November 4 was the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the great reforming cardinal-archbishop of Milan. It was also the 63rd anniversary of the coronation of St. John XXIII, who had been elected pope on Oct. 28, 1958. John chose the date because he had a great respect for Borromeo and significant knowledge of him, too. Both that respect and that knowledge would play a part in his decision to convoke the Second Vatican Council, the reception of which remains the principal task of the universal church in this synodal process we have begun.
These were on my mind last week when Twitter erupted after Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, published the text of a deeply regrettable speech he delivered this week at a conference about the church in public life. The contrast between John XXIII’s most famous speech and Gomez’s text is a profound one.
Consequently, when John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council with his magnificent address Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, he sketched for the assembled bishops a positive vision of their convocation and mission.
The archbishop’s talk is regrettable not only because of its unbalanced and prejudicial content, but in the mere fact of it. Why would a bishop give such a talk? He is not a pundit; he is a pastor.
The Catholic Church in this country needs the leadership of pastors, not pseudo-pundits, still less culture warriors. It needs bishops who will let themselves be renewed by the documents and the spirit of the council St. Pope John XXIII convoked. It needs Gomez to rediscover his pastoral sensibility. Reading that dreadful speech, it is hard to imagine Gomez rising to the occasion.
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Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.
With thanks to National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.