Posts Tagged ‘Letter’

SO NOW WE WAIT

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
Bishop Lynch Retirement Letter to Pope Francis

The letter that was sent to Pope Francis today.

Today marks only the beginning of the end of my service as Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. It is not the end. That moment comes when my successor who will be the fifth bishop is installed at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. But today is still a special moment and I sign the letter to Pope Francis asking to be allowed to retire as required by Canon Law and I thank him for the incredible privilege of serving this terrific local Church.

Twenty and a half years ago when I first appeared at the cathedral for a press conference accompanying the announcement of my appointment, my heart and mind were are odds with one another. My mind said accept the honor with dignity and grace and my heart said it was almost criminal to leave the people of St. Mark’s parish in West Broward who in six months I had come to love. Even after coming here and starting, there was still that strange feeling of almost a “divorce” in which both sides lost something valuable.

This morning I woke up with the same battle of heart and mind. The mind said, “Enough is enough and it is time for me to rest and another to lead, be creative, take this local Church to a new level of coming to experience the presence of the Lord.” But my heart said, how can I leave my collaborators in ministry, my priests and deacons and religious women and men, my seminarians, my schools and faith formation leaders and teachers? I love them too much!

If you know me as well as I think you do, you know that while I am relieved, I am not entirely happy. I cried when in July of 1984 I drove out of the gates of St. John Vianney College seminary in Miami to begin my new assignment in Washington. I cried all the way to Hollywood that day but no one was in the car to witness it.

On February 3, 1995 I cried walking from the chapel at the headquarters of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through a wall of people lining the hallway all the way to the front entrance and the parking lot, all crying as much as I. I cried that time all the way to Lorton and the Auto Train depot where a train would take my car and myself back to Miami for a new assignment.

On January 20, 1996 I cried as I said good-bye to my parish staff and teachers grade school children at St. Mark’s and climbed into my car to drive to St. Petersburg and my new assignment. Those tears lasted half way across Alligator Alley until a Seminole tribe sheriff stopped me and warned me that I was pressing the speed limit a tad too close. Just a warning, not a tearful ticket.

If you get the picture, it is that I do not handle major change and the fondest of good-byes well. I was proud of myself that only once and then unnoticed during the ordination last Saturday of the five new priests did I break down and it was after the greeting of peace with Father Felipe Gonzalez whose parents and family were unable to be with him/us in that moment. But at the end, in my own sacristy I shut the door and let loose knowing that I had ordained to the priesthood for the last time and would not have that privilege for the incredible men coming along in the next few years. They are as close to sons as any unmarried male can have but when I leave, they will be my brothers no longer my sons.

Today is not the time for tears. Work continues unabated. You will see that I will be very reluctant to begin new major initiatives or to spend new monies. If the transition were to take place tomorrow, the new bishop would inherit a great diocese made up of talent and treasure – probably the best in Florida and maybe even in the country. We have accomplished something beautiful for God in the last two decades. And you have helped me even in ways of which you are largely unaware. Rarely disappointed and forever grateful, I cannot thank you enough. You have tolerated my eccentricities and peculiarities, you have been loyal even when I have done something which may have hurt. Together we have lived our mantra to this local Church, “how can I help you.”

Today I think of Sue Tully, Vivi, Carmen, Malissa, Maria, Joan, Betty, Frank, Deacon Rick, and Michael, our team in our version of the “West Wing.” Today at this Eucharist which means “thanksgiving” I think of Monsignor Brendan Muldoon, Monsignor Robert Gibbons, Father Alan Weber, Monsignor Frank Mouch, and Monsignor Morris, absent this moment only because his dear Mom has a doctor’s appointment which cannot be missed. I have been the luckiest person in the Church in the United States to have been assisted by these competent, loving, patient people. Thank you Jesus!

So today for this local Church the clock of expectation and hope starts to tick. We are like that parable in the Gospel waiting for the bridegroom knowing neither the day, hour or time of his arrival. But today we start to pray for him and he will remain in our expectation, hope and prayers until he comes. I shall not end as did President Obama at the National Press Club banquet a few weeks ago by simply dropping the microphone and saying “Obama, out!” Rather I will say, “Lynch, on hold.” Thanks and God Bless all of you.

+RNL

P.S. I want to share with you a video that my staff put together for me that you might enjoy. I did.

 

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Photo taken from Google Images

With all due respect to Dickens, living in the bay area and reading its two newspapers reminds me of the opening lines of the great Dickens novel whose title I have borrowed for this post. “It [is] the best of times, it [is] the worst of times.” Thank God there is still a choice of newspapers in this area and there can still be a diversity of editorial opinion. The Tampa Tribune has twice editorialized on the public position which I and the Catholic bishops of the United States have taken in light of the decision of the Obama administration not to broaden the exemption from the HHS regulations which would in effect force many of our Church institutions to provide contraceptive services (including abortifacients). The Tribune got it right and I am grateful to them for the care and precision with which they have approached this matter. To read the first editorial, click here. To read the second editorial, click here.

The Tampa Bay Times has twice editorialized against the position I have taken, in the first instance accusing me of wishing to create a “theocracy” and just today writes “Lynch mistakingly claims this is a matter of church-state separation” and then the paper adopts the specious argument that we are only a protected “church” when we are at prayer or worship, and not when we are caring for the sick, housing the homeless, teaching our faith to our children, etc. Wow! Let some future administration trample on the paper’s first amendment rights of protection of free speech (for example, the ability to hide the identity of sources) and one would hear a similar outrage emanating this time from the Times.

The establishment clause and religious liberty are two pillars of our Constitution and the first amendment. The present administration has deliberately and purposely given short shrift to both in search of votes in November. Other papers in the nation which usually embrace the Time’s postions have allowed their columnists and op-ed writers to present precisely (and perhaps more clearly than I) the position which the Catholic Church is taking at this moment in history. The Washington Post has recently printed two significant articles in opposition to the administration’s position (see the Michael Gerson article and the E.J. Dionne article) as has The New York Times. The legal argument has been made clearly and convincingly in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. Not so our Times. Thus, in addition to our own Tampa Tribune there are many editorial and reporting voices out there who understand what we are attempting to conveyto Catholics and others worried about the growing intrusion of government into free exercise of religion.

As I indicate in my letter to be distributed and/or read in all our parishes (read it here in English or Spanish), I did not choose this moment which just happens to be an election year nor did my brother bishops. President Obama did and HHS Secretary Sibellius. It is generally acknowledged that within his own White House family, there were a number of voices including the Vice-President and his departing chief-of-staff who counseled against this. He almost promised Cardinal-designate Dolan in November that some broadening of the regulations would happen. I believe it would be wrong for me as a bishop to endorse any candidate for political office but it is entirely appropriate for me to point out error and dissimulation when I see it manifest in an act of Congress or of the Administration. But no administration in the history of this union has acted against my Church and its mission and work like this one. One is left with the impression that one must either buy their whole package or be left at the station waiting for a train to return which will never come again. Ask the women who we used to be able to help who were victims of human trafficing in the sex trade which operates in this country but who we can help no more (and the same agency that denied our continued participation also acknowledged that we were perhaps the best and most effective agency previously working in this area). All because we can not provide access to abortion to these women.  Ask those looking to adopt children in Illinois who Catholic Charities used to be able to give help and hope to but no more. Is it unfair to ask on whose watch all this has happened?

Finally, The Tampa Bay Times would do well to study the decision in the Hosanna-Tabor case of a few weeks ago in which a unanimous Supreme Court (including Justices Sotomayor and Kagan) decided against the administration in a religious freedom case which looks very much like what may wind up before the same court again if these regulations are allowed to stand. Congress may intervene but more than likely this battle will be won in the courts because the very freedoms we espouse are constitutive of our nation’s founding principles. So let others make fun of our religion, of our Church, of our core values and teaching all they wish. Amazingly perhaps to others,  I find the vast majority of Catholics whom I am privileged to serve equally worried about these recent events and more and more fiercely determined to make their positions known.

For further updates about how you can take a stand and let your voice be heard, please stay tuned to this blog and to the Diocese of St. Petersburg website at www.dosp.org. To read PDF versions of the letter to parishes, click here for the English version and here for the Spanish version.

+RNL