Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Fresh Air for Nebraska

...Not that we're ravaged by much smog of any kind, George Lucas looks like a good deal by all accounts.

Nebraska has three dioceses: Omaha, Grand Island, and Lincoln. Omaha I love, Grand Island I feel badly for every now and then, and Lincoln (to put this carefully) is like nowhere else.

Lincolnites have a distinctive pride in their diocese and its self-branded orthodoxy. Being a college student in Nebraska I've heard more than my fair share of propaganda from enthusiastic folks regarding their home diocese.

Quite often, whether it's from Omaha natives, out-of-state students, etc. I get a positive vibe (i.e. "Yay, Springfield-Cape Girardeau!") Lincolnites, likewise, have no shortage of praise for their local ordinary and his policies. This is fine...but it never stops here. Unfortunately, it seems like there's always a jab for the stinger (i.e. "I once went to a Mass in Omaha where the priest denied the Real Presence/necessity of Baptism/Papal authority, etc.)

Great! I guess I'm glad that all's well "south of the Platte..." because, really, we all know that's what really matters in the Church. We can only pray for those besieged heathens in liberal Omaha. But I digress...

My serious question is: why do Lincolnites feel it is necessary to degrade other bishops to praise their own? I can understand the temptation- the rhetoric of orthodoxy, the danger of rogue bishops making scandalous decisions, standing up for the Truth- truth as one perceives it. This is all quite valid but it is a hand too frequently played and a problem increasingly rare. It's like 8 year olds and sand castles: 'mine' isn't quite good until I've pointed out that yours is 'bad.' Seriously?

Perhaps its time to consider the flip side of the coin: We are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. In a time when the Church is beset by many external and institutional foes it seems most imperative to cut the infighting, to grow our sense of solidarity, to underscore the Universal. For every Mother Angelica who righteously castigates a Cardinal Mahoney on National TV there's also the sticky corresponding reality of the Pope who appointed him. That is to say, the reality of his Apostolic authority.

To me these criticisms are costly- read the footnotes, literal or proverbial, before calling a bishop a heretic and what else. Concede that there is room in our Church for many types of leaders- hard headed ones, bold ones, analytical ones, pensive ones, unconventional ones, dreaming ones, and gentle shepherds too. Because one's presentation of the issues is different than another is not cause for alarm but wonder- In what other Church is there room for so much diversity?

This week I celebrate Archbishop George Lucas. Maybe some Omaha priests have spoken out of line in the past- maybe my peers weren't merely telling tales. Even if these stories were true I can only trust the new Archbishop will do his job- and do it well. In fact, I must trust and do so with full hope. This preposterous and unconditional hope (even in the face of so many questions and challenges) has the paradoxical effect of keeping the Church "ever ancient, ever new." This is nothing less than the Catholic ethos. The Holy Spirit has spoken. Let us come together and rejoice!

It is marvelous to behold and we will sing accordingly: Sacerdos et Pontifex...pastor bone in populo!

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