August 4, 2017


Both/and, not either/or

Could anything be timelier than Archbishop Charles C. Thompson’s homily during his installation as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis on July 28? He said, “We must dare to counter the growing polarization, division and radical individualism that breed fear, distrust, hatred, indifference, prejudice, selfishness, despair, violence and radical ideology.”

Our new archbishop made it clear that he intends to be the shepherd of all. He preached about the “Catholic both/and” that he said the people of southwest Indiana heard him discuss frequently when he served there as bishop of Evansville for six years prior to being appointed here. He thoroughly rejected any “either/or” mentality—a mentality that seems to have infected so many in our culture and in our Church.

We know that the polarization within our Church has reached a point where people refer to themselves, among other labels, as either pro-life Catholics or pro-social justice Catholics. To be true Catholics, we must be both. It makes no sense to be one and not the other.

Thus, Archbishop Thompson said, “We must be concerned about both worship and service, word and sacrament, Scripture and Tradition, head and body, commandments and beatitudes, tone and content, justice and mercy, doctrine and pastoral care initiatives, marriage and family, faith and reason, spirituality and religion, healing wounds and warming hearts, holiness and mission, personal prayer and communal prayer,” and he went on to mention eight other dual categories.

In a homily that included evidence of his well-known self-deprecating sense of humor, Archbishop Thompson was also deadly serious in telling us that “we must stand in the breach of the effects of polarization, division and radical individualism as missionary disciples, cultivating a culture of dialogue, encounter, accompaniment, mutual respect, reconciliation, mercy and hope.”

And the archbishop wasn’t speaking only of ecclesiastical matters. “Nothing of humanity and creation must escape our focus, engagement and outreach,” he said.

Archbishop Thompson is well known to many priests in the archdiocese since he was a seminarian at Saint Meinrad School of Theology with some of them, and later taught others as a member of the faculty there. He is quickly becoming better known to more of us. We can see why he is considered a worthy successor to Archbishop Emeritus Daniel

M. Buechlein, Saint Meinrad’s rector when he was a seminarian there and whom he considers a mentor, and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin.

Cardinal Tobin knew him as one of the other Indiana bishops when Archbishop Thompson led the Diocese of Evansville. They and the other Indiana bishops worked together to produce the pastoral letter “Poverty at the Crossroads.”

We can see the influence of these bishops when Archbishop Thompson said in his homily, “We must leave no one behind, especially being attentive to the unborn, the poor, the young, the elderly, the migrant, the immigrant, the refugee, the sick, the dying, the addicted, the abused, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the hopeless, the imprisoned and all who suffer.”

The archbishop also acknowledged the influence of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, whom he called the catechist par excellance, and Pope Francis, whom he call the evangelizer par excellance. The catechist needs the evangelist to flesh out the teaching in lived experience, while the evangelist needs the firm foundation of the catechist from which to evangelize, he said.

While Archbishop Thompson’s homily during his installation Mass was a timely exhortation, his homily on July 27 during the Solemn Evening Prayer on the eve of his instillation pointed toward eternity. He reminded us all that we must always “keep the end in mind.”

The end, he said, “is personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, ultimately ending in salvation of souls.”

As a preview of what he would say the next day, he told those gathered that keeping the end in mind, “we more fully realize the beauty of the consistent ethic of life in the interrelatedness of our relationship with God, others, self and all of creation.”

Keeping the end in mind, he said, “We might no longer perceive the poor, the unborn, the immigrant, the refugee, the sick, the elderly, the addicted, the prisoner and the disabled as burdens but human beings, our brothers and sisters. Keeping the end in mind, we are equipped to safeguard the dignity of every person, defend the family, touch wounds and uphold doctrine while applying the soothing balm of pastoral care. Keeping the end in mind, justice is tempered with the sweetness of mercy.”

Wise words for both the present and for eternity.

—John F. Fink

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