The Essentials, II

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Feb 19, 2004

Bishop Hubbard recently listed (below) the primary works of the Church: educating children, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless. Compare his thoughts with this recent statement by Chicago's Cardinal George:

One religious response to this kind of culture is to institutionalize schools and hospitals and works of mercy, charity, and justice in such a way that we contribute to the culture, but on the culture's own terms. It assumes that it is a good thing to be socialized according to the patterns of this culture.

This response has exhausted many of the resources of the Catholic Church in this country. Our universities are American universities and our hospitals are American hospitals, for good or ill. Have our institutions, which have been our best response for taking the children of immigrants and keeping them Catholic while making them Americans, demanded too high a price? Have we formed very fine professionals, but not formed disciples?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 21, 2004 12:20 PM ET USA

    I never knew there was any antithesis between being "American and professional" and being "Catholic..." True religion is incarnational. Resolving any paradox was their (the Bishops') job.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2004 12:20 PM ET USA

    This is a great heads-up comparison of commentary on the Church's present situation in responding to the culture. A bishop's primary duty is to proclaim the Gospel, yet so many of our bishops think that they are doing fine if they simply administrate over the institutional machinary. How applicable are the words of our Lord to his first bishop candidates, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt goes bad it is good for nothing but to be trampled under foot." That is Hubble's legacy.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2004 9:32 PM ET USA

    That is a truly frightening statement for a bishop to make. Nothing about the Gospel, nothing about evangelization, nothing about the sacraments or salvation, just roll over and let the culture change the Church, rather than the other way around. I pray that this sort of thing ends.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2004 3:17 PM ET USA

    Many of the posting in "Off the Record" are calling attention so an issue our Holy Father has addressed, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about and now Cardinal George's comment calls to attention. It is something the Hubbards and O'Briens and Mahoneys have not yet figured out. The Church is not primarily a social institution. It's primary purpose is to bring the Gospel to the world's peoples. The works of mercy flow from that but without the Gospel the works are just another social program.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 19, 2004 9:55 AM ET USA

    Shun the diocesan structure. It is incapable of reform.