National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Posted Friday, October 31, 2003

Tom Roberts, NCR editor, addressed a gathering of the Voice of the Faithful at Fordham University on Oct. 25. A report of that event will appear in the Nov. 14 issue of NCR. Following is the complete text of Robert’s address.

Fordham University, New York

Oct. 25, 03

The Future of the Church

Simply put, I don’t know the future of the church any more than you do. If I did, putting NCR to bed every week would be a much easier task.

But when the brochure arrived on my desk some weeks ago with the title of the talk already in cold black and white, I knew it was a done deal. So I took it as a sign that I should use it to illustrate what I think could be a valuable lesson for American Catholics dealing with a Roman reality -- and that is to do as the Romans do: Sometimes you simply have to ignore what comes from on high.

I will.

I’ll take my cue instead from a conversation I had with David Pais, one of the conference organizers, who, in answer to my question, “What do you want from me?” said, “What’s the Pentecost moment in all of this? How do we find out where we’re going?”

That territory was a little more navigable, I thought: Pentecost, uncertainty lashed to faith, a kind of wild moment of becoming. In my imagination, it means we have to move, to act, but we’re not certain exactly how. It means diligence as well as patience, boldness as well as fidelity. All of which, I think, will be required of us in the days ahead.

What would I have called the talk? How about “Toward a credible church of fully functioning adults.”

Just one other point of disclosure seems in order: I am here as a journalist. I am not a theologian, church historian, or church professional of any sort. What I bring is what I have seen and heard in reporting on this church, in some fashion or other, for more than 25 years.

In addition, I bring, I hope, a reasonable interpretation of some of those events, as well as a few ideas that might be helpful in determining some future directions.

It is, indeed, humbling -- and challenging -- to be asked to speak in this place, to such an audience as you, deeply concerned Catholics, on such matters as the church today. It is not tipping the scales too much, I believe, to say this is a moment of true crisis for this institution and for the family that calls itself Catholic.

No individual, no single day can encompass all of the dimensions of the crisis. So I’ve decided to narrow the focus considerably and to concentrate on two themes, which may appear to be competing themes, but which I think are essential points if we are to have a future as a credible church of fully functioning, adult believers.

The first idea centers on the need to actually discover our voice. Don’t presume you have a voice in the church, even if you are deeply involved in working in the institution. It is a new experience, since the impulses of reform were gathered and given expression at the Second Vatican Council, that lay people should even seek to have a voice in church affairs. That has not been the norm for most of the centuries of church history beyond the first few.

The popular expression, “Pay, pray, obey,” is a flippant description of deeper realities. Scott Appleby, the Notre Dame historian, has taken to urging Catholics, in this era of scandal, to “Stay, pray and inveigh.”

In many ways things certainly have changed during the past four decades. Lay people are everywhere that they weren’t before. But the question we have to ask today is, “Have we really found a new voice, or are we tolerated more out of desperation and need than because of a belief that we truly, as the council documents say, “share diligently in the salvific work of the Church”?

And if we really seek that voice, if the motto is “Keep the faith, change the church,” then to whom do we speak and about what change?

“Our voices must be heard!” How many times have you said or heard that in conversation with other Catholics? How many times has that same sentiment been voiced at these kinds of gatherings, in small groups, large groups, even from pulpits on Sunday in the wake of the latest scandal explosion? And isn’t it always followed by blank stares? How, where, in what way do lay voices get heard?

The second theme has to do with listening and understanding. This church of ours is a messy one, particularly when it is at its best fully human, the “here comes everyone” of Joyce’s imagination. We believe, as Thomas Groome wrote in What Makes Us Catholic, that “God’s Spirit reveals through the normal channels by which human beings come to know anything - through activity and experience, through curiosity and discovery, through reflection, conversation and community. This is precisely the mode of ‘knowing’ reflected in the Bible.” In other words, we don’t have messages etched by the divine in our desk tops. Rarely do we do things the easy way, but I wonder if there has ever been a more rancorous and divisive period in American Catholicism than the past 40 years.

In the quarter century that I have been involved in covering the church, I have been to meetings of social justice Catholics, peace Catholics, liturgical renewal Catholics, Catholics who see small communities as the last hope for the church, Charismatic Catholics, Cursillo Catholics, Right-to-Life Catholics, traditionalist Latin-Mass Catholics, Catholics who I am convinced believe that church history ended with Vatican II, others who believe that Vatican II was a failure because it has not resulted in a pure democracy and a woman pope, yet others who believe that Vatican II tolled the death knell for anything worth calling Catholic, and one weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, a gathering of more than 10,000 Catholics convinced that the Virgin Mary had become a very busy person with all of the apparitions she was engaged in around the globe.

We are a rather unwieldy lot increasingly split into interest groups that are shoring up their boundaries and shielding themselves, sometimes encouraged by the hierarchy to do so, against any disturbing influences from the outside.

We’ve become a church of often angry and unsettled interest groups groping about for the larger, unifying theme and trying to work our way around bishops and orders from Rome.

It has to be said, too, that opposition to hierarchy comes not just from liberal quarters. I recall one year leaving the hotel where the bishops had held their annual meeting in Washington and going across town to another hotel where very conservative Catholics were having a political strategy meeting. The bishops had just issued a document critical of the Clinton welfare reform plans and other anti-poor measures. The conservatives were extremely upset and though they boasted two cardinals on their board (both of whom had voted for the measure) the ballroom was absolutely purple with bishop bashing.

I also remember the reporter I had assigned to cover a reform group for several days followed by covering a conservative gathering. NCR was received warmly, of course, by reformers and by curious stares at the conservative gathering, save for one priest, one of the luminaries of the right who interrupted his busy schedule for a lengthy interview away from the main crowd. Even before the interview got started, the reporter chuckled when she returned home, the priest told her he believed wholeheartedly in what the conservative group was doing but had to admit he found liberals more interesting to talk to. The point is, we can’t go looking for straight lines. But perhaps we can inject some civility and even a little humor into the debates and perhaps some of the debates can actually turn into discussions.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago recently wrote a column on the lack of civility in both civic and church affairs. I couldn’t agree more. Scream television is being touted as informative and newsy; much of our communication in church circles is combative and argumentative. We espouse great tolerance for other traditions, other cultures, other faiths. But we have little tolerance for each other.

In many ways, it’s typical family stuff: Often the most difficult people to be civil with are those closest to us. It’s easy to forgive the stranger, far more difficult to give the benefit of the doubt to the sibling who has always gotten under our skin.

One of the challenges we face, I believe, is holding these two ideas simultaneously: more persistently pushing to establish the voice of concerned laity while at the same time working to listen and understand across the divides of our interests and ideas of church. Not an easy undertaking.


No other word quite describes as well our condition. We are here ostensibly because of what we popularly refer to as the sex abuse crisis. As someone who has written more stories and editorials about that crisis than I care to count, who still continues to plead editorially for accountability, I wish with all my heart that the sex abuse crisis were over. I am so tired of this story which I have reported on, edited and assigned reporters to for about 15 years, that I really wanted to say tonight that it is over. That all we’re hearing about are cases we’ve already heard about. That the church had reformed its behavior. But it’s not over. Truth is, we don’t know the full dimensions of the crisis and the information that we and others have been seeking - the simple numbers, of victims, of priests credibly accused, the amount of money spent on legal costs and settlements, has yet to be compiled on a national basis.

We will continue to face the legal and financial fallout from the crisis far into the future.

At the same time, I believe that long ago Catholics learned to forgive the sins of their clergy, whether the indiscretion be alcohol, drugs or sexual abuse. We Catholics understand individual sin, we are mostly merciful toward our priests and we realize the increasing pressures they are under as their numbers shrink.

What would compound the tragedy of the sex abuse crisis is if U.S. Catholics become convinced that the bishops’ actions to date had satisfactorily dealt with the scandal and that we can now put it behind us.

No, I really believe we are here because of a crisis in authority and leadership. The sexual abuse crisis had been around and known for 17 years before the recent blowup in Boston. What happened in Boston was of a different order. Certainly, the new revelations of depravity and abuse of power and privilege, the horrible abuse of our children, awoke us again to the reality that our spiritual leaders had failed miserably. But what really shook Catholics to the foundation was the evidence contained in all of the documents that showed a persistent and deliberate coverup of the deeds, an almost inconceivable and criminal disregard for the victims. The documents, thousands of them, contained the unedited, unscrubbed and un-spun words of some of the most powerful in the U.S. church. They revealed for all to see what many of us knew in our guts from inference and insider tales, from those who knew somebody who knew the boss, by instincts of ordinary Catholics who uneasily sensed the decay harbored amid clerical secrecy and the closed clerical culture. The documents showed the most powerful regularly overlooked the violation of the most innocent and then further violated our trust and raided our treasury to conceal the evil. We’re here because we were made to face the fact that the sex abuse scandal was the visible symptom of a deeper and more destructive corruption. And it is that corruption that our bishops haven’t begun to face.


“The laity needs to understand what a strategic role they are in,” said Fr. Bryan Hehir, whose resume places him at some of the most important touch points of U.S. church development in the past 20 years. He was speaking some hours north of here recently at Boston College, where he was a participant in that school’s Church in the 21st Century project, a project that originated in the fallout from the scandal.

“One hundred years ago tonight, this kind of discussion would have been inconceivable in American Catholicism - literally inconceivable, in this kind of room, at this university, on this kind of topic.”

The same, of course, could be said for today.

I am not much for public introspection, it always makes me a bit nervous, but take just a moment to think. Why are we here? What is it that calls us, convinces us, to gather on a Saturday in the Bronx?

I would guess that a large part of the call is that of a family in deep crisis. It is a family whose roots are sunk well into the fabric of our everyday life, even if the patterns of that family, the gatherings, the celebrations, those events that mark life’s big moments, have changed and become somewhat strained in recent months.

We are here because we’re in trouble. We see the life and vitality slipping out of the church.

This is a difficult time. In the period of just forty years:

  • Some people in the church have been hurt, confused and alienated because many felt steamrolled by changes of Vatican II that they had not asked for. The church that they felt had existed unchanged from the beginning was being changed radically.
  • Having been convinced of the changes, many now feel alienated or frustrated or angry because a new group of bishops and a new group of priests, reformers of the reform, are telling them we have to turn back, that the changes were a mistake or that they really didn’t mean what we thought they meant.
  • Finally, on top of all that, we have this scandal and the crises it reveals.

Do you understand how important your stubborn faith is to the church? Your bishops ought to be throwing parties for you and thanking you for staying, not refusing to talk to you.

Arthur Jones recently wrote in a column to appear on the NCR website that he has been gathering anecdotes from “formerly steadfast Catholics of the generation now age roughly 58 and over” who “are bowing out of their former Prometheus-bound relationship to the institution.”

“Mature Catholics whose daily and weekly adherences have been the stepping stones of their lives, are now down to Sunday mass once or twice a month, and dropping perhaps a $5 bill in the basket instead of the once significant weekly check. Their money is still going to good works, but the parish and diocese - the institution - is no longer the vehicle.

“As I say,” he wrote, “this is anecdotal. It’s just that I hear it sufficiently often to suggest it is a growing feature.”

He continues by quoting a portion of a letter from Peter Foley, a professor in the University of Arizona’s humanities and religious studies program, who, “in a purported letter to the Holy Father, which he may or may not have sent, treats us to this insight:

‘My parish priest….loves the Latin Mass and all the different altar cloths. The church looks great now and isn’t cluttered up with all the riff-raff any more either. You really can see the lovely altar all the way from the back, even on Sunday now, because there is nobody in your way.’”

I was told recently by a long-time friend, a wonderful writer with a PhD in theology who raised five kids, and sent most of them to Catholic high schools and colleges, that she hasn’t been inside a Catholic church for months. “You’ve walked?” I asked. “I guess you could say that,” she said. The way she explained it is that the scandal and the fallout, what she heard - and didn’t hear - from bishops, what the Vatican was doing to theologians, gays, women, all of it had just worn her down. “It has nothing to do with Jesus, nothing to do with the gospels,” she said.

Later, I got an e-mail from her with a slight revision:

“I don't think it's exactly accurate to say I've ‘walked,’ as you put it yesterday. I think it's more that I'm standing and watching outside the door, at a safe distance ... i.e. not on the threshold ... watching events with a skeptical eye. If, however, significant changes were made, or a refreshing new direction signaled ... I might venture back in. I've removed myself, but I haven't gone anywhere else so far. If I could find another place that appealed, I might. But so far, no.”

I’m not prepared to predict any significant drop in numbers because of the sex abuse scandal - though I wouldn’t be surprised - because I don’t have any real data in hand, just anecdotes, stories of the weary, the exhausted, the disenchanted. But the anecdotal evidence is becoming significant that we are bleeding intelligent, holy people.

The fact is that in many segments of American Catholicism, particularly among those who, like you, have given the most in terms of time, talent and treasure, morale is in the basement. Our priests are worn out and fearful. I realize that this analysis characterizes largely the Northeast and large sections of the Midwest and does not take into consideration details on black Catholics, or the growing number of recent arrivals in the Hispanic and Asian church populations.

However, this growing corpus of stories - tales that we all have heard or told ourselves - is the informal record of uncertainty of the early 21st century Catholic in the United States.

Still, we are being exhorted, now more than ever, to take our rightful place in the church, to make our voices heard, to engage in dialogue.

In a letter just before he died, Fr. Phil Murnion, honored here earlier today, urged the bishops to “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue” with their priests and lay people. It would exact a price, he knew, but he also was convinced the dialogue was worth the cost.

In Boston, Fr. Hehir said “we’re at a new moment in history … The laity are in a strategic leverage position.”

He said he wasn’t calling for a revolution. “That doesn’t work in the Catholic Church,” he said.

He went on, contending that “there is a range of definable, discussible issues for adults. The laity needs to say, at every level, ‘We simply won’t accept anything less than adult conversation.’” Now that ought to become the mantra of whatever movement this is: “We simply won’t accept anything less than adult conversation.”

He added an ending thought - that the call for adult conversation “is not rebellion or an attempt to defy the church.”

There I have to differ. With all due deference to Fr. Hehir, whom I consider not only one of the finest minds in the church today but also one of its outstanding representatives for years in the wider culture, I think he is, in the context of today’s church, calling for nothing less than a revolution.


Having said I know nothing about the future of the church, let me tell you what I know about the future of the church (I’m a journalist. It would be a betrayal of the craft if, invited to say something about anything, I decided to remain silent.) What I know about the future has nothing to do with the contest of ideas or theological insights into the nature of church. It has everything to do with one undeniable, measurable reality: the numbers.

I was meeting several months ago with a priest theologian from the Midwest who, in answer to one of my questions, said, “You’ve got to do a story on the priest shortage.”

“We’ve done it to death,” I said. “Everyone knows there’s a priest shortage.”

“No,” he said. “You have to go back and take a look at the numbers again. Really do the numbers.”

He explained that earlier in the year his bishop had made quite a deal over the fact that the diocese was ordaining, I think it was five or six priests this year, a few more than usual.

I got the impression that it was being touted as a sign of turnaround.

But my priest friend said he began looking hard at the numbers, at the ages, at the numbers retiring and dying and he came to a grim conclusion. In his words: “It’s over. Not in 20 or 30 years, but in more like five or six or seven at the outside.”

So two weeks ago we ran yet another story on the priest shortage. It is worse by two years than we thought it was or than the experts had predicted it would be.

Let me run through some of the numbers for you - and these are taken from that article, written by our Washington writer Joe Feuerherd:

In the mid-1990s, researchers Richard Schoenherr and Lawrence Young predicted that by 2005 the number of active diocesan clergy would be 21,000, down 40 percent since1965.

They were wrong.

Death, retirement and resignation have already reduced the clerical ranks to that number two years ahead of Schoenherr and Young’s projections.

Today there are more American priests over age 90 than under age 30; by 2010 the number of active diocesan clergy, projected at just over 15,000, will be less than the country’s 19,000 parishes.

The number of “priestless parishes” -- those without a resident priest -- will rise from the current 3,000 (16 percent of U.S. parishes) and no one is certain by how much, even as seminaries graduate only one new priest for every three clerics -- now approaching an average age of 60 -- who retire, die or resign.

Today, in the 124-parish diocese of Belleville, the southeastern Illinois home of Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, church administrators are planning for a drop of nearly 50 percent in the clergy rolls over the next 27 years, leaving just 43 priests to serve the 11,600-square-mile see. In New York’s Brooklyn, 160 of the diocese’s 400-plus diocesan clergy will become retirement-eligible over the next decade.

More than 3,300 U.S. parishes are led by pastoral administrators, of whom nearly half are lay, a third women religious, and nearly 20 percent permanent deacons.

Meanwhile, over the past three decades, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, enrollment in lay ecclesial ministry programs has more than tripled - from 10,500 to more than 35,000. They will join an additional 35,000 fully certified lay ecclesial ministers and 13,000-plus ordained permanent deacons.

Problem solved? Not quite. Not unless you’re envisioning drive-by consecrations or mail-in Eucharist kits. The Catholic community is clearly in danger of losing that one element that does cut across all of the divides as an unquestioned unifying act -- the Eucharist. We call ourselves a eucharistic community. That’s our major distinctive on the Christian landscape, a distinctive we are slowly losing.

The growing role of laity, wrote Feuerherd, is a decidedly mixed blessing. On one hand it is a recipe for lay empowerment, non-clerical dynamism and parish collaboration typically valued by church reformers. On the other hand, the trend is a source of frustration because the new approaches to parish ministry, say those who support expanding the priestly ordination pool, allow church leaders to ignore the root cause of the shortage. More traditionalist American Catholics, meanwhile, may value the service provided by the laity and deacons, but they fear confusion in the pews over who is supposed to do what in a Catholic parish community.

No matter how all those concerns and questions play out, it is clear that the future Catholic church will be dramatically different from today’s and will keep changing. Rome can make all the rules it wants to about redrawing the distinction between clergy and laity, but the hard truth on the ground in growing areas throughout the Midwest and South and Southeast and Southwest is that increasingly parishes will be run by non-ordained Catholics.

That’s the future, often unplanned and unwanted, but nonetheless the fact.


It is because of the crises: the sex abuse crisis, the larger crisis of authority and leadership and the daunting crisis of priestless parishes and communities without the Eucharist that we, now, must find our voice.

Some of the best minds in the U.S. church have been over this ground repeatedly in recent months. All of them - Peggy Steinfels and Scott Appleby, who spoke eloquently and forcefully before the bishops; Peter Steinfels in his book A People Adrift, the Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America; Garry Wills in Papal Sin and Why Am I a Catholic, David Gibson, in the Coming Catholic Church, Historian David O’Brien, political scientist and editor Jesuit Tom Reese, commentator and author James Carroll, columnists and authors Eugene Kennedy and Fr. Richard McBrien, as well as columnists on the other end of the spectrum such as Russell Shaw and George Weigel, have come to some similar conclusions on the large picture, even if there are degrees of difference - some of them pronounced - on the particulars. There already are more than enough words out there framing the problem and possible solutions.

I think it would not be misrepresenting things if I said there is broad consensus on several points:

The need for greater accountability on the part of the hierarchy;

The need for significant structural reform;

The need for representation of laity, especially women, in the decision-making structures of parishes and dioceses.

And those three make up a hefty agenda. Yes, it is an agenda, an understandable one given what the hierarchy has already put the church through. So don’t be upset if a bishop says you have an agenda. You’d be absolutely silly not to have one, given what has happened in the church. It just must be a disciplined and limited agenda, one aware of what’s possible. And that’s where Voice of the Faithful is especially important. You bring a new, well-defined and limited agenda to the table. I think your approach is essential if you seriously want to begin a dialogue with church leaders; face it, it would be a very rare bishop who, today, would entertain a public conversation about married priests, or ordaining women, or gay and lesbian rights. Keep it simple and focused: accountability, structural reform, greater lay involvement.

I would like to make one suggestion, as someone looking in from the outside, and that would be to resist the temptation to define yourself over against other groups. Organizations such as Call to Action or the Women’s Ordination Conference or the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church or Future Church all are easy targets. They raise controversial issues and are viewed with suspicion by the hierarchy. It is certainly understandable that you would stay away from their agendas as you press your own concerns. However, it is enough to be a different group. There’s no need to be openly opposed to other efforts. We don’t need more divisions in the church. I think it is also good to remember that such groups, much as you may disagree with this or that emphasis, have kept the questions alive when no one else was willing to during the past 30 years. They have also provided a platform for speakers marginalized by the institutional church and who otherwise would have had a far more limited audience.

The problem is how do concerned Catholics move this matter from the ideas stage to some kind of action.

We need to understand that the complaint that the most educated Catholic laity in history have no place at the table where the real discussions and decisions are made is not new to the crisis.

In May 1962, a year before NCR was born and the first year of the Second Vatican Council, Donald Thorman, who would later become publisher of NCR, wrote a book, The Emerging Layman. Thorman, no doubt, would use more inclusive language today, but his concerns still resonate strongly.

He wrote: “The ancient and the new within the church have been combined in mid-century America to produce a paradox - articulate laymen without voices.

“In its crudest form, the problem might be stated this way: The church has dedicated herself to the education of the laity and now she has a better-educated and better-trained laity than ever before. The church has likewise encouraged the lay apostolate and she now has a large group of informed and alert lay men and women eager to be of service. But what does she do with them?

“These men and women represent a new force within the church. They are not rebellious or seeking power; quite the contrary. But they represent a growing reservoir of brains and talent that deserve to be - and indeed must be--utilized in the service of the church. Yet there are no clear-cut channels through which their voice may be heard, through which they may prudently and humbly exert a beneficial pressure on the Church.”

That was written more than 40 years ago. Certainly the professional status of some lay people within the church has changed. As noted earlier, increasingly the church is being run by lay people, and most of them are women.

Still, the kind of conversation that Thorman wanted is the very conversation that has to underlie any initiative you might undertake on the three areas listed above.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty. From a question as fundamental as how does grace work -- Is it available everywhere and to everyone or does the Catholic Church have special province in the matter? to the issue of how centralized church government should be to just how particular and minute should be the instructions about who can shake hands where during the kiss of peace -- what we are going through these days is a basic battle of ideas. But make no mistake, there is also a real, political dimension to all of this.

I am convinced that those who felt their church was being unceremoniously yanked from them 40 years ago have been successful in their drive to reform the reform as much because of their political acumen as the force of their ideas.

Simply put, this tiny minority knew how to organize and how to make themselves and their concerns unceasingly present before church authorities.

Concerned Catholics who have a different vision, who want their church to be a more inclusive, more open, more tolerant and more loving place have to do the grassroots work as well.

Religion, like politics, is local. Projects like the national Common Ground Initiative are essential discussions for keeping ideas alive in the big picture. But little will happen unless Catholics at the parish level let their bishops and priests know their concerns and their willingness to help.

Know the case you want to make. Know the history. Then make the case.

Don’t stay isolated. Make the connections, parish to parish and diocese to diocese.

Don’t allow one faction of the church to define orthodoxy or claim themselves exclusively faithful to church teaching.

I am not here advocating debate or open ecclesiastical warfare.

Just know what you want to say. Know the documents of Vatican II the way others might know the documents of Trent.

Know the papal encyclicals and understand that even Vatican pronouncements often have nuance and context that make reading them in an American context difficult.

Some will tell you that Vatican II documents have an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand compromise quality about them from which you can argue almost anything. Maybe so. Know which hand you want to advance and do it thoughtfully, prayerfully and persistently. The bishops did not gather three years in a row because they had nothing else to do. Know the history of that period - something real happened and we are the heirs of that moment. Read the literature, keep up with developments, consult your favorite theologians, alive or in print.

Don’t think you are going to persuade a resistant priest or bishop when you make the case. That’s not the point. Just keep making it. Thoughtfully, persistently, prayerfully and in as great a number as you can muster.

Your activities will draw coverage and commentary - certainly NCR will - and some of it may be critical or raise tough questions. That’s fine. It’s part of the adult conversation.

And if you do that kind of work, I believe you’ll be about forcing the adult conversation. Settling for nothing less.

Don’t stop trying.

I am convinced that bishops and cardinals ultimately respond to constituencies as politicians would. After all, they have to be shepherding someone.

What we should be after, in the end, is the sentiment between bishop and people expressed by St. Augustine and included this way in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “As St. Augustine very beautifully puts it: ‘When I am frightened by what I am to you, then I am consoled by what I am with you. To you I am the bishop, with you I am a Christian. The first is an office, the second salvation.’”

Finally, I urge you to start in your thoughts forty years ago with Don Thorman and look at where we are.

Forty years ago the situation was just being framed and everything was hope.

Twenty years ago, fear and uncertainty began to creep in and everything was under discussion.

Today, what?

Should we continue to just pray and pay?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. You can decide. Just don’t do something because you’ve always done it.

Pray and stay?

Certainly, but also remember to inveigh.

Stay informed and inform others - look for signs of hope.

And know that The Voice of the Faithful is a sign of hope.

Spread the word of hope.

Don’t be afraid to create a new wild moment of becoming.

Stay with it. You are faithful. You are the church.

National Catholic Reporter, October 31, 2003

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