In his opening address to the fall meeting of the US Bishops, Archbishop Dolan kept linking the Roman Catholic Church with Jesus Christ. While there is a long history of the church as the bride of Christ, the way Dolan uses it seems simplistic. Archbishop Dolan and the US bishops could profit from a good course in missiology.
Missiologists like Fr. John Fuellenbach, SVD who has taught at the Gregorian in Rome and is presently based at an SVD seminary in the Philippines would put the church as bride of Christ in a larger, richer and more pastoral context. Fuellenbach would argue that Jesus proclaimed two essential truths: one is that God is a truly loving, forgiving, and compassionate God; and two that God’s dream for creation is a future expressed in that symbolic phrase, the Kingdom or Reign of God. The church was not Jesus’ main concern rather Jesus was about proclaiming the Kingdom or Reign of God.
I suspect our American bishops led by Archbishop Dolan have so politicized the Roman Catholic Church that they cannot recognize the Kingdom or Reign of God present in the world today even if it was right at their front door. It is no wonder people leave the church in droves because the bishops have not helped in discovering the presence of that reality, the Kingdom or Reign of God. People who live real lives have a better chance of finding and experiencing God than all the bishops and cardinals parading in their capa magnae and hurling shrill edicts on who is in communion or not in communion.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to hear Fr. Fuellenbach speak at a conference on Catholic mission. He told a wonderful story that captures his theology of the Kingdom or Reign of God. He talked about the black robes coming to bring the church and Jesus to the natives in the new world. As the ship with the black robes approached the shores of the new world the black robes began waving to the natives. In turn the natives began to wave back to the black robes on board the ship. Fr. Fuellenbach said that if you looked very closely at the scene on the land with the natives waving, you could see Jesus behind the natives also waving back to at the black robes. Jesus was already there.
Jesus was already there. I fear the US bishops at this time in their present politicized mode have no sense of where Jesus is.
Here is a link to his book, Church: Community for Kingdom, with a review and several comments: