Regarding the proposal of a plenary council of American bishops to address the root causes of the priest-ly sexual abuse scandal (“Eight Bishops Call for a Council on Scandal's Causes,” Aug. 18–24):
The intentions of the eight bishops are clearly praiseworthy, but I think such a council is very premature. At this point, a council could only be an organizational approach to the problems. The roots of the problems, however, are not organizational but a lack of supernatural faith and a way of life more of the world than of the Kingdom. Moreover, this lack of faith and worldly way of life has infected all the members of the American Church, whether clergy, religious or laity. We are impressed, rightly so, with the productivity of our economic and political institutions. We are gravely tempted to ape their methods.
Jesus used no such methods. His “method” today is still to call us to “repent and believe the Good News.” The Apostles founded the Church but they did not “organize” it. Rather, they proclaimed Jesus Christ, brought people out of paganism to him, nourished them with the sacraments and made of them a community in Christ. Yes, they held a council, but the problem which it addressed [whether gentile converts had to keep Jewish ceremonial law] had really already been solved by the Lord's call of St. Paul and by his astounding labors in the spirit. The apostolic council of Jerusalem came at the right time, to codify what had already been worked out. The early Church worked out their problems and carried on their “programs” by living the life of Christ. The “handing on” of the faith is accomplished by living it as an encounter with Christ, not by “blueprints and programs.” We are over-burdened by programs. We have all the teaching documents we need at this point.
The solution is saints. And we need to look to the saints for solutions. One of these in the modern world is surely Pope John Paul II. He has already given us the agenda for The Church in America, a lamentably neglected document. This post-synodal apostolic exhortation is subTITLEd On the Encounter with the Living Lord Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America. Short of a plenary council, some sort of assembly might be helpful, but one of people who are working to implement the Holy Father's interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.
We face a situation in modern secular culture that is even more daunting than the Church faced in the ancient Hellenic Roman world. What is needed above all are a few bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders to show the rest of us how to encounter the living Lord Jesus Christ, to live that life in the Church and to sort out the good in the modern world, just as the Church sorted it out in the ancient world, that we, in solidarity with all Americans, might save our nation from the culture of death.
FATHER JOHN D. DREHER Pawtucket, Rhode Island