+Vigano's Opening Address

This story appears in the USCCB Fall 2014 feature series. View the full series.

by Michael Sean Winters

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Archbishop Vigano’s talk to the bishops opened the USCCB meeting. Interestingly, he focused much of the talk on young people and the need for the Church to reach out to them.

He quotes Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” This text is clearly so close to the heart of Pope Francis and is a key hermeneutic for understanding how Francis views the mission of the Church and the nature of Episcopal leadership. It directly contradicts the didactic approach to Church leadership preferred by some, and I wish +Vigano had spent more time developing his theme.

+Vigano also noted the rise of suicide and euthanasia as evidence of “the dark culture of our times,” and who can doubt it? +Vigano asked why the “culture of death” has appeal to young people. “Young America is searching for something or, perhaps, for someone?...They are searching for more than happiness; they are searching for meaning and purpose.” He mentioned the challenges of drugs and gangs, which provide a superficial meaning and purpose to young people, and called for American society to face more honestly the challenges that young people face.

On sexual abuse crisis, +Vigano notes the cost to Christian witness caused by the actions of some priests and bishops, but he insists “we can rebuild the credibility of the Church through the shining example of so many saints in our midst.” He does not deal extensively with the theme, but moves on.

Religious liberty makes its appearance in the text, but is in no way a central focus of the talk.

 +Vigano closed with quotes from both Pope Francis and St. John Paul II. He calls on the bishops to continue to learn to listen, to discern, which sounds very much like what Pope Francis wants. There is no particular charge to the bishops to overcome their hesitancy, or even resistance, to Pope Francis’ agenda. He did not even acknowledge it. There was nothing wrong or offensive about the talk, but I had the feeling it was not up to the moment. It was encouraging, in the way Pope Francis is often encouraging, but it was not challenging, as Pope Francis is just as often challenging. 

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