by M. Francis Mannion
I cannot write in this column about everything that comes across my desk. Even if I could, not everything would fill a complete column, but some things deserve a mention. Here are six brief items that caught my attention recently.
- Since the highly-publicized shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina on June 20 that left nine parishioners dead, people have been suggesting that worshippers everywhere should learn how to shoot and bring guns to church on Sundays. Some pastors have been leading the way. I cannot think of anything more contradictory than bringing a gun to church in case a gun battle might break out. How can one receive Communion, the sacrament of unity and the bond of charity and yet pack a gun in the Communion line? Talk about a lack of congruence and proportion and a fundamental misunderstanding of eucharistic Communion.
- During a homily on September 10, Pope Francis implored priests who cannot be merciful in Confession to ask their bishops “for a desk job.” “Never [again] walk into a confessional, I beg you,” he pleaded. Francis went on to suggest that priests who are too uptight (my words) in Confession should go to a doctor. “There are pills for that,” he said.
- The stars of the reality show “Sister Wives” have been in court recently arguing that since same-sex marriage is now legal in the U.S., polygamous marriage should also be legal. I ask: Why not?
- The Rev. Greta Vosper, a minister of the West Hill United Church in Toronto is facing dismissal. Why? Because she acted inappropriately in a sexual matter? Because she emptied out the parish bank account? Because she alienated the whole congregation? No. Because she is an atheist! She has dropped the Lord’s Prayer from the liturgy; declared that she “did not believe in a god called God”; doesn’t believe that Jesus was God; and declared that belief in God causes extremism. Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you the outcome of the Church’s dismissal court. (Perhaps inclusiveness will save the day for the minister. I wouldn’t be surprised.)
- A recent column in the Jesuit weekly America called to mind a study by the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., some time ago, which found that poor preaching is the single most common complaint of Catholics who have stopped attending Mass. Bad preaching is a major elephant in the ecclesiastical living-room. Bishops don’t want to deal with it lest they tick off their clergy; clergy don’t want to hear about it, and feel threatened; and laity who are verbally critical are thought to be busybodies. So the elephant grows larger. Were I Pope, I would institute a ministry of lay homilists. This would have nothing to do with the priestly ordination of women (although I am all for women deacons). What a revolution that would be! Excellent lay preachers would give the clergy a run for their money.
- Reportedly, the Vatican expressed no objection to a central Roman square being named after Martin Luther—interesting since Rome was not Luther’s favorite city! That was a welcome ecumenical gesture, not least in the light of the coming 500th anniversary of the official beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The upcoming commemoration of the event that split Western Christianity demands bold, courageous, and long-lasting gestures on the part of both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide. If Pope Francis is still in office in 2017 (as I earnestly hope he will be), then we can expect him to come through with magnanimous initiatives.
Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. Reprinted by permission of Catholic News Agency.