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Thank you David Cruz-Uribe, SFO and Vox Nova for this timely reminder of what the Council Fathers understood to be the grave Duty of Bishops as expressed in Christus Dominus. It strikes me as having analogous significance for those of us in any kind of leadership position in the Church and I think it’s always helpful for us to reflect upon the apostolic character of lay leadership, especially in schools and parishes.

First, Bishops are supposed to

devote themselves to those who have strayed in any way from the path of truth or are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and His saving mercy…

This reminds me of a line I used to use in Chicago as Director of the Office for Peace and Justice: the Church does not serve people (in schools, hospitals, social service agencies, etc.) because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic. As our schools increase non-Catholic enrollment, we should continuously remind ourselves of that fact. We can never reduce Catholicity to percentage of Catholic population or abnegate our responsibility to “devote ourselves” to those who we serve – especially when they are not Catholic.

Second, Bishops

should set forth the ways by which are to be answered the most serious questions concerning the ownership, increase, and just distribution of material goods, peace and war, and brotherly relations among all countries.

As school and parish leaders we can never forget that the social doctrine of the Church is integral and necesarry for our lives as Catholics. Programs of Christian service, global immersion programs, and classes on social justice need appropriate support from administrators and pastors in the form of adequate staffing, funding, space, and encouragement. All the while, serious attention must be paid to preventing Catholic social and moral teaching from being confused or conflated with or coopted by any political or partisan ideology.

Third,

the bishops should present Christian doctrine in a manner adapted to the needs of the times, that is to say, in a manner that will respond to the difficulties and questions by which people are especially burdened and troubled … In propounding this doctrine they should manifest the maternal solicitude of the Church toward all men whether they be believers or not.

It is always important for us to remember that doctrine (like scripture) does not speak for itself, does not interpret itself, does not apply itself. Too many Bishops and faithful think that all is required of us is simply to “restate the truth” and people (i.e. those who have “gone astray” for some reason or another) will simply be drawn in by the inherent beauty of the truth spoken. I DO believe that the truth is beautiful, but that beauty is not just a matter of content but also of form. There is a wonderful creative tension that must be maintained between the Truth (which is unchanging) and the context within which we speak the Truth (which always changes). Hence Christian doctrine must be “adapted to the needs of the time.” This tension is at the heart of Pope Francis’ magisterium and, in my humble estimation, those bishops, priests and laity who disagree most with Pope Francis are those who ignore that tension in favor of simply speaking the truth.

Ultimately, I suspect a kind of docetism lies at the root of this disagreement with Papa Francesco. The immutable divinity of Christ (the eternal logos) and his teaching is emphasized to the point where the human Jesus (the unique form the logos took on) and his methods or forms of teaching disappears and becomes irrelevant. The result is justice without mercy and truth without charity.  To be clear: the opposite extreme is equally undesireable.

Fourth, any dialogue promoted by bishops

ought to be noted for clarity of speech as well as humility and mildness in order that at all times truth may be joined to charity and understanding with love.

Truth and charity must never be separated. We can even say that charity is the form that truth should take on. Charity is what the truth looks like. Theology teachers and administrators at Catholic schools as well as Parish leaders, must live in this tension. Truth without charity becomes self-righteous; charity without truth becomes codependency.

Lastly, bishops should

strive to make use of the various media at hand nowadays for proclaiming Christian doctrine … – the press and various other media of communication, which by all means ought to be used in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

The Council Fathers probably had radio, print, and television in mind when they refer to “media,” but their lack of definition here opens up enormous possibilities for us today. “Nowadays” we have innumerable means of communication inconceivable at the time of the council 50 years ago and capable of enabling positive communication and dialogue on a huge scale.

But we also have vocal neo-Luddite populations in our schools and parishes (even here in Silicon Valley!) who preach doom and gloom regarding the Internet, social media, and technology in the classroom: teachers who brag that their classrooms are “iPad-free zones” and administrators who reject new media out of fear of loosing control of it. Like any tool, the various technologies available and ubiquitous today can be misused and Catholic schools have a clear and growing responsibility to model and teach the proper use of these new technologies.

Equal to our responsibility as educators is the opportunity these new media offer us. Social media is not a trend. It will change but it will not go away. But that’s no reason to embrace it. Catholic schools (and parishes) offer a voice and stories the world desperately needs today. I want the world to be able to hear those stories, engage with them, and be transformed by them. Catholic school need social media to make that happen. If we are only telling our stories in print through magazines, view books, and brochures, or even through digital media like banner ads, SEO, and a website, we are behind.  Schools and parishes (and Bishops!) loose out on huge possibilities for story-telling, entertainment, evangelization, engagement, and calls to action when they ignore social media.

Thanks again to David Cruz-Uribe, SFO and vox nova for posting these sections from Christus Dominus!

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