Get this: Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., “answered questions”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2006/12/18/DI2006121800546.html?referrer=email from readers today on the website of The Washington Post.
Wuerl (right) moved to D.C. six months ago after serving as bishop of Pittsburgh, where he developed a reputation as a “teaching bishop.” He took about 20 questions — mostly thoughtful and quite respectful — and answered them clearly and with a touch of humor.
It’s a gutsy move for an archbishop, if you ask me. The questions came from ordinary Catholics, but it was in a Post forum. Many Catholic bishops aren’t anxious to cooperate with secular newspapers, which (everyone knows) are often perceived as liberal.
Who wouldn’t love to see Cardinal Edward Egan do the same thing? But it’s hard to imagine. The Archbishop of New York stays clear of the mainstream media. Off the top of my head, I can only remember him answering questions from the press four or five times since 2000.
I don’t know if Cardinal Egan would take questions from the public in some kind of on-line forum. I would guess not. But who knows?
Here are a few highlights from Wuerl’s “web conference:”
Suitland, Md.: Pope John Paul II transformed the position of pope more broadly into one of a cult of personality — his tone, his gentleness, his appearance appealed to so man more people; before him most popes were the spiritual leaders of the most pious and traditional.
My wife is a liberal Catholic. She loved Pope John Paul II, but is very wary of the new Pope. I have heard this from many other Catholics.
Why do you think this is? I keep hearing about how unapproachable the new Pope “seems.”
Donald Wuerl: My experience, limited as it is, with Pope Benedict XVI is that he is a warm, kind and sincere person. I think he shows all the signs of holiness. The task of being pope places him in the public eye all of the time. He teaches. He preaches. All of this he does with precision and I think pastoral sensitivity. Just watching him at St. Peter’s Basilica leads me to appreciate all the more his priestly and pastoral style. There will always be contrasts in personal pastoral ministry. That happens in every parish every time you make a change, but at the heart of our teaching and pastoral ministry is the same message and the same sacraments. Pope Benedict XVI strikes me as a living example of the continuity of the Church in papal ministry.
Fairfax, Va.: The Catholic church says that it is a serious sin not to go to Mass every Sunday. And those in serious sin should not receive Holy Communion.
Only about 40 percent of Catholics go to Mass weekly…far fewer on holy days of obligation. The number of people who go to Confession has been dropping for years.
Yet, little of nothing is said. Church is packed at Christmas and Easter. Holy Communion is freely handed out to almost everyone who attends Mass.
Donald Wuerl: The reason the Church calls us to Mass every Sunday is because we are a part of God’s family, the Church. We are supposed to come together not just as individuals, but as a faith community to celebrate and rejoice in the mystery of our salvation. We believe that when we participate in the Mass we are actually sharing in the death and the resurrection of Christ in a sacramental way. This is so important for our spiritual life, for our relationship with God and for our salvation that the Church tells us we should come together once a week on Sunday to do this. Part of our task today in teaching and in explaining the importance of our faith is to bring people to a fuller understanding of the importance of the Eucharist and the importance of approaching the Eucharist in a worthy manner. This brings us to confession. One of the pastoral projects of the Archdiocese is to highlight for all of the faithful throughout the District and the five Maryland counties that are part of the Archdiocese, the great gift of forgiveness that is Christ’s gift to his Church in the sacrament of penance, often called confession. What we will be doing at the beginning of the new year, is visiting parishes to celebrate the sacrament of penance (confession) together with the priests of the area so that we can underline the significance of this sacrament. We hope also during Lent to have an Archdiocesan-wide effort to recall for everyone the importance of the sacrament and to ensure its availability.
Potomac, Md.: Where do your true loyalties lie — Steelers or Redskins?
Donald Wuerl: Fortunately, the teams are in different conferences and both apparently need prayers.