BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops’ conference president is urging his fellow prelates to move beyond the clergy abuse scandals of the past, and look to build unity within the Church.
Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, affirmed this in his presidential address in Baltimore, where the conference’s annual fall general assembly began today.
He highlighted the necessary role of priests, who together with bishops exercise authority in Christ’s name over the people. Without priests, he pointed out, the people would be left only to the authority of the civil and secular government.
“Without ordained priests,” the cardinal continued, “counseling passes into the hands of the therapists,” many of whom carry out their work “without consideration of the action of God’s grace.”
He affirmed that “without ordained priests, the Church would be deprived of the Eucharist.”
Thus, the prelate affirmed, in this Year for Priests, we as bishops are called to reflect on our relationship with priests, and to “unite with them around Christ.”
As bishops, he continued, we “must look for ways to strengthen Church unity,” with “relations not of control, but of love.”
The prelate underlined the conference’s commitment to look for ways for all Catholics to remain in communion.
In particular, Cardinal George affirmed that the bishops are looking to strengthen relations with universities and the media.
It is important to have “pastoral concern for ecclesial unity,” he stated.
Some would keep us in the past, the prelate said, or imprisoned in the sexual abuse scandals in recent years. Yet, at this moment, the “clerical ranks have been purged, priests and bishops,” he pointed out, and great lengths have been taken to protect children.
Thus, we cannot allow these things of the past to destroy current relations within the Church, the cardinal said.
The conference president spoke on behalf of the other prelates, affirming that they “look forward to the dialogues” in which they plan to “clarify the conditions necessary for us to be truly Catholic.”
He emphasized the necessary role of the bishops, to stand for the truth and to clarify its application. In this country, the cardinal affirmed, we have tried to be leaven in the debate about health care, not by proposing specific means, but by being a moral voice.
We speak to the lawmakers, he said, stating that in any health care policy, everyone should be cared for and no one should be killed.
Cardinal George affirmed: “Questions that are moral before they become political, remain moral questions after they become political.”
Thus, in these days of the general assembly, which runs through Thursday, the conference president affirmed: “We gather to seek [God’s] will for ourselves, our priests and our people. With his authority, we govern.”