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March 17, 1989     The Message
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March 17, 1989

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4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana March 17, 1989 III Evangelization Bishops, Vatk:an officials seek best approach to U.S. evangelization By JOHN THAVIS NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- In one of the most wide-ranging and open discussions ever held at the Vatican, U.S. bishops and Vatican officials spent four days trying to find the best approach to evangelization in a highly secularized U.S. society. The March 8-11 meeting, presided over almost continual- ly by Pope John Paul II, covered such practical issues as annul- ment procedures, penance rites and family planning programs. But the discussion generally gravitated around topics such as tension between the Chris- t/an faith and Americans' idea of freedom. On that point, the need for bishops to promote and protect church teachings was repeatedly stressed. The meeting was first sug- gested by U.S. bishops several years ago. At their insistence, full texts of all the talks were published, and briefings and other reports described the discussions in detail. In the end, although "no specific decisions were made, no plans were laid and no struc- tures set up," the bishops felt confirmed in their ministry, said Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, vice president of the National Con- " ference of Catholic Bishops. "The talks were character- ized by candor, conviction and kindness. It was not the bad schoolboys coming home to be disciplined by their fathers," Archbishop Pilarczyk said at a Vatican press conference March 11. Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston said the meeting represented a "very signifi- cant" moment in the life of the U.S. church and he hoped it would lead to better acceptance of church teachings by U.S. Catholics. The pope, summing up the meeting in a talk to the 35 bishops and 25 curial par- ticipants March 11, said that "difficulties will not be lack- ing" in bringing Christianity to "every sphere" of American life. "What is important is that challenges or even opposition to the saving truth which the church professes be met within the context of faith," the pope said. Bishops need to be "faithful in handing on what we ourselves have received," the pope said -- in their dealings with priests and Religious, in catechesis, in encouraging laity to take a proper role in the church's life and in "upholding the values of life and love in marriage and family life." The pope's remarks touched on a theme that ran through much of the meeting, which began with a discussion on the teaching role of bishops and concluded with suggestions about the best way of reaching the unchurched in the United States. In between, there were assessments of U.S. liturgical and sacramental life, the ecumenical movement, lay Catholic involvement, and pastoral programs to help families. Some concern was ex- pressed about religious and priestly vocations, seminary programs and the state of Catholic education in the coun- try. The keynote topic -- the bishop as teacher of the faith -- was taken up in talks March 8 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief doctrinal monitor, and Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York. Both suggested that some bishops might have abdicated their teaching role to theologians and professional educators. The resulting "confusion of voices," Cardinal Ratzinger said, often "drowns out" that of the bishop. Bishops have largely submitted to seeing their role reduced to one of spiritual administrator, he said. Cardinal O'Connor, while defending U.S. bishops as "ar- ticulate and courageous defenders of the faith," agreed that some seem to have been "browbeaten" by theologians and other educators. In the con- fusion, he said, Catholics came to believe they could "shop around" for viewpoints on such basic issues as birth control. A bishop "must have the wisdom to distinguish between the essentials of the faith, which may demand definitive intervention on his part, and those matters which may be legitimately argued," said Car- dinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago, in a summary state- ment issued at the end of the meeting. Some bishops also urged clarification of the role of the theologian, a subject of current study by the U.S. bishops' con- ference, said Cardinal Bernar- din, who was a moderator of the meeting. While Cardinal O'Connor made a strong call for a "countercultural" church in the United States, other bishops noted that U.S. ideals of freedom, plurality and com- promise can also make the church stronger. Archbishop John R. Roach of St, Paul-Minneapolis said U.S. bishops explained that they compromise tactically on some matters when a full victory can- not be won -- such as in sup- porting legislation to modify abortion laws. Afterward, Cardinal Ratz- inger said that while he better understood how U.S. bishops view the issue, compromise should not be used "when truth is at stake just to maintain peace." In remarks at the closin press conference, Cardinal An- tonio Innocenti, head of the congregation for Clergy, said Americans' "impassioned search for liberty" cau'ses prob- lems when church authority is questioned, but "also offers the great advantage of great freedom for the church, to be able to proclaim the Gospel message with all its conse- quences." Cardinal Bernardin, summ- ing up the meeting, said that "we cannot speak of a single American culture. There are multiple layers, some deeply secularized, some of a religious nature." Participants repeatedly enumerated cultural pressures on the church's efforts, in- cluding secularism, con- sumerism, radical feminism, exaggerated individualism and a "divorce mentality." Computer troubles Jo Ann Scheessele, seventh grader at St. Bernard School, Rockport, waits patiently for her teacher to help her finish a letter she is writing to a Jasper student. According to principal Teresa Schroeder, everyone at the school has written letters to students at Precious Blood School, Jasper, in anticipation of the Catholic school celebration "Celebrating the Tradition," scheduled for April 27 at Roberts Stadium, Evansville. All the schools in the diocese have "sister schools" to exchange gifts and good wishes with before the celebration, according to Schroeder. She said the purpose is to get the students excited about the event and "remind them there are other Catholic schools in the area." -- Message Photo by Mary T. Ellert James Jett & Associates, Inc. life o health o home * IRA retirement planning 473--4005 514 S. Green River Rd. Evansville IN 47715 Funeral Homes_ .... 00oor - Convenient Locations CENTRAL CHAPEL 626 FIRST AVE. [" BLOCK - CRUSH - CUBE Medical Arts Pharmacy 3700 Bellemeade Avenue Phone 477-1532 Donald Gutzweiler City-Wide Delivery Duncan's Riverside Pharmacy Prescflptlon Service Drugs-Sundries-Cosmetics Magazines "We Deliver" Corner Riverside and Governor Evansville 422o9981 Newburgh Pharmacy BILL REINE, Pharmacist Complete Prescription Service and Health Supplies . .... ::i: ......... ' :" "# ...... "::::..": 't ' '.:., Z. , : PAUL'S Pharmacy Paul Mayer, Owner 2170 W. 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