May 16, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

The Criterion is an instrument of evangelization for all

This is the 800th consecutive column that I have written for The Criterion since I became the archbishop in 1992.

My articles generally are around 800 words. If you multiply 800 times 800, that’s a lot of words. Of itself, of course, there is no merit in the number of words.

My intention is to provide words of practical instruction about Church teaching, words of faith and hope, and— sometimes— challenging words. I try to offer words of inspiration that encourage us in our lives of everyday faith.

I want to do my part in supporting the fundamental purpose of our weekly publication of The Criterion, namely as an instrument for evangelization. My intent is to teach the faith of the Gospel alongside the other contributions published on a weekly basis.

If you consider the purpose of publishing a Catholic weekly, it might be easier to understand why I mandate that we try to provide The Criterion for every household of our local Church.

I am aware that we hear from a few people who don’t want to receive our paper. It is their decision to discard it, but it is my responsibility to teach the faith. The most effective way for me to fulfill my obligation to do so as bishop is to use this medium.

When a bishop is ordained, he receives a clear mandate to be a dedicated teacher of the Catholic faith as it is received in Scripture and Tradition. It is my promised task to record, to interpret, to explain and to hand on the faith we have received. It is an awesome task, but one that I appreciate and enjoy.

For me, the weekly published article is like a conversation about things that matter about life, our faith and our Church.

I received the inspiration to write a weekly column from Pope John Paul II when, from the day I was ordained, he encouraged me to emphasize my teaching role as bishop. A second inspiration came indirectly from my mom. Years ago, I recall her commenting on how much she appreciated the weekly column by Bishop Henry Grimmelsman in the Evansville diocesan newspaper.

The print medium may not be as popular today as it was before the great advances in communication technology. But thoughts put in print offer a better opportunity for personal reflection. Matters of faith become a matter of tangible record with a bit more permanence than oral presentations. Of course, all means of communication are important.

The Criterion is not an ordinary newspaper in the sense that it has a unique purpose, namely that of evangelization. It is a source primarily dedicated to providing information pertinent to the Catholic Church.

With that purpose in mind, the editorial staff of our paper makes choices about what is appropriate.

For example, as a matter of principle, The Criterion will not publish teachings contrary to the Church’s doctrine concerning faith and morals. Nor will we publish materials that are disloyal to the Holy Father and the Holy See.

Still, in order to provide information pertinent to the Church, a Catholic weekly will not only publish the good news about the Church, but when there is bad news it too is published. Needless to say, it is a challenge to do this in a fair and balanced manner.

The approach of the national elections is a difficult time for Catholic newspapers. It is not surprising that folks want to read favorable publicity about the political candidates they favor.

As a matter of principle, The Criterion does not and will not espouse the cause of a particular party and its candidates. This becomes complicated because obviously the Church has a deep concern about spiritual and moral issues that are paramount in the life of society.

Church leaders have an obligation and therefore a right to speak about the issues. Doing so in a way that is not prejudicial is a challenge. We do our best to avoid partisanship even when we would prefer otherwise.

Inevitably, there are calls for condemnation of a particular candidate. Whether it is considered fair or not, on this score of objectivity, the action of the Catholic Church is carefully scrutinized by federal officials, perhaps more so than other entities.

I want to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to The Criterion staff for exercising its professional and religious responsibility with admirable prudence. Production of our weekly publication entails a lot of hard work and deadlines exert a lot of pressure. Our staff meets timelines and does so with a limited number of helpers.

I know that many of you appreciate The Criterion because you tell me so. Thank you for your support.

Please find a place in your prayers for this part of our apostolate. †

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