The following is an excerpt from the keynote address given by Bishop of San Diego Robert McElroy to the United States Association of Priests on June 26, 2018, in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
We are living in a wonderful moment in the life of the Church.
The authentic renewal of the Second Vatican Council remains the foundation and the challenge for those who seek to deepen the theology of the Church and bring it into the life of the world.
In his teachings, Pope Francis points to a robust understanding of pastoral theology. It demands that moral theology proceed from the actual pastoral action of Jesus Christ, which does not first demand a change of life, but begins with an embrace of divine love, proceeds to the action of healing and only then requires a conversion of action in responsible conscience.
The pastoral theology of Pope Francis requires that the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church be formed in compassionate embrace with the often overwhelming life challenges that prevent men and women at periods of their life from conforming adequately with important Gospel challenges. And the pastoral theology of Pope Francis rejects a notion of law that can be blind to the uniqueness of concrete human situations, human suffering and human limitation.
There are three fundamental foundations for this pastoral theology.
The first foundation is the assertion that not only the activity, but the very nature of the Church involves at its heart pastoral action to heal the hearts of men and women who are suffering. The Church must always be enmeshed in the real lives and sufferings and challenges and joys of the people of God and the whole of humanity.
The second foundation for the pastoral theology that Pope Francis is pointing to lies in the recognition that the Church should mirror the pastoral action of the Lord himself. It is the pattern of Jesus Christ who walked the earth which we are to incorporate into every element of ecclesial life. When the Lord encountered Zacchaeus in the tree, he was encountering a man despised for his theft and victimization of others. But Christ’s piercing compassionate embrace, conveyed in the call to eat at the house of this sinner, was sufficient to transform this hardened sinner.
A second pastoral imperative of the pastoral theology of Pope Francis urges us to model our pastoral action on the three steps that formed Jesus’ encounter with those who were suffering or estranged in the Gospel. First, the Lord embraces the person, then he heals them. Then he calls them to reform. Each of these elements of the saving encounter with the Lord is essential. But their order is also essential.
As a consequence, the pastoral Church must be a non-judgmental Church. There is no sin which Jesus mentions more frequently in the Gospels than the sin of judgmentalism. For it is a sin so easy for all of us in our humanity to fall into. We must banish judgmentalism from the life of the Church, and replace it with the constantly affirming love of Jesus Christ. And in doing so, we will become the truly inclusive community that the Church, both by its charter and its intrinsic mission, was always called to be.
The final foundation for the pastoral theology that Pope Francis is delineating for the life of the Church is the assertion that the Church’s pastoral identity and action must be rooted in the life situations that men and women actually experience in the world today. It is impossible to build up a pastoral Church without explicitly investigating the signs of the times and then integrating the results of that investigation into the very core of the Church’s mission today. Thus it is essential that pastoral theology be explicitly and thoroughly inductive in its method.
It is this commitment to inductive method informed by faith and theological reflection that was at the heart of “Amoris Laetitia” and “Laudato Si.” The lived reality of men and women and children and families was the starting point for the Church’s reflection on marriage and family life, not merely the application point for pre-made theological reflections.
Similarly, the degradation of the planet that undermines so many elements of human dignity and the future of the Earth itself, was the starting point for a Catholic theology of the environment, not merely an insertion point for the rich Catholic tradition on creation.
It is frequently said by those who have opposed elements of the pastoral mission of Pope Francis that doctrine cannot be superseded by the pastoral. It is equally important to recognize that the pastoral cannot be eclipsed by doctrine. For the pastoral ministry of Jesus Christ stands at the heart of any balanced understanding of the Church that we are called to be. And pastoral authenticity is as important as philosophical authenticity or authenticity in law in contouring the life of the Church to the charter that our Lord himself has given to us.
Full address at Diocese of San Diego website.
LifeSiteNews: Association of United States Catholic Priests Conference is run by dissident priest organization:
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico – The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is currently hosting a conference run by a dissident priest organization with the full support of Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester.
The AUSCP is part of an “international coalition of heretical ‘church reform’ organizations called the International Church Reform Network,” reports Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute, who is at the event. Hichborn says that Wester is “playing host for heretics.”
“Despite this, we are still astounded to see the brazen support the AUSCP is giving to members of this coalition,” he continued. “Organizations such as FutureChurch, DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry are currently exhibiting and freely fostering their false ideologies at the AUSCP exhibition hall.”
“Even more disturbing is Archbishop Wester’s explicit support of this conference in his own Archdiocese,” added Hichborn. “Everything presented here is happening under his watch and with his approval.”
Full story at LifeSiteNews.