Fr. Bauer's Blog

Basilica Community,

 

Greetings once again from The Basilica of Saint Mary. I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during this challenging time. I also hope you had a very blessed Easter. 

 

We did miss you at The Basilica during our various Holy Week services. All these services are available on our website. I encourage you to look for them. On Easter Sunday we reached over 25,000 people in some way via Facebook and QwikCast livestream.

For me, one of the more moving moments of our Easter Sunday celebration was when Archbishop Hebda walked down the center aisle of The Basilica with the monstrance and blessed the city of Minneapolis. With the snow falling all around it was a poignant reminder for me that God is present at all times and in all the circumstances of our lives.
 
 
 
Easter City Blessing Archbishop 2020
Photo provided by: 
Mae Desaire
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
While we are not having any public gatherings at The Basilica, I hope you were able to connect with us at The Basilica via conference call, Facebook and Zoom. From the responses we received in regard to our livestreaming efforts, people seem very appreciative of this outreach–and often replied with good wishes for our staff.

Earlier this morning our downtown ministerial group gathered via Zoom to talk about how our congregations are doing. It is clear that we all missed being able to gather with our people during this time. As I mentioned last week, our downtown ministerial group put together a virtual prayer service.

We will continue to livestream our daily Masses and Mass on Sunday on mary.org and facebook.com/BasilicaMpls for the foreseeable future.

We would like to hear from you, if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions to better serve you. We may not be able to implement all your suggestions, or respond to all your questions and concerns, but we will do our very best. 

Next Wednesday, April 22 at 9:00am, Johan Van Parys and I will host Coffee and Conversation via Zoom. 

Finally, I want to thank all those who supported The Basilica financially, especially at Easter. Please know of my gratitude for all those who are able continue to support The Basilica financially. 
 
If you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry.
 
 
 
Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress, in faith we pray: Look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders, and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your holy name. Amen. 


I hope this message finds you and your family staying well during this challenging time. I want to assure you of my prayers for a blessed Holy Week and Easter. May it be a time of grace and blessing for all of us.

As I mentioned in my previous video, while we are not having any public gatherings at The Basilica, we continue to connect with people via conference call, Facebook and Zoom.

We have been sent out over 500 check-in emails to parish volunteers. People seem very appreciative of this outreach and often reply with good wishes for our staff. If you or someone you know would like to receive one of these emails, please let us know.

Our downtown Minneapolis interfaith community leaders shared a message of one voice and shared hope in virtual prayer service.

Last Friday, we sent an email to all of our parishioners with ideas about ways to celebrate Holy Week at home. We have compiled tools and resources for you to plan and prepare for Holy Week in your home.

Holy Week at Home


During Holy Week we will be livestreaming all of our services on mary.org and facebook.com/BasilicaMpls including Mass at 9:30 on Easter Sunday with Archbishop Hebda. Easter Mass will also be broadcast on 830 WCCO Radio.

Holy Week Schedule


We would like to hear from you, though, if you have questions, concerns or suggestions to better serve you. We may not be able to implement all your suggestions, or respond to all your questions and concerns, but we will do our very best.

We know this is a challenging time financially for everyone. If you are able to continue to support The Basilica financially, particularly this Easter, we thank you. You may make a gift online at mary.org/donate.


If you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry.

 


Let us pray: Father, your beloved Son Jesus brought your healing love to our world. We pray that Christ, the light of the world, will sustain us always in faith, hope, and love. And may the light of faith guide and comfort us at this time. And may we pray for and with each other, that together, we might find our way though these challenging times. Amen.

 

 

Light of Faith

 

Basilica Community,

I hope this message finds you and your family staying well during this challenging time. As you know, we have suspended all public Masses and gatherings; however we are still connecting via conference call, Facebook, and Zoom. 

We are live streaming our daily Masses at facebook.com/BasilicaMpls. The videos are available at here after each Mass.

We will be live streaming our Holy Week services beginning with 9:30am Mass on Palm Sunday. Easter Mass with Archbishop Hebda at 9:30am will also be broadcast on 830 WCCO Radio.

We will be sending an email to all of our parishioners with ideas about ways to celebrate Holy Week at home. 
 
We would like to hear from you, please let us know if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions to better serve you. We may not be able to implement all your suggestions, or respond to all your questions and concerns, but we will do our very best.

We know this is a challenging time financially for everyone. If you are able to continue to support The Basilica financially, we thank you. You may make a gift online at mary.org/donate.

If you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry
________________________________________

In 2013 Pope Francis issued his first encyclical: “Lumen Fidei: Light of Faith.” In that encyclical Pope Francis said: 

“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but rather a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, and a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.”

May the light of faith guide and comfort us at this time.  And may we pray for and with each other, that together, we might find our way though these challenging times.

Pastor's Column April/May

[This column was written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.]

 

For Fr. Bauer's most recent message visit: Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Connected.

 

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Connect Desk: In case you missed it, in addition to our Hospitality and Information Desk in the lower level, we now have a new “Connect Desk” near the Hennepin Avenue interior doors of The Basilica. The idea behind this desk is to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with The Basilica. Whether an individual wants to become a member, volunteer, or just wants some basic information, the person at the Connect Desk should be able to respond to any queries quickly, easily, and personally. It is our hope that the Connect Desk will help facilitate people’s “connecting” with The Basilica easily and simply. 

2. An Update on Current Parish Initiatives: A little over 10 years ago I co-chaired a Task Force on planning for our Archdiocese. One of the things that became clear to me when I co-chaired this Task Force was that as pastor, I needed to keep an eye on the future, and not focus exclusively on the present. Fortunately, I also realized that looking to the future was a task that would need the keen eyes of many people in addition to myself. Given this, I am pleased to report that in the last several months, due to the hard work of many of our parishioners, we have developed a new five year Strategic Plan (Our Parish, Our Future). Further, for the past few months we have been working with a Change Management Consultant to help us identify those ministries, services and programs, etc. that are important and necessary for our parish community and need to continue, as well as those that need to change or end.

Additionally, in consultation with our Parish Council, The Basilica Landmark Board established a Master Planning Committee to work with HGA Architects and their team to develop a Master Plan for The Basilica and its campus. The Plan is very comprehensive and includes recommendations to support a broad vision for the campus, as well as solutions to identify needs to better perform our day-to-day ministries and works. The Plan did not filter against a budget or a financial target to ensure we addressed all opportunities. The Master Plan included 15 “groupings” of work and expense to reflect potential projects or campaigns for The Basilica to consider. These likely project groupings and the included detail will allow The Basilica flexibility in defining the scope of each project we pursue in the coming years. 

The detail in the Master Plan will be used as a starting point and will help guide us as we begin the work to determine the appropriate scope and phases of implementing the Master Plan. These project priority decisions will be reflective of the needs of our Parish community as well as the interests, budget and giving capacity of our Parishioners and donors.

In conjunction with the Master Plan, The Basilica Landmark Board also approved funding to hire the firm of Bentz, Whaley, Flessner to conduct a Feasibility Study to help determine the fundraising capacity of any potential Capital Campaign that would be needed to implement elements of the newly developed Master Plan. 

As the work of the Campus Space Planning, Master Plan Development, Feasibility Study and potential Capital Campaign have broad implications for our Parish, we have been actively engaged with The Basilica Landmark Board, Parish Council, and Finance Committee to ensure our leaders are informed and appropriately involved in providing guidance and approval. 

3. Easter Giving and Our Parish Finances: At the present time, we are holding our own financially, but the extra income we receive at Easter is a great help to our budget. For this reason, I invite you to be generous to The Basilica at Easter. Also, a big THANK YOU to all those who so generously support our Basilica parish. Your financial support makes it possible for us to continue to offer the programs, ministries, and services that are the hallmark of our parish. 

4. Archdiocesan Synod: On the weekend of January 18 and 19 members of our Parish Synod Committee spoke at all the Masses on the upcoming Archdiocesan Synod. As I have mentioned previously, a synod is a formal representative assembly designed to help a bishop in shepherding of the local Church. It is Archbishop Hebda’s hope that over the next two years, the synod process will involve every parish and draw on the gifts that have been bestowed in such abundance on the people of this archdiocese to discern and establish clear pastoral priorities in a way that will both promote greater unity in our Archdiocese and lead us to a more vigorous proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. In doing so, it will help Archbishop Hebda discern, through a consultative process, the pastoral priorities of our local Church today—and into the near future.

The synod process began this past fall and continues during the winter and spring with prayer and listening events. After these events, in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Hebda will announce the topics that will shape the synod. In autumn of 2020 and winter of 2021 there will be a parish and deanery consultation process. On Pentecost weekend May 21-22, 2021 there will be a synod assembly. Delegates to this assembly will be invited from across the archdiocese and will meet to discern Synod topics and vote on recommendations for the Archbishop. The Feast of Christ the King (November 21, 2021) is the anticipated publication of pastoral letter from Archbishop Hebda addressing the synod’s topics with a pastoral plan to shape the following 5-10 years.

I believe the synod process brings with it much promise for the future of our Archdiocese. It will only be successful, though, if people pray, participate, and honestly share their concerns, questions, and hopes for our Archdiocese. To this end—since I first informed you of the synod—we have established a parish synod ambassador team who will work to solicit feedback from our parishioners and keep everyone informed as the synod process moves forward. There is a link to this group as well as information on the listening session on our website mary.org/synod. You can anticipate hearing more about the synod in the weeks and months ahead. 

5. The 2020 Catholic Services Appeal: This yearly appeal helps support many of the ministries, services, and programs within our Archdiocese. I am fully aware that many people are concerned that contributions to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA), will be used for purposes they didn’t intend. In this regard, it is important to note that The Catholic Services Appeal is an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. This was done, to insure that all the money that is collected through the appeal would go directly and solely to the ministries, services and programs supported by the CSA. No CSA funds go to the Archdiocese. 

By pooling the financial resources from generous donors throughout our diocese, much important and necessary work is funded by the Catholic Services Appeal. As your pastor, I wholeheartedly endorse the work of the Appeal; I encourage you to make a gift to support these important ministries, services and programs. Please look for the Catholic Services Appeal information in pews, or learn more at csafspm.org.
6. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate: The Bishops of the United States have launched a year-long initiative that invites Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate will ask Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and call on others to do the same. 

The initiative is built on the recognition that every person—even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree—
is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity. Civilize It is an invitation to imitate the example of Jesus in our daily lives in our encounters with one another through civil dialogue. 

In talking about this initiative, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development emphasized the importance of Civilize It in the context of the current divisive climate: “Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in Civilize It. In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.” You can find out more about Civilize It at CivilizeIt.org. 

I also invite people to take the Civilize It pledge of: 
1. Civility
2. Clarity and 
3. Compassion
and to pray for civility in our conversations. Let our Basilica community know you are taking the Civilize It pledge at mary.org/civilizeit.

7. Second Collections: While no one likes special collections, it is heartening to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last special collections here:

  • On the weekend of November 30 and December 1, $9,525 was collected for our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. 
  • On the weekend of January 11 and 12, $9,768 was collected for our visiting Missionary from the Franciscan Mission Service. 

On the weekend of January 25 and 26, $7,528 was collected to help defer the cost of heating The Basilica during the cold winter months.
The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude and prayer for your generous and caring response.

 

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

For this Sunday’s readings Click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040520.cfm  

Each year on Palm Sunday we read one of the accounts of the Passion of Jesus Christ.  This year we read Matthew’s account.   While the accounts of Jesus’ passion share much in common, each one has some unique elements.   In this regard, Matthew’s Gospel contains a more detailed account of the betrayal of Judas and his tragic end.  Another element unique to Matthew is the request of the Chief priests and Pharisees that Pilot help them make sure Jesus’ disciples do not steal Jesus’ body and then later claim that he had been raised from the dead.   Also, since Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish audience, he was writing to convince them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets’ promise of a Messiah. 

Perhaps the most important element that is unique to Matthew, though, occurs when Pilot asked the crowd about the fate of Jesus.  Specifically Matthew adds the verse that Jesus’ blood “should be upon us and on our children” (Mt. 27.25).   Unfortunately through the centuries this verse (and others) have been used to suggest that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.   This idea was definitively rejected by the Second Vatican Council in its document: “Nostra Aetate,” and more recently by Pope Benedict XVI in his book:  “Jesus of Nazareth – Part II.”

For Matthew, Jesus’ death is the result of living a life of forgiving love, and teaching others to follow his way of forgiveness.  The question for us is whether we, like Peter, will be able to accept the forgiveness, that Jesus offers, or whether we will be like Judas and not be able to accept that forgiveness.   

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from that section of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah known as the “Suffering Servant Songs.”  We see these words as prefiguring the suffering and death of Christ. 

Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.  It is a hymn to Christ’s divinity.   In it he holds up Jesus as one who “became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And “because of this God greatly exalted him……….” 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

1.  Believe it or not, I once had someone complain about reading the passion on Palm Sunday.  They didn’t like it because it was such a “downer.”   Why is it important to read the passion on this day? 
2.  Why is it so hard for us to believe that because of Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven?  Or perhaps the question really is: why is it so hard for us to accept this forgiveness?  
3.  What part of the passion narrative strikes you most deeply?  

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Connected. 

A message from Fr. John Bauer, Pastor

 

 

Basilica Community,

I hope you and your families are staying well. As you know, we have suspended all public Masses and gatherings; however we are still connecting via conference call, Facebook, and Zoom. 

We are live streaming Mass Monday-Friday at noon and Sundays at 9:30am at facebook.com/BasilicaMpls. The videos are available at here after each Mass.

We are also posting Stations of the Cross and Vespers. Many people have let us know how much they appreciate having access to these Basilica services. 

Please let us know if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions to better serve you. 

We know this is a challenging time financially for everyone. If you are able to continue to support The Basilica financially, we thank you. You may make a gift online at mary.org/donate.

If you find yourself needing financial support, we invite you to connect with our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry

Together, we will get though these challenging times. The threat of the Coronavirus has forced us to acknowledge that we need each other. As a community of faith we need to look after each other, to care for each other, to respond to the needs of each other, and perhaps most importantly to pray for each other.

 

 

Our newest Icon at The Basilica is Mary Untier of Knots. I would like to close today with a prayer to Mary, modeled after a prayer of Pope Francis.

Holy Mother of God and our Mother, to you who untie with a motherly heart the knots in our lives, we pray to you to receive into your hands all those impacted by the Coronavirus. 

Through your intercession and your example deliver us from all evil. Untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that free from sin may find God in all things, may have our hearts placed in him, and my serve God always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.

 

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For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032920.cfm 

“Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  These words from our Gospel this Sunday were spoken by Martha in response to the death of her brother Lazarus.    I would like to suggest, though, that they represent the feeling (if not the actual words) of many of us when we encounter difficulties.   It is very easy to think that because we live a good life, because we pray and go to church regularly, that bad things shouldn’t happen to us.   The reality is, though, that sometimes bad things happen to good people.  We don’t know why this is.   We just know that it does happen.   More importantly, though, we know that even when bad things happen, God is with us.   God suffers with us in our pain.  God rejoices with us in our happiness.  And God grieves with us in the face of death.   I say this because in our Gospel for this weekend we are told that when they brought Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus he “wept.”    

In this Sunday’s Gospel, it is also important to note that while Jesus did raise Lazarus from the dead, it is important to note that this was a resuscitation --- a return to this life.  While it pre-figures the resurrection, the difference is not just one of degree, but of kind.   The resurrected life, is not just this life forever and ever.  Rather it is a sharing in the very life of our God.   We don’t know what the resurrected life will be like, but we do know and believe that in the resurrection we will be happy forever with our God.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.   Ezekiel was a prophet during the Babylonian captivity.   This reading opens with the words:  “Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.”   These words should not be taken as a prophecy of the Resurrection, (At the time of Ezekiel the Jewish people did not have a firm belief in an afterlife.) but rather as a promise of restoration, e.g. eventually the Jews would be brought back to the land of Israel.     

Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   In it we are reminded that “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:   
1.  Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of eternal life?  
2.  What helps you or what stands in the way of believing in eternal life? 
3.  How do you know when God’s Spirit is dwelling in you?  

Schedule Changes Due to COVID-19

A message from Fr. John Bauer, Pastor

 

 

Basilica Community,
 
The Basilica will be suspending all public Masses, Confession, and Stations of the Cross until further notice to protect people from possible exposure to the Coronavirus and for the common good and welfare of our community.
 
Join us for Mass on Facebook live at facebook.com/BasilicaMpls Monday-Friday at noon and Sundays at 9:30am. The videos will be available at mary.org after each Mass.
 
• All public events and activities are suspended until further notice. All updates will be posted to mary.org.
• The Basilica church will be open for private prayer only, Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm.
• The Basilica staff office will be open Monday- Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm. Our staff will be in the office or working from home as needed. Meetings/appointments will take place via conference call or Zoom video.
• The Basilica will continue to respond to pastoral emergencies, questions, and concerns. While we might not have the information immediately, we will provide it as soon as possible.
 
As your financial circumstances allow, please consider continuing your support of The Basilica. You may make a gift online at mary.org/donate. Please know this would be greatly appreciated.
________________________________________
 
Please continue to pray as a community and as individuals for those impacted by the Coronavirus.
 
God of all Creation, from the beginning of time you have shown your love for your people.
When you sent your son, Jesus, to live among us you shared our human joys as He celebrated with the wedding guests and you experienced our human pains in His suffering and death.
Be near to us in these days of uncertainty and fear.
Give us hope and trust as we are made to face our human frailty.
Grant us peace, wisdom, and courage as we work together to overcome this crisis.
And strengthen our faith, that with you we can conquer all evil and distress.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.
 
 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032220.cfm  

 

“What’s the matter?  Are you blind?”   I would guess most of us have used this phrase at some point in our lives.  Usually it’s when someone has missed something obvious, or nearly harmed someone.   Not noticing something is one thing.  Physical blindness is another.   In our Gospel today, for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Jesus healed a man “blind from birth.”  Unfortunately, since Jesus had healed the blind man on a Sabbath, some of the Pharisees criticized Jesus because “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.”    Others, however, said: “How can a sinful man do such signs?”  As a result, “there was division among them.”    In an effort to resolve the issue the Pharisees asked the blind man about Jesus.  He responded:  “he is a prophet.”   The Pharisees (or at least some of them) obviously didn’t like his answer because they replied:  “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” (At the time of Jesus, misfortune or hardship were thought to be a punishment from God for some personal sin or the sin of one’s relatives.)  “Then they threw him out.”   When Jesus heard what happened he sought out the blind man and informed him that he was the “Son of Man.”  We are told that the blind man then worshiped Jesus.    

 

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the first book of Samuel.   In it Samuel is sent to “Jesse of Bethlehem for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”   Jesse then brought 7 of his sons before Samuel, but the Lord rejected all of them.  Then Samuel asked Jesse: “Are these all the sons you have?”   Eventually David, the youngest son, who was tending sheep, was presented.  The Lord said:  “There --- anoint him, for this is the one!” 

 

The message of both the Gospel and the first reading is clear.   God “sees” things differently than we do.  

 

Our second reading this weekend is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.    In it Paul urges the people of Ephesus to “Live as children of the light………”

 

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

 

1.  In the New Testament, physical blindness if often a metaphor for spiritual blindness.   Can you recall a time when you were spiritually blind?   How did you come to see?

2.   Has someone or something ever caused you to see things in a new way or to see things from God’s perspective?   

3.   What do you think Paul meant when he invited people to live as children of the light?    

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In the Catholic Church every five years diocesan bishops travel to Rome to meet with the Pope and members of the Curia to report on the state of their dioceses. It is a formal trip known as the “ad limina.” It is usually made together by all the bishops of a single region. The bishops of Minnesota and North and South Dakota made their “ad limina” visit to Rome this past January. On February 10, 2020, Pope Francis met with the bishops from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming as part of their “ad limina” visit to Rome. 

After the meeting at least two of the bishops, who were present, spoke anonymously to the Catholic News Agency (CNA is owned by The Eternal Word Television Network. It provides news related to the Catholic Church to the global English speaking audience.). These bishops said that as part of their conversation Pope Francis indicated that while he had accommodated a request for a meeting with Fr. James Martin, S.J. he was clear with them that he did not intend for it to convey any significance. One of the bishops was quoted (anonymously) as saying that Pope Francis “made his displeasure clear” about the way the meeting was interpreted, and framed by some journalists.’ Another bishop said: "He told us that the matter had been dealt with; that Fr. Martin had been given a 'talking to' and that his superiors had also been spoken to and made the situation perfectly clear to him.” One of the bishops went on to say; “I do not think you will be seeing that picture of him (Martin) with the pope on his next book cover." 

As background to the above, it is important to know that Fr. James Martin, S.J. is a best selling author who advocates for and ministers to LGBT Catholics. In 2017 he authored the book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.” On September 30, 2019 Fr. Martin met for 30 minutes in a private audience with Pope Francis and had his picture taken with the Pope. While Fr. Martin did not reveal what the Pope said to him in the course of their conversation, he did say that “among other things, I shared with Pope Francis the experiences of LGBT Catholics around the world, their joys and their hopes, their griefs and their concerns. I also talked about my own ministry to them and how they felt excluded.” Fr. Martin concluded by saying “I saw this audience as a sign of the Holy Father’s care for LGBT people.”

Now the above would not be all that newsworthy except for the fact that Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, recently responded publicly to the CNA account. In his statement Archbishop Wester said: “I wish to address the article that appeared in CNA regarding the meeting of the bishops of Region XIII and Pope Francis on Monday, February 10, 2020. The article puts forward a series of statements supposedly made by Pope Francis regarding Fr. James Martin's meeting with the Holy Father on September 30, 2019. The bishops who reported these statements to CNA remained anonymous throughout the article.” Archbishop Wester went on to say: "Our meeting with the Pope lasted almost two hours and forty-five minutes, so it is difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said. "However, the general tone of the Pope's responses to issues raised with him was never angry, nor do I remember the Pope saying or implying that he was unhappy with Father Martin or his ministry." He also said that while Martin and his ministry were discussed, it was not the pope who raised it but rather some bishops. “My recollection is that it was not Father Martin the Pope was talking about, but the way others tried to use that encounter, one way or the other. In my view, the language subtlety, yet incorrectly, leads the reader to believe that Father Martin was the issue while, in fact, it was how others used their meeting that was in play. Furthermore, I have no memory at all of the Pope being angry, upset or annoyed. He spoke gently and patiently throughout our meeting.” Archbishop Wester ended his statement by saying: “Ordinarily, I would not be sanguine about offering these recollections of our wonderful meeting with Pope Francis. However, I believe that I have an obligation to offer my perspective on those matters contained in the CNA article about Father James Martin, SJ, since my understanding of the facts differs from what was reported anonymously.”

After Archbishop Wester’s statement, a second bishop also spoke up to counter allegations that Pope Francis expressed displeasure with Fr. Martin during the meeting with bishops of the southwestern United States. Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming, said he supports the recollections of Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bishop Biegler said in part: that “Wester's response accurately describes the tone and substance of the short dialogue regarding Fr. James Martin," 

Hmmmmm, we have two bishops speaking publicly about their recollections of a meeting with the Pope, and at least two bishops speaking anonymously about their recollections of that same meeting, And interestingly and remarkably their recollections differ dramatically. What are we to make of this? Who are we to believe? Well, since I believe that the privilege of anonymity belongs only to God and people who are doing good works, my money is on Archbishop Wester and Bishop Biegler as being truthful and honest in their recollections. 

I am truly saddened and deeply disappointed, both personally and for our church, by those bishops who chose to make anonymous allegations about Fr. Martin. I believe the example of those bishops who made these anonymous statements is yet another instance of a failure in leadership in our Church. While I do believe that some of our bishops “get it,” this instance is clear evidence that some do not. More importantly, it causes me to wonder if the majority of our bishops will ever understand that truthfulness, integrity, transparency, and accountability are requirements for their job, and not just pious platitudes. 

 

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