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USA, the Bishops’ real-time answers on Facebook: “Convert and set aside clericalism”

To break the ice Msgr. Bill Wack, bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Mons. Adam Parker, bishop of Baltimore, and Msgr. Daniel Flores, bishop of Brownsville, shared their reflections on the past day voicing joint determination to adopt urgent measures to remedy the issue of abuses, especially after having heard the heartbreaking testimonies of the survivors

(from Baltimore) Bishops answered in real time the questions posed on Facebook by the faithful and by all those interested in the themes broached by the US Bishops’ Conference gathered in Baltimore for the past days. It’s the novelty of the 2018 meeting. Yesterday, at 19:00, upon the conclusion of a day of debates and panel speeches, Msgr. Bill Wack, bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Msgr. Adam Parker, head of the diocese of Baltimore, one of the bishops of the Texas border area, and Msgr. Daniel Flores, from Brownsville, were video-interviewed by Judy Kane, in charge of Communication for the Bishops’ Conference. A few minutes before they gathered in prayer, oblivious to curious journalists, photographers and technical staff activating the live broadcast. To break the ice they all shared their reflections on the past day , voicing their joint determination to undertake urgent measures to remedy the question of abuses, especially after having listened to the heartbreaking testimonies of the survivors.

Kelly, posed the first live question: “How can we help the Church?” Mons. Flores recommended
“vigilance, especially in the protection of children, followed by accompaniment in a period of self-conversion also involving the bishops: a long but necessary process.” For the bishop of Pensacola the contribution of the laity is of the essence, “we need them in our independent commissions, we need them as experts, advisors, and especially as fathers, mothers, and families.” The bishop of Baltimore considers it important to spread information on the work carried out by the Church so far: “disseminate information of what has proved effective in the protection of minors. We also need this form of encouragement.”

Alejandro asked how to continue trusting this Church and what contribution can be given by youths under-30. “I was a young priest when the first scandal of sexual abuses broke out in Boston – declared Msgr. Wack – now as a young bishop I am faced with a scandal of greater proportions. When we are young we feel capable of doing everything, and that the sky is the limit. So this is what I am asking of you, to bring this “capability to do everything” inside the Church. The Church needs the hope, the faith, and the enthusiasm of the young. We need it.” To those who ask how to strengthen the role of the parish priests, and how to recover confidence, the bishops unanimously replied: “by communicating and listening to each other, by asking questions without being afraid of taking away time from the chores of the parish.”

Various themes were addressed in the thirty-minute live Q&A session, ranging from the letter on racism – to be applied in daily life “loving our neighbor, our coworkers, countering and acknowledging acts of discrimination or anti-Semitism” – to the role of women, to seminaries. The role of women was highlighted by Msgr. Parker, who said he supports women holding key positions inside the dioceses: “one of them is the chancellor and the trusted advisor of the bishop. Listening to them boosts confidence in our organizations, and this is a significant experience in our work.” For Msgr. Flores women leadership “promotes hope. Their great talent to listen is connected to healing practices, that’s why we should not refrain from giving them managing positions as they will carry them out devoting great attention to persons.”

With regard to seminaries the bishops said that formation aims to develop the beauty of the  human person, the beauty of serving the Church, in the awareness that before we decide to be priests God has already decided for us. They pointed out that
the requirements to enter the priesthood are more stringent today, including interviews with the laity that eventually give advice to the bishop on the paths leading to the development of the calling. There are psychology courses, we also learn to live sexuality, but “whichever courses and structures we may create – pointed out Msgr. Parker – only the imitation of our brethren consolidates the calling. I met a priest who made the difference and this is something that remains, yet all forms of protections we discussed in the assembly  must be put into place.”

As expected, a question on the McCarrick case was posed during the live chat on Facebook. “How can we be sure that it will not happen again?”, many have asked. “The culture has changed – said the bishop of Baltimore – . We have trained thousands of lay people, priests, men and women religious. We also ensured that children are aware of these problems. However, it should be said that the assurance that these episode will never happen again is not given by the structures but by our life , by how we live out the Gospel.”  “It will not happen again if we undergo self-conversion and we leave clericalism aside”, concluded Msgr. Flores, quoting Bernanos: ” The only way to reform the Church is to suffer for her. The only way to reform is the most heroic example of my virtues.”

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