Quo Vadis — O, Bishops?

This is an exciting moment in Catholic history that offers opportunities for all the imagination, intelligence, and daring that you can bring to the many challenges at hand.

I am not a big fan of taking the long view. It may sometimes be wise, even necessary, in human terms. But I’m far more attracted by what is probably the most neglected of Jesus’ sayings: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk. 12:49)

The U. S. bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week for their annual get-together. The scuttlebutt is that they will be mostly discussing matters internal to the Church in America. If they were asking my advice — for some reason, they seem to have forgotten to call — I would strongly urge that they begin with a collective session of lectio divina about kindling fires.

I’d also suggest a few other things. To start with, forget about being nice. It doesn’t work. Be gentlemen. Be kind. But forget nice. As learned Latinists, you no doubt know that the word comes from nescius, which means ignorant. It came, early in modern languages, to mean foolish. Today, an idiomatic translation might be: clueless.

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