Bishops and priests talk and write about the gospel. They urge others to put the gospel into practice. This is strange.
For years, international organisations of reform-minded Catholics have been trying to get acclaim from as many people as possible whenever someone manages to aptly articulate desirable changes in the Church. Grassroots deliberation fits this method. To this end, Pope Francis has requested summaries of synodal talks. Meetings of bishops, priests monastics and laity should produce ideas for Synod 2023/24. This, too, is strange.
Providing particularly inspiring texts and formulating desired changes in the Church are something quite different from acting in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan. Only those who act in this way can claim to be walking in the footsteps of the first Christians. Those first Christians were following a dream that is lost somewhere.
Jesus dreamt of a paradise where charity would triumph over injustice, greed and lust for power. He has put the Good Samaritan as an example. After his death, some 70 disciples stuck to his dream. They attracted attention even outside Palestine. According to the Greek historian Plutarchus, Christians in the Roman Empire were soon known for their concern for one another and for the poor. This charitable attitude was apparently unique and essential. But those early Christians went through a difficult time.
Within 40 years of Jesus' death, James, the leader of the first community, was murdered. The place in the temple where the community usually met was destroyed along with all of Jerusalem. Peter
and Paul were sentenced to death and put to death. Nero had everyone killed who refused to worship him as a god. Philosophy teachers had already come up with an alternative to this idolatry. It
was a mixture consisting of thoughts of Stoics, of Neoplatonism, of Jewish tradition and of the Hellenistic cult. Christians embraced these thoughts as a contemporary alternative view of God and
religion. These ideas did not seem inconsistent with the lifestyle of the Good Samaritan. But, as was common among cults at the time, high priests and priests were granted exclusive supernatural
powers. This fairy-tale equipment became the basis for specific church rules. From the third century, the authority of bishops was enshrined in an unshakeable tradition and in a monarchical
system. Since then, bishops were authorised to approve any act favourable to the church on behalf of God. Emperor Constantine seized his opportunity. Bishops enabled him, as a kind of
missionary, to subjugate peoples and win them to the Church. Later, this justified crusades, the Inquisition and action against indigenous tribes in America Canada. Even now we see how, until
recently, bishops could cover up child abuse by priests with impunity.... Disclosures now bring the Church new negative publicity almost every week. More and more people are ashamed to be
associated with the Church.
This can change if a bishop radically adapts the objective of his diocese to the Gospel, switches from Gospel words to Gospel deeds. This means he switches from giving exhortations to actually giving food, legal aid and financial support himself to the needy and to charitable initiatives.
If the idea appeals to a bishop personally, Jesus can regain the sympathy of the whole world through his actions. In working out a new structure and setting priorities in consultation with experts and with wide representation of the faithful, traditional ills such as opacity, pedanticism and discrimination can be avoided. A charitable diocese becomes a fulcrum of the Charitable Church in the making where the message of Jesus becomes clear to all.