Thursday, April 28, 2005

There has been some discussion around St. Blog's about the removal of 3 nuns from campus ministry in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. What it all boils down to is the desire to reach out to college age Catholics and make campus ministry part of the New Evangelization and the "dynamic orthodoxy" idea. This is a good thing, but it raises some important questions.

First, many have asked whether it is beyond the ability of younger people - peer ministers - to handle the tricky challenges of campus ministry. This is a good question and hopefully the program will be handled well. I believe a campus minister should be introducing students to orthodoxy, not working primarily as guidance counselors or "values clarification facilitators". Campus ministers should work for the Church and serve Catholic students first and foremost. They are not there to be psychologists but to assist students in developing a love for the Church and her teachings. Peer ministers can do this, but some guidance from more experienced people is needed and this program has that.

Second, I am all for the introduction of dynamic orthodoxy and am glad to see a new crop of JPII priests, nuns, and laypeople taking their place in the Church. I am doubly glad to see this new crop edge out the tired, old dissenters that have been running things for a few decades. However, how do we as a Church go about this and still remain a loving community of Christians? I would have no problem with kicking Fr. Richard McBrien to the curb - literally. But in cases such as these nuns, who despite my opinion about their work, are genuinely hurt that their work is "not appreciated" in the Church, how can we do what we must do without causing pain? How do we show people we must take a new direction without upsetting some people? I am convinced the priest in charge of campus ministry, Fr. Brian Barr is doing the right thing, especially after reading the quote about the one nun "keeping an open mind when speaking to students about abortion, etc..". And yet, the story will be written up time and again as "Diocese boots 3 elderly, sweet ladies in the butt". This brings up the whole question about how to run a Church as a professional entity while still remaining a loving family of believers. I do hold the Church to a higher standard when it comes to employee relations, benefits, and work environment, after all, we must practice what we preach. But how do you accomplish the critical work of evangelization in a Diocese that for 30 years has been a wasteland of heterodoxy? Can we Catholics really just have an attitude of "you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette" or do we have an obligation to find a better way? In this particular instance, I am completely happy with what has been done, and think the critics are way off base, but it does raise issues I think are important for our Church. Even as we see the "reform of the reform" and the leaderships change after many years, we must figure out how to recapture the idea of Church as community of people who truly love one another. This is not a "conservative" or "liberal" thing but one that all Catholics should be working on together.

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