During the height of the pandemic, and then in the phase of mass vaccination, few Italian bishops spoke out “as bishops”, that is to say, remaining far above the political indications expressed by the government. To speak out ‘as a bishop’ means to do so in the light of faith, not with an ‘administrative’ view, because bishops are not government officials, and in the light of reason, because the Church’s task is also to protect natural moral law and the correct use of reason that leads to it. A recent speech by Mgr Giampaolo Crepaldi, bishop of Trieste, is part of this welcome novelty of sorts. Entitled “Starting afresh with courage and faith”, it was delivered on 18 September last at the OP Meeting of the Dominicans in Bologna, but has been circulated recently, also in Spanish and English translations, [see here: https://www.vanthuanobservatory.org/ripartire-con-coraggio-e-fede-op-meeting-bologna-mons-giampaolo-crepaldi/].

With  sober and lucid language, the bishop clarifies many things that deserve to be considered, doing so both between the lines and stating them explicitly. His indications for the recovery, the ‘starting over’,  concern conscience, reason and faith, and after having addressed the subject in such a serious way without the usual slogans, but  “as a bishop”, what he has to say is worthy of attention.

On the subject of conscience, Crepaldi said with a tinge of sarcastic realism that many “decisions have often been dictated by imitation, indirect obligation or haste, on the word of one expert or another, relying on one or another of the narratives circulating within a sea of confused and contradictory information in which conscience has often been shipwrecked. . .  Consciences have been bombarded far too much by so many slogans, and have been literally propelled to evaluate things in haste in order to speed everything up, but actually making things take longer because of this haste.” The strong critical meaning of these words cannot escape anyone’s notice. Crepaldi also did not shy away from speaking about the Church: “I must add  that even the Catholic Church could perhaps have done more to provide the tools for personal reasoning according to truth and freedom, reasoning capable of engaging in an orderly examination of what is at stake at the different levels”.

On the subject of reason, the bishop observed that  “scientific reason has not been used for what it is, that is, in its successes and limits. In some cases science has been exalted, going far beyond the wise humility of many scientists well aware of its hypothetical character. . . In other cases it has been debased and accused of complicity with the political power apparatus, which – it must be recognized – has used it just as often for its own purposes, hiding behind the expression ‘science says so’. But what science really says has remained on the whole rather obscure. Nevertheless, it has greatly influenced personal decisions, and scientific judgment has immediately become ethical judgment for many people”.  It is indeed difficult to deny that this is precisely what has happened. For ‘starting over’,  the bishop invites “reason as such to get the better of fear, which is always an unreliable counselor and a facile instrument of control, improvised and groundless trust, haste or necessity”.  He who has ears to hear, let him listen.

Lastly, he addressed faith. Here we find a truly powerful message, but one voiced with the calm tone of wisdom as is customary with Crepaldi’s teachings and messages,: “Faith sees everything from the perspective of perdition and salvation, evaluates even misfortunes in the light of divine providence, and proposes faith in almighty God, who normally works through secondary causes but can also intervene, as in miracles, – despite the perplexity in this regard on the part of  much of contemporary theology – by interrupting the succession of natural causality, reads the events of history through a theology of history and always invites people to conversion and repentance. The Church never confuses health, in the sanitary sense of the term, with salvation”.

As we can see, there are still some bishops who speak ‘as bishops’.

Stefano Fontana

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