A Vision for the
by Thomas A. Stobie, SFO
I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down my vision for the Church in the United States (but can be applicable elsewhere as well) for the 21st Century and share with those who are interested via the internet. If you have questions about what is written here, please contact me. I can also provide more detail on any of the ideas presented below as well.
Click on a Section to go to it.
In considering what the Catholic Church in America should be in the 21st Century, we need to consider the characteristics of secular society in America, including its strengths and weaknesses, the universal mission of the Church, the call of every Christian, and the state of the Catholic Church in the United States.
I have tried to avoid drawing out the negatives and rather focused on the positive or what is needed.
Note: I have tried to distinguish my opinions from my vision by placing my opinions in green like this paragraph is.
First, let me state that American Culture is heterogeneous in nature and not at all uniform across the United States. There are however many aspects of the dominant culture, that is what most people have forced upon them or advocated in the public light through the media and government that we can address. I am not stating that most Americans advocate these cultures or even want them, but that most Americans receive the most exposure to them on an aggregate basis. To contrast these dominant cultures, I attempt to describe the cultures that I believe Christ would like to see in this country.
These groupings of cultural characteristics are not exclusive, but are used as people are familiar with the terms or the common thread within the culture being described. On the plus side, there are pockets of subcultures that are closer to the desired cultures than the dominant cultures.
In this section I will attempt to bring out what God desires American Culture to be.
In the 20th century, we have seen the Church move from a strong moral teaching influence on the American Culture, as exemplified by Archbishop Fulton Sheen and his national teachings, to a period where some bishops would speak out for the truth and some would remain silent, sadly weakening the voice and influence of the Church on society. We have also seen the media grow more and more anti-Catholic using any opportunity to put the Church in a bad light.
In the 21st century, we need to regain the high ground, and lead the country back to where God wants it, advocating the Cultures of Life, Opportunity, and Sharing over the dominant cultures of Death, Hedonism, and Money Rules and use the United States' influence to promote this worldwide.
The Church itself as an entity needs to get its house in order, cleaning out the dissident voices, and restoring strong moral outspoken leadership. This will take time and will require the assistance of the Vatican. This should be done prayfully in the spirit of love under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Church needs to reestablish itself as the voice of morality for the country, advocating the truth and standing for God in all circumstances.
Prayer is one of most valuable weapons in bringing about God's culture for this country. We need to continually pray and strengthen ourselves through prayer for whatever actions He requires of us.
With God on our side and He most definitely is,
In this section, I will attempt to address the role of the Catholic Church in the United States, looking in general and in various Catholic groupings listed in two columns to facilitate reading.
|Role Index (click on a topic to go directly to it.)|
"A Light Shining Out in Truth and Love"
We (the Catholic people in the United States) are the light of the world, and in particular of this country. We as individuals, as groups, and collectively, need to let our actions and words witness to the Truth and Love of God.
In Pope John Paul II's encyclical, "Redemptoris Missio", the Holy Father addresses the urgent need to evangelize the world. This is done not only through preaching and missionary efforts, but also by living lives of Christ; that is, letting our lives radiate Jesus to the world. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta would put it, we are called to be Christ in the world, serving the Christ in our fellow man.
in the document "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility" produced United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Social Development & World Peace, we are called to participate in the civil life strongly advocating Catholic teachings. We are called to strongly advocate for and protect the fundamental right of life for all humans beings, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death as well as adressing other moral issues in civil society. (I have addressed the issues in the Comments on Particular Issues section.)
We will suffer persecution for living Christ in action and in words and we need to persevere in our love regardless of the hardship that falls upon us. In serving God will also will find the inner joy that only he can give. We all need to live holy lives.
"Witnesses of Hope, Truth and Love"
The majority of the Church in number is the Laity and it is in the laity, through their witness in action and word that others see what the Church and its teachings is all about. By living wholesome faithful lives in obedience to the Church, a strong message of Hope, Truth, and Love is sent to all who see those lives.
In Pope John Paul II's apostolic Exhortation, "Christifideles Laici", the Holy Father describes elegantly the role of the laity in the world. The laity is the primary workers in Christ's vineyard united with Christ in their attempts to live holy lives.
There is a lot of untapped potential for the Church in the laity. To tap this potential needs solid moral leadership from the Pope (Thank you Pope John Paul II for your excellent leadership!), bishops, priests, and lay leaders inspiring them to the full Truth of Christianity. Where good moral leadership is lacking, many in the laity will not be movitated to contribute their efforts fully to Christ's work.
Individual lay members with talents suitable for government service should be encouraged to seek both civil service, military, and (honest and just) political careers.
Families should be centered on Christ with the Holy Family as the prime example of a healthy family. The family should be a source of love and strength for each family member, living solid holy Christian lives, particularly in the home which should be a place of spiritual renewal for each member of the family. Families should also support the financial needs of the church in the United States (and worldwide needs as well), particularly in its charitable and evangelical endeavors up to and including sacrificing some of their pleasures (wants) for the good of others. Healthy Christian families are the building blocks of a healthy society.
Lay Catholic organizations, including hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and charities, should fulfill their purposes in total obedience with the teachings of the Church. These organizations should work with the bishops to provide a more holistic approach to their organizations' missions considering all activities going on in that area so that the organization may be a productive as possible.
Personally individual laity, like all the faithful, should lead lives that serve as good Christian examples for all to see both publically and privately.
"Spiritual Fathers of the People"
In the Gospel of John (21:15-17), we hear Jesus instruct Peter to "feed My sheep". From Peter, our first Pope and all of his successors, this is delegated to the bishops and then to the priests throughout the world. What is this feeding of my sheep? Nothing less than providing the sacraments to the faithful, particularly the Eucharist, Penance & Reconciliation, and the Annointing of the Sick, strongly preaching the gospel, even when it is out of favor, influencing the faithful to be true to the gospel, and guiding their spiritual lives. This is the primary call of every priest and these are their primary duties. For interested bishops, I am willing to lead a day or two long retreat for priests on this subject, illuminating the gospel and challenging priests to truly meet the needs of their people.
The key words to remember are "Feed My Sheep". They are not "Administer My Sheep", "Keep People Happy", "Avoid Controversy", or "Govern My Sheep". Priests should focus on meeting the spiritual needs of the people entrusted to them by their bishops and superiors.
Individual priests have be granted individual talents by God, should be recognized as distinct individuals, and use these talents in service of Christ and the people. Not all priests are talented in the same way, so priests and bishops should try to discern their individual talents and to be assigned where they can best be of service.
Deacons, like Priests, are called to "feed My sheep", but in a more less sacramental role, under the direction of the bishops for the greater glory of God.
Personally individual priests and deacons, like all the faithful, should lead lives that serve as good Christian examples for all to see both publically and privately.
"Apostles of Truth for the 21st Century"
Jesus sent the apostles out to convert all nations. This nation is in dire need of whole scale conversion away from the practices of Hedonism, selfishness, and greed, and back to Faith, Hope, Love and Truth. The Bishops have this responsibility to work on this conversion of the United States.
The priesthood of the bishops calls them to serve ("Feed MY Sheep") the spiritual needs of a greater number of people, usually both Catholic and non-Catholic, in the areas they are assigned. The call to "Feed My Sheep" extends to reaching out to all those in their assigned area. This includes being a "Voice Crying out in the Wilderness" for Truth and Justice as well as disciplining Catholics who publically defy or advocate defying the teachings of the Church. They are responsible for insuring that through their priests and their individual efforts that the people (including their priests and themselves) are feed properly. They can choose where appropriate to use laity to meet some of the needs of feeding their sheep.
Bishops need to strongly lead their people (Catholic and non-Catholic) towards God, teaching and admonishing where necessary, always pointing towards Christ, regardless of the secular persecution he undergoes (Matthew 5:10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness, the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs."). Bishops should hold (and are answerable to God for holding) their priests up to high standards, including living upright moral lives, speaking out on the Truth, not being quiet when pressure is applied, etc. If a bishop is unable or unwilling to lead, he should resign and let someone who will lead, lead.
Bishops also need to carefully examine every seminary they use for priestly formation to ensure that it is faithful to the magisterium, provides solid holistic instruction, and is staffed by only good upright individuals living solid moral Christian lives.
Bishops also have a responsibility to call their brother bishops back to the truth when they stray or neglect their duties, deviate from the teachings of the magisterium, or fail to properly speak out. This should be done in the spirit of brotherhood.
Personally individual bishops, like all the faithful, should lead lives that serve as good Christian examples for all to see both publically and privately.
"Hands of Christ loving according to their Charism"
Each religious order has is own special charism and its members are called to live out that charism to its fullest in their service of Christ. Always in obedience to the Church and their vows, religious should be signs of Christ in a country and a world that no longer understands love.
Religious should also work to integrate their service into that of the diocese(s) in which they serve. Communications is important between the religious orders and the dioceses to better and more efficiently serve the people.
Lay orders, such as the Secular Franciscan Order, should live out their charism as laity being lights of faith, hope, love, and truth in the secular world, having a dual vocation as both laity (single or married) and religious.
Religious superiors should adapt where appropriate their orders to better fulfill their charism and should ensure that all religious under their care have sufficient opportunities for spiritual growth.
Personally individual religious, like all the faithful, should lead lives that serve as good Christian examples for all to see both publically and privately.
"Fulton Sheens for the 21st Century"
A few good charismatic leaders fully loyal to the magisterium should be designated as official spokesmen of the Catholic Church and be provided funding to advertize (including paid broadcasting) and explain church teachings using the national media. This includes speaking out against injustices and immorality that occur both within the church as well as within American Society in general. Individual diocesan bishops and bishops collectively (such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) can appoint designated spokesmen either for area under their jurisdiction. It may be advantageous in some areas to have spokesmen who speak the diverse langauges of the community.
Most non-Catholics do not understand what the Church teaches and many believe in false myths (such as Catholics worship Mary) about the Church. As one of their outreaches to the community as a whole, these spokesmen should attempt to increase the general understanding of what the Church teaches and what it does not.
Personally individual spokesmen, like all the faithful, should lead lives that serve as good Christian examples for all to see both publically and privately.
"The Conscience of America"
Just as the Vatican serves as the conscience of the World, including in the United Nations, so too should the Catholic Church in the United States serve as the conscience of the United States looking out for the interests and rights of every person.
For the United States as a whole, this duty falls to the the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They can delegate some of the performance of this duty to spokesmen.
I would recommend finding a charismatic magisterium-loyal priest/bishop-candidate and requesting that the Vatican appointing him as an auxiliary in the Washington DC diocese followed by assigning him this spokeman duty to the federal government as one of his primary duties. He would work heavily with Congress and the Executive Branch representing the views of the Church.
For smaller areas, such as states or metro areas in multiple dioceses, group of dioceses and the bishops represented in the area, should come together and develop a joint approach to being the conscience of the area and perhaps having a designated spokesman for the area as well.
Bishops have the responsibility collectively as dioceses under a common archdiocese, dioceses in the same region, and dioceses in the nation as a whole, to correct those bishops who deviate from the teachings of the church or fail to speak out representing the teachings of the church.
First and foremost, the church in the United States should follow the instructions and laws of the Universal Church.
These are organized alphabetically by topic in two columns.
|Topic Index (click on a topic to go directly to it.)|
Mass times and times for other sacraments among parishes in the same area should be set to allow a longer window of opportunity for use and individuals encouraged to use other parish's when the times are convenient. Often, you can find many parishes nearby to each with vary similar times for all services, and lacking most of the rest of the time. By considering the overall needs and adapting times, the area can better serve the people.
Dioceses should carefully examine time coverage among nearby parishes and make suggestions to offer wide range of opportunities for the people of the diocese to receive the sacraments.
In addition, after the last Sunday morning/early afternoon mass, offering and promoting the sacrament of reconciliation (particularly when the readings discuss reconciliation with God) should help bring some people back to the sacrament.
Diocesan Bishops should request and utilize Auxiliary Bishops to increase their ability to serve the people as apostles, to have time for their own personal spiritual growth and to have time to work with and advise their subordinate priests. Bishops, diocesan and auxiliary, should have time for spontaneous visits (on a regular basis) to people and places within their dioceses.
Auxiliary Bishops should partake in the full apostolic mission shared by all bishops, learn from example and interactions with the diocesan bishop on how to be a better bishop, and add authority to major endeavors within the diocese with their leadership.
From what I have seen of Diocesan Bishops' Schedules, a 25-50% increase in the number of Auxiliary Bishops would not be surprising to me, particularly in dioceses today without auxiliaries.
In this country where many people do not know their neighbors well, having residental communities founded on the Catholic way of life with some common facilities and caring families (living in private residences) would help provide good Catholic families with a environment suitable for raising holy children. The Church should encourage and assist these sort of community to come into being. This can be apartment complexes, subdivisions, etc. I would recommend that these be set as non-profit organizations providing a religious and civil service to the people who reside within.
Providing solid Catholic primary education remains important for the 21st century, given public schools that advocate anti-Christian teachings and do not hold themselves responsible to provide a quality education.
The Church should lead in trying improved methods of teaching, finding better ways to improve learning and foster interest in learning. This may include have older children teach or assist in teaching younger students, selecting class groups based on learning ability and skill, year-long education (possibly 8 sessions, with parents able to elect any one or even two where their children have off.), school days lasting for the entire business day (to help working parents), ventures with corporations where children do some work for the corporation for pay and learn as well, apprenticeships for older students, daily mass and prayer-centered education, and teachers paid based on teaching ability (not tenure and degrees).
There are many way that the costs can be reduced to provide Catholic primary education and include: (1) in many locations, school pairing among nearby parishes may make sense, where one parish hosts K-4 and the other hosts 5-8 for both parishes (other small nearby parishes may use these schools are well instead of having their own schools); (2) responsible students may be elect to perform light jobs, such as cafeteria aides, library assistants, janitorial assistants, tutors, office assistants, assistant groundkeepers, coaching assistants, day care assistants, etc., around the school in exchange for reduced tuition; and (3) field trialing new products (taste testing new foods for instance among children).
Every individual should have time to work on their own spiritual growth in a manner suitable for them. This is particularly important for the clergy who in serving others may lose out on opportunities available to most other Catholics. Bishops and superiors have a duty to the priests and religious in their care to insure that they have time and access to spiritual growth opportunities and that each individual, including the Bishop or Superior, is working on growing closer to God.
We need solid pastorial leadership by priests in each of our parishes. Parish Adminstration is a total different issue, that can be handled by either clergy or the laity. We need to focus on insuring good pastoring first, and then fill in the adminstration using the resources available in the parish. Many parishes have people that can help with the administrative needs of the parish.
Unfortunately at the end of the 20th Century, many Catholics in this country are more Catholic on Sunday then the other days of the week. The Catholic Church needs every Catholic to be an everyday Catholic, living the gospel everyday in all situations. We need to evangelize ourselves to be everyday Catholics using the many ways of evangelization available to us. We need to reach out to those Catholics, who put the faith on a back burner part of the week, and try to bring them back to the full Catholic life.
The Church in the United States at the beginning of the 21st Century is suffering a shortage of priests. It has been observed that areas in the country where the Church speaks out strongly against all injustices and false Catholicism, and for the Truth and the teachings of the Church, have significant increases in priestly vocations compared to areas where the Church is relatively silent on major moral issues. The good men the church needs are the sames ones who are attracted by a strong outspoken church 100% loyal to the magisterium. If we want significant priestly vocations, we must have strong righteous leadership loyal to the magisterium throughout the country.
When appointing lay people to positions serving and/or paid for by the church, only those who are 100% loyal to the magisterium should be considered. Appointing any one who dissents from church teachings, show some approval of their dissent and even the appearance of approval of any dissent should not be given.
The Church must be absolutely loyal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and all its teachings.
This includes using only magisterially approved texts for liturgy and completely following the magisterially approved liturgical guidelines.
We must all encourage all clergy to firmly resolve to be 100% loyal to the magisterium in all that they do and applaud organizations like Confraternity of Catholic Clergy for their commitment and vocal support to the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church.
It is my hope that one day this will be known and lived by all, clergy, religious, and laity, in the church and not necessary to be explicitly stated.
Everything we do should be done with prayer, always centering ourselves on God, and letting ourselves be His instruments.
We also should pray for all those endeavoring to bring about the desired cultures, that God assist and guide their efforts. We should pray for a strong (morally) outspoken clergy that will lead the people to the Truth always and correct individuals as necessary.
In a society where people live longer and longer and many reach retirement from active work, there is a untapped source of good spiritual men who can serve as priests. These men have a lifetime of experience to draw upon, and given any good spiritual background, can make excellent priests, assisting the bishops in feeding the sheep. Not the 80 hours a week many priests put in, but what they can handle in a way that they can handle it. They should continue to draw their pensions, savings, and Social Security to support themselves, but have an opportunity to share residences with other priests.
A formation program would need to be developed significantly shortening the formal educational requirements for these men, focused on what they need for their service. Not every priest needs a Masters in Theology. This would require Vatican approval and a good screening process (looking for a good healthy mature spirituality in the men).
Can a married retiree, become one of these priests? That is a good question open for debate. I would say "yes" provided that the couple has no children needing support, the man and wife live celebately as brother and sister, and they both vow obedience to their bishop.
Seminaries should be environment where candidates for the priesthood and the deaconate are guided by only moral upright individuals of outstanding character towards their clerical vocations. These individuals should include priests living holy lives who fully support and live the teachings of the magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church.
At the end of the 20th Century, the Church in the United States has lost some of it reverence for holy things and God. We need to through teaching the people and solid examples restore a sense of reverence towards the Eucharist, the altar, and the sanctuary. Individuals should always be aware of their presence and behave reverently towards them and courteously to others around them. We also need to pray reverently remembering that each individual prayer addresses God directly or indirectly.
Every Catholic, whether an everyday Catholic, a Sunday catholic, or a non-practicing Catholic should know and understand why the church teaches what it teaches on the major issues of the day. The ignorance present in the "Catholic" population about Church teachings at the end of the 20th century was way too high.
The Church needs to endeavor to reach out and correct the misinformation about Catholic teachings, particularly to those who claim to be Catholic. This is more than just sermons at mass, but should include an outreach effort using available media that will reach the intended audiences. Good spokesmen can be a significant difference in spreading the truth. The Church needs to speak out vehemently on all major issues regardless of how it will be taken politically.
Issues are listed alphabetically in two columns (to make reading easier). For every issue, what has been written and approved by the Church (magisterially) should be carefully searched out, understood, drawn upon, and followed.
|Issues Index (click on a topic to go directly to it.)|
I offer one principle about abortion.
I offer two principles about abuse.
I offer two principles about abuse within the church beyond that of abuse in general.
Anti-Catholic Bias is very much alive and present in America in the early 21st century. Lead by those who advocate immorality, they actively including some situations where bias is prohibited by United States law discriminate against Catholics who live their faith.
I offer four principles about anti-catholic bias.
I offer two principles about public defiance of Church Teachings by those who claim to be Catholic. This applies to both individuals and organizations, including universities.
I offer four principles about Civil Law and Morality. Individual issues may be addressed further under their own title.
By media, I am referring to television, radios, print (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.), cd's, movies, etc.
I offer four principles about Communications Media beyond those of technology.
I offer two principles about Contraception.
In America today, most corporations take a strict non-religion stance. That is, they will not acknowledge or deny the existance of God at all.
I offer one principle about Corporations & God.
The Courts within the United States are biased towards lawyers and their legal manuevering, rather than focused on justice and fairness.
I offer two principles about the Court System.
I offer one principle about the Death Penalty.
I offer one principle about discrimination against the poor.
I offer two principles about dishonesty.
I offer six principles about Education.
I offer one principle about the Environment.
I offer one principle about Euthanasia.
I offer two principles about Faith Based Government Initiatives
The family is the basic building block of the church and society. Healthy family life is important both to the church and the nation.
I offer four principles on Family Life.
I offer seven principles on Government Assistance Programs
Health Care at the end of the 20th Century in the United States was characterized by the (1) significant advances in medical options and treatments, (2) discrimination in who can receive care, (3) unfair pricing policies, (4) overwhelming admistrative bureaucracy, and (5) lack of medical record sharing among providers.
I offer eight principles about Health Care. In addition the principles about Technology apply to Medical Technology.
I offer two principles about homosexuality.
I offer four principles of what should not be done. Everything not specially excluded is included and encouraged.
I offer three principles on the issue of Marriage.
At the end of the 20th Century, the United States news media for the most part, presented a slanted view of the news, presenting opinions as fact, and misleading the general populace. The Catholic Church is often the victim of this bias for speaking up against the immorality supported by the major news media in an attempt to belittle the Church and its statements.
I offer three principles on Media Bias.
A large myth floating around is that the world is overpopulated and action must be taken to reduce population - this is false.
I offer two principles on Population Control.
I offer one principle about pro-life viewpoint and the Catholic viewpoint.
I offer four principles about public education in the United States beyond what I list under Education.
Rudeness in society and in homes has drastically increased during the twentieth century.
I offer one principle on Rudeness.
I offer one principle about scientific research on humans.
I offer one principle about sexual relations.
I offer seven principles about taxation.
We have seen in last part of the 20th Century, incredible advances in technology.
I offer five principles about Technology.
I offer one principle about terrorism.
I offer one principle about violence.
I offer three principles to remember about the womanhood.
I offer 2 principles on the issue of Work.
In this document, for Eastern Rite Roman Catholics, the term bishop is considered include Eparchs and the term diocese is considered to include Eparchies. Eparchies should work with their Roman diocese counterparts where they geographically overlap with a special focus on the ethnicality on which they are focused.
Prayer for the
Mary, Mother of Hope, accompany us on our journey! Teach us to proclaim the living God; help us to bear witness to Jesus, the one Saviour; make us kindly towards our neighbours, welcoming to the needy, concerned for justice, impassioned builders of a more just world; intercede for us as we carry out our work in history, certain that the Father's plan will be fulfilled.
Dawn of a new world, show yourself the Mother of hope and watch over us! Watch over the Church in the United States: may she be transparently open to the Gospel; may she be an authentic place of communion; may she carry out fully her mission of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of hope for the peace and joy of all.
Queen of Peace, Protect the men and women of the third millennium! Watch over all Christians: may they advance confidently on the path of unity, as a leaven of harmony for the nation. Watch over young people: the hope of the future, may they respond with generosity to the call of Jesus. Watch over the leaders of this nation: may they be committed to building a holy nation which respects the dignity and rights of every person.
Mary, give us Jesus! Grant that we may follow him and love him! He is the hope of the Church, of the United States and of all humanity! He lives with us, in our midst, in his Church! With you we say: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). May the hope of glory which he has poured into our hearts bear fruits of justice and peace!
by Pope John Paul II from his Apostolic Exhortion, Ecclesia in Europa (with slight modifications to apply to the United States instead of Europe)
O Mary of the Immaculate Conception,
EWTN is the Eternal Word Television Network with extensive document libraries online at their website, http://ewtn.com.
I would like to thank the Holy Spirit for all of His inspirations for this document.
I would like to thank the following people for their suggestions and contributions to this document:
This document is dedicated
© 2003-2004 by Thomas A. Stobie, SFO - permission to copy for personal or church use is granted.
End of Document
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Last modified on 6 Nov 2008.