On November 5, receiving the Austrian bishops who had come to him one by one on their "ad limina apostolorum" visit — as the bishops of each nation are required to do every five years — and summing up his conversations with them, Benedict XVI urged them to "change course."
To begin with, the Pope exhorted them to "look reality in the face with courage, without letting optimism, which is always a lure for us, represent an obstacle to calling things by their names with complete objectivity, and without embellishment."
He then recalled the "sorrowful" fact that "the process of secularization, which is now increasingly significant for Europe, did not even pause at the doors of Catholic Austria. Adherence to Church teaching is diminishing among many of the faithful, and this leads to loss off certainty in the Faith and a lessening of reverential fear for the law of God." After this, he asked: "So, then, what can we do?"
"As you well know, the confession of the Faith is one of the bishop's primary duties. 'I did not draw back', St. Paul says in Miletus to the pastors of the Church of Ephesus, 'from the task of proclaiming to you the whole counsel of God' (Acts 20:27). It is true that we bishops must act with discretion. Nevertheless, this prudence must not prevent us from presenting the Word of God in all its clarity, including those things that are heard less willingly, or that consistently provoke reactions of protest and derision.
"You, dear brothers in the Episcopacy, know this well: there are some topics relating to the truth of the Faith, and above all to moral doctrine, which are not present in the catechesis and preaching of your dioceses to a sufficient extent, and which sometimes, for example in pastoral outreach to youth in the parishes or groups, are either not confronted at all, or are not addressed in the clear sense understood by the Church.
"Thanks be to God, it is not like this everywhere. Perhaps those who are responsible for the proclamation [of the Gospel] are afraid that people may draw back if they speak too clearly. However, experience in general demonstrates that it is precisely the opposite that happens. Don't deceive yourselves! Catholic teaching offered in an incomplete manner is a contradiction of itself, and cannot be fruitful in the long term. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God goes hand in hand with the demand for conversion and with the love that encourages, that knows the way, that teaches that, with the grace of God, even that which seemed impossible becomes possible.
"Think of how, little by little, religious instruction, catechesis on various levels, and preaching can be improved, deepened, and, so to speak, completed! Please, make zealous use of the 'Compendium' and the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'! Have the priests and catechists adopt these tools, have them explained in the parishes, have them used in families as important reading material! Amid the uncertainty of this period of history and this society, offer to men the certainty of the fullness of the Church's Faith! The clarity and the beauty of the Catholic Faith are what make man's life shine, even today! This is especially the case when it is presented by enthusiastic and exciting witnesses.".
Sandro Magister www.chiesa.espressonline.it