What we have to do is to preach the truth, in season and out, and do it in such a way that it has a chance to be heard rather than beating people over the head with an idea, even if the idea is true. We’re supposed to preach the truth and I believe we have to do that.
If you lead people along, string then along, so they think that somehow you’re playing with the truth, you’ve betrayed your vocation. If speaking clearly means that you’ve got a weapon in your hand, that you’re at war, then I guess so, but I don’t see it that way at all. What I see is the bishops being actively involved in engaging the culture, but it’s not a war. It’s a question of transformation of conversion. We all have to change and the culture has to change, too; it always will. Does that mean you’re at war? No, it means you’re doing what a bishop is supposed to do and will always do.
From my perspective, I’ve seen myself for a long time as engaging culture. Engagement is not warfare. I know that’s less dramatic to say, and people like to have drama, but calling it ‘war’ deforms what I’m about. It really denigrates my motivation, and I resent that. I’m not trying to beat anybody up at all; I’m trying to proclaim the truth of the Gospel, which I have an obligation to do.
The liberal/conservative thing, I think, is destructive of the Church’s mission and her life. I’ve said that publicly a lot at times. You’re taking a definition that comes out of nowhere, as far as we’re concerned, it’s a modern distinction, and making it the judgment of the Church’s life. It’s because we’re lazy. You put a label on people, you put a label on something, and it saves you the trouble of thinking.
I find that we are not self-critical as a people of our own thinking. We’re critical of authority, because we’re trained to be that. That’s the liberal/conservative thing … conservatives give authority a pass, liberals don’t. But for both, everything has to do with authority. What’s that got to do with truth? For us, the category that matters is true/false. I just reject that whole liberal/conservative deformation of the character of our lives. If you’re limited to that, as the press has to be because it can’t talk about the faith in its own terms, then somehow or other you’ve betrayed your vocation as a bishop and a priest.