September 28, 2007

Letter from the Archbishop!!!


As if I get personal correspondence from His Excellency! What are you thinking?!

Ok, I'll go slap myself now.

I'm back, I needed that.

Letters in the September 27th, Catholic Spirit (the Archdiocesan newspaper for St. Paul/Minneapolis)

A reader responded to a prior column in the Catholic Spirit by Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt. The reader's letter is first. THEN, His Excellency responds to the reader's letter afterwards.

I found Archbishop's Nienstedt's column in the Sept. 13 issue to be provocative. In it, he says:

". . . As a whole, the church is our mother, our teacher, our guide, leading us to the fullness of truth, which gives meaning to our very existence.

"Hence, I have always been willing to give the church the benefit of any doubt. Why? Well, because I cannot imagine that my limited in­sights or experience could measure up to hers."

This willingness to give the church the "benefit of the doubt" makes preeminent sense. Surely, as an institution whose wisdom is the product of 2,000 years of guidance by the Holy Spirit, the church is owed deference when it comes to the wisdom of its teachings. Likewise, wisdom coming from our "limited insights or experience" must occupy a place of humble deference in comparison.

But, I was also left with a sense that Archbishop's column didn't tell the whole story (which is quite understandable in a short column in which he laid out some of his priorities). In appropriately highlighting the need to allow ourselves to be humbly guided by the wisdom of the church, I also came away with the impression that the wisdom of the church is somewhat other than and beyond us, because its wisdom is so much greater than our wisdom.

Of course, the church's wisdom does transcend that of its members. This reflects the church's mystical nature. But the church is not only transcendent. At the same time, it is immanent - in other words, it exists in and through us. So, of course, it is true to say that the church transcends us and gifts us with wisdom greater than our own. But one can also say with equal confidence that we ARE the church, and that because of this, the wisdom of the church is communicated through us. This was clearly communicated when Vatican II designated the church as the "People of God." Thus, as the People of God and with the bishops as our head, we should be willing to offer our insights and experience as part of the wisdom of the church.

In summation, not only do we owe deference to the wisdom of the church, which transcends our own wisdom, but we also shape its wisdom as the People of God, vessels of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through us.

Name Suppressed by Cathy
Holy Name, Minneapolis

My first thought reading this letter was: "A dissident mind trick!" Possibly unfair of me to think that since I have no idea of the writer's motivation or thoughts and it definitely shows my cynicism. I can't help it sometimes. Please pray for me, will you? Thanks.

His Excellency responds:

I am grateful for your systematic reflection on my column of Sept. 13. The church's wisdom does transcend the insights of her members. The church is the Body of Christ and, in an incarnational way, she reflects His love of the Father and for all mankind.

I did not mean to imply by my "willingness to give the church the benefit of the doubt" that I subscribe to "blind obedience." However, in today's marketplace, authority is questioned whenever it speaks. It should not be that way in the church. We ought to trust that the church has our best interests in mind. If a Catholic does have a question, it should be investigated until the answer is fully understood.

I also ought to clarify your reference to the "People of God." As the Second Vatican Council defines the term, bishops, priests, religious and laity make up the "People of God." Only in this sense, can you say "We are the church." Thus, the wisdom of the church includes all categories as specified above.

Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt
Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Great response. It's succinct, it's polite and it's instructive. Deep curtsy to His Excellency. I learned something. I, thanks to the dissident mantra that I recited for decades, tend to equate the term: "People of God" only with the laity. His Excellency reminds us, "People of God" means more then just laity.

I hope that thru this response, His Excellency is giving us a foreshadowing of what his leadership will be like. I'm looking forward to more of these engaging, courteous, personalized, teaching moments.


Blogger Christine said...

darn! I thought the Bishop was writing to compliment you on your blog...It really is very well done :o)

September 28, 2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

And I want to thank Cathy for coming up with this nugget of theological gold that further my faith also.

Prior to this moment, whenever I saw the term "People of God" immediately my thoughts turned to progressive dissident parishes who see no further than their social justice and anti-war ministries.

I acknowledge that these parishes perform those ministries well, but they are woefully incomplete if they are not augmented by the love and worship of God and obedience to the Magisterium of God's Church.

September 28, 2007 5:29 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

It is weird, but I too pretty much always thought that the laity were the People of God. Duh! I can't wait for the Archbishop to clarify more things for us. Thank God for giving us such a good Shepherd!

September 29, 2007 9:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here's the full quote from Lumen Gentium, Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution

Chapter 2 The People of God; section 12:

The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.(112) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

September 30, 2007 11:51 AM  

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