A bishop who bucks the trends

Scott Alessi| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog

Prior to this week I can't say that I knew a lot about Cincinnati's Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, but two recent actions have certainly set him apart from many of the country's bishops.

First, Schnurr released a letter, published in his diocesan newspaper, on the upcoming collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Since attacks on CCHD first surfaced about two years ago, several bishops began to distance themselves from the organization. And when new accusations were made against the group recently, there was little in the way of a response from the bishops.

Schnurr's short but effective letter hits on the key points that Catholics in the pews need to know about CCHD. He explains what the organization actually does, giving real examples of some of the fruits that have come from its work in the local community. He supplies concrete facts on what CCHD is doing, as opposed to generalizations that the organization is only focused on "anti-Catholic" activities. He explains the role of CCHD by pointing out that its work reduces the demand on agencies that serve the poor, namely Catholic Charities. And he addresses head on the criticisms of the organization without getting into a petty argument with CCHD's detractors, stating plainly that no group that is working in opposition to Catholic teaching will receive CCHD funding.

If that wasn't enough, Schnurr sent out another letter that hit the web this week, this one in response to the question of distributing communion under both species as a regular practice at Mass. Phoenix Archbishop Thomas Olmsted announced last month that communion from the cup would no longer be the norm in his diocese (which drew a good deal of criticism, including here at US Catholic) and Madison, Wisconsin's bishop Robert Morlino followed suit a few weeks later.

Many were waiting to see who the next bishop to jump on board would be, but no bishops had come out against the move. Enter Schnurr, who in a letter to the priests of his diocese made clear that he has no intention to limit communion from the cup. He also points out, without ever attacking or criticizing the reasoning of his fellow bishops in Phoenix and Madison, that the often cited explanation that the indult allowing the distribution of communion under both kinds had expired is not exactly correct.

Hopefully other bishops will be inspired by Schnurr's example to speak out in favor of helping the poor and welcoming the faithful to the Eucharist. That type of attitude could go a long way in rebuilding a bridge--rather than putting up barricades--between the church hierarchy and the people they serve.