This morning as we readied ourselves for the day, we were all struck silent by a news story about an Archbishop in Georgia who was buying a two million dollar home. I immediately got that sick feeling in my stomach that comes when my Church does something stupid and the media eats it up.
I turned off the television and continued with the business of the morning, hoping I didn’t have to explain to my children why greed seemed to be the Catholic lesson of the day. I struggled with the news story and with my own reaction, which was to instantly believe the worst. I need to spend some time with that as it troubles me. You would think that after nearly a year working in the Church I would have a better understanding that what you see in the news media is not always what you get. Instead what I found I still have, in large quantities, is skepticism in the human part of our Church. It seems my faith in God is strong, my faith in his followers is not.
When I got to work and began searching for daily news relevant to the teens I work with, I found Fr. James Martin, SJ, the man I often look to for clarity when it comes to Current Catholic Events, had posted a link to the letter written by Archbishop Wilton T. Gregory, the man at the center of the storm.
Of course I clicked, and what I found was a sincere and heartfelt apology and explanation for how we have arrived at this current problem on the news. I had heard snippets of this letter on the news, but out of context they sounded like exactly what they were, convenient sound bites like this:
“What we didn’t stop to consider, and that oversight rests with me and me alone, was that the world and the Church have changed.”
You could see how that might be misinterpreted as coming from a man who might not be thrilled with the changes. However, when taken as a whole, Archbishop Gregory’s letter was anything but convenient. It was honest, apologetic and humble-everything you would hope it would be.
Some lines that struck me had to do with basic human frailty, showing that even when we think we are doing all the right things, we just might miss the forest through the trees.
“I am disappointed that, while my advisors and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia.”
He goes on to list other failures, failures that he takes full responsibility for and for which I am certain he will seek forgiveness from God and man. Don’t we all deserve forgiveness if we are truly sorry for our sins?
” I fear that when I should have been consulting, I was really only reporting, and that is my failure. To those who may have hesitated to advise me against this direction perhaps out of deference or other concerns, I am profoundly sorry.”
My challenge as I read this letter was to stop thinking it was written as a PR ploy and start believing in the goodness of man, even Catholic man, maybe especially Catholic man. I had to put away my inner skeptic and take the Archbishop at his word. My challenge is to start expecting the best, rather than predict the worst out of the men of this Church. Faith in his followers, not just in Him? Let’s just say I’m trying it on for size thanks, in part to a two million dollar home.