contracept themselves into a minority;

The explosive growth of the Church in Africa and Latin America and how that needs to be guided and fostered for the strengthening of the whole Church;

The evangelization of China, India and other parts of Asia in the midst of persecution;

The reform of the Roman Curia and other institutional organs of the Church so that they support rather than undermine the true mission of the Church;

The renewal of the institutions of the episcopacy, priesthood, religious life, marriage and the family, especially in areas where these vocations are in crisis, and helping those in each seek and achieve not mediocrity but a holy life in response to God’s call.

The Cardinals have a want ad for a new pope qualified and eager to spearhead the efforts to meet these challenges. We’ll discuss tomorrow some who seem to have these qualifications.