One Holy Catholic Church: Family or Foes

Someone for whom I have great respect, although I differ with him on a number of issues, wrote a post on Facebook yesterday morning triumphantly sharing the news of the appointment of the new Archbishop of San Francisco. He gleefully described the new archbishop as “the toughest hombre in the American episcopate” cheering that there “is a new sheriff comin’ to town.” Several other bloggers and commentators sounded similar themes. One described the appointment as an “ecclesiastical earthquake.”

I’ve lamented with some frequency the tone with which we speak to and about those who differ with us, criticizing those on the “left” as well as those on the “right,” “liberal” Catholics as well as “conservative.”

I realize that there are vast differences among members of this large tent that is the Catholic Church. And I appreciate that we get frustrated, and, at time, even angry at each other. And, when we do, we are injudicious in our speech.

But my primary reaction when I read these sorts of comments in reaction to the appointment of the new archbishop was sadness. The comments sound like they are directed at foes not at other members of the Church. People to be taken out or driven down, not people to be worked with. (This is not a one-sided lament. I have both in writing and orally spoken out to people across the spectrum when their comments convey disrespect and lack of love for those with whom the disagree.)

I can only pray that the new archbishop doesn’t come riding into town brandishing his sheriff’s badge and a six-shooter with the idea of taking out the opposition. That he remembers that the “progressive Catholics” (a term used as though it were a dirty word by one of the commentators I read) are part of his family, not his foe.