He was a very good pastor who just retired. Jimbo was a Vatican ll guy who lived the vision. In the end he outlived the reactionary papacies of Woytyla and Razinger, the failed attempt to return to the status quo ante of clerical control and top down management. He really believed in the sensus fidelium, that the Spirit was not the province of celibate leaders but really belonged to the people of God. And oh yes, baptism was the central sacrament not Holy Orders.
Years ago his parish was flooded with evacuees from one of those sad right wing orders which proliferated under the previous two papacies. He did what he could under the harsh regimes of bishops imposed by Rome. In every parish he raised up the lay voice to leadership positions and he then retired with much respect and his dignity intact. He was enthused by the new Francis pontificate.
He told me about his sadness at seeing so many young people leaving the church, at looking out and seeing only the grey heads at mass. He wanted to dedicate his remaining years to alleviate this sad scene.
In many ways Jimbo was constrained by the lack of freedom he had as an official rep of an authoritarian church which seemed fixated on the pelvic issues. Lay people had a much greater freedom to speak. He knew that every parish had the Catholic thought police which would report every putative deviation from what is seen as “orthodoxy’.
Jimbo did not feel free (nor did many other clerics) to really say what was on his mind. He knew he would be derricked by the ecclesial politburo who got where they were by swearing fealty to the Polish pope that they would never ever deny the birth control encyclical or mention horribile dictu the ordination of married men or women. He would be out on his ass with no pension. Many priest friends told me this. What do you do ahen you are 55 and out of a job? While it was true the ratio for celibacy was that it gave you more freedom to speak truth to power because you had no family, that was only partially true. In the top down military command centre, you obeyed or took a hike.
I told Jimbo it was obvious to me why youth had deserted the institute—and the synagogue as well. Young people are really idealists at heart. They want to be engaged in history and their parishes never were. My former students all told me the same thing. They left our school on fire for the call of the kingdom and when they had kids of their own and went into parishes there simply was no engagement or it was one issue abortion and that was it.
The priests never twigged that having male clerics telling women what to do with their bodies was a very bad optic. And that celibates should be the last to lecture married people and women who have few rights in the Catholic church
The most recent example of this is the radical failure of the Catholic church to confront the climate change issue. Maybe 1 or 2 parishes in Toronto have their young people engaged here but most are doing nothing—or maybe greenwashing a bit. Jim Wallis of Sojourners said this
Ultimately, as followers of Christ, climate change is about our faith, our theology, our moral identity, and our calling as God’s children.Climate change is not another issue to move higher up the list of our concerns. Rather it is the concern central to all other issues.”
Wallis also said that you have to ask yourself about any parish meeting, is this connected to a movement outside the church? If not you are wasting your time.Pious navel gazing, a church outside of history, no cross, no crown.The old Catholic truism, if we are not leading the parade we are not in it. What do I have to learn from Suzuki, Friends of the Earth or the Sierra Club. Every Catholic parish should be linked to one of these organizations.
So the young go where the action is, where there is life and this sadly is decidedly not in Catholic parishes.
It was once—when Youth Corps thrived but the bishop canned that, too much lay control.
I do not know how Jimbo can change this. Pope Francis is sending radical signals but the gatekeepers in major dioceses are the JP ll dogmatists who have never shown any interest in justice of any kind.
Sheep without a shepherd, Jesus said as he looked at the turgid leadership of his time so he as a layman started the kingdom rolling.
That’s where the action is.