I don’t mean to trivialize the horrific scandals overwhelming and undermining the Catholic Church, but here’s a suggestion. And it has nothing to do with the really heavy issues: criminalization, celibacy, pedophilia, homosexuality and female priests. Another pope, less frail and less conservative, in another time might eventually and meaningfully address some or all of those. Maybe.
But for starters, why don’t we begin moving away from all of this “Father Bill” and “Father Kevin” and “Father Steve” stuff. Such Father-first-name familiarity is arguably symptomatic and symbolic of a priesthood too enamored of being liked — and parishioners liking the more informal comfort zone.
It’s really a double-edged cross.
The “Father Phil” syndrome has helped demystify the priesthood to the laity and tempered the formality between priest and parishioner. But in the good name of humanizing and personalizing God’s own emissaries, has this practice helped make priests too, well, approachable? And approaching? Perhaps arm’s length is an ideally respectable and respectful distance.
Recall that Father Flannagan did a pretty good job with Boys’ Town without being “Father Eddie” to thousands of orphans.
Perhaps the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, which might like to be seen as proactive on something, would want to consider taking this small, symbolic step. Then, again, Bishop Bob (Lynch) is pretty busy.