At their annual spring meeting held in St. Louis last week, U.S Catholic bishops discussed several issues currently facing the Catholic Church, including: the clergy sex abuse scandal, what the Church sees as challenges to marriage, and the pope's upcoming encyclical on the environment.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson attended the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting, where he spoke with reporter Stephanie Lecci. An excerpted interview aired on "St. Louis on the Air" and part of it is included below:
On the upcoming Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage
Carlson: Obviously, we can only do what the Church allows and our theology teaches us that marriage is between a man and a woman, and we’ll continue to prepare young couples who come to us and hopefully to strengthen not only marriage, but also family life.
You know, here in St. Louis, one of my concerns is violence and family violence. And we’ve just started the new Commission on justice and peace. One of the issues we talked about at our first meeting…is we have to do something about violence in the community and family violence. So I think that’s another way that we can help.
As far as the Supreme Court decision, my father used to say, ‘Don’t count your chickens before the eggs are hatched,’ but we’ll see what they do. And obviously, as the church has done for 2,000 years, we’ll deal with the issue as it comes up, and hopefully be sensitive to everyone but at the same time faithful to our teaching.
You know, Pope Francis really does a great job. He knows what the church teaches and he continues to express it, but he proclaims it as good news, and that’s always been my approach as well. We will be faithful to what the church teaches, but at the same time, we certainly have to help our culture and the many issues that make it up, so that’s our approach.
On how the St. Louis Archdiocese and local Catholics can combat racism and improve police-community relations
Carlson: We want to be supportive to the police, we want to be supportive to the community. I established the Peace and Justice Commission because of the Ferguson issue... We have some long-range programs that aren’t quite set yet. Because I believe what we really need is people face-to-face in a discussion. And I also believe I should follow the leadership of the black pastors, because they certainly know the community better than I, but I want to do everything to support. So charities, prayer, schools, commission - hopefully that will help in the long-run.
...In St. Louis, we have to continue to be on the cutting edge... And I think this is how we do it: We help Catholics understand that they have to be personally involved and have to examine their own conscience and have to be willing to extend a hand because the Lord says, 'Love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself,' and I like to translate it as 'another self.'
...We got to know our neighbors. When I was growing up, if I got in trouble as a little boy at the end of the block, before I got home the lady had called, because she knew my mother. We have to get to the point where we become a family again and we know the people around us. We’ve become a little impersonal. It’s something we’ve got to work at, no matter who they are.
...A number of years ago, I became a pastor of a black, inner-city parish and obviously I had grown up in the suburbs and had not had a lot of exposure. But I found it to be a wonderful community, and one of the great things that happened is, I must have been nervous because I was talking at a parish council meeting and a lady said to me, 'Honey if you want to learn, you gotta hush up.' And that was a great lesson for me, and so I listened, and we had a wonderful relationship. And I think probably listening is something we all need to do whether it’s church or media or business or school or politicians, we all have to do a better job of listening.
On steps the Church is taking to combat clergy sex abuse of children and the pope's new Vatican tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up cases of abuse
I think it’s a good thing. Obviously, as I look back over my more than 30 years as a bishop, the whole thing has changed a great deal. I think there were changes in the '90s, and then again in 2002, and there’s still changes that we need. But the pope has brought it to the attention of the whole church, so it’s something that we are working on.
When I came to St. Louis, I felt that they had a very good review board process, and my commitment has always been to listen to them and to follow what this group of experts feels is the right way to proceed. And I think it’s a wonderful way that laity, whether you’re a grandmother in the community or psychologist or an attorney or a counselor, or whatever you might be, can listen to what victims are saying and can give a recommendation to me. And my commitment is to follow... the advice I receive from this group. As a matter of fact, you can check, I’ve absolutely followed their advice since I came here.
St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.