By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
QUEBEC CITY (CCN)—In his new duties helping the Pope choose bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet will be looking for bold “men of faith” who have “the guts to help people live it out”
A bishop has to lead the community, so he needs a deep supernatural vision as well as the capacity to assess the political, cultural, and sociological context, said the new Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops in an interview. Above all, a bishop must be “audacious in proposing the Word and in believing in the Power of the Word and the power of the Spirit.”
“We have to dare to speak to the deep heart, where the Spirit of the Lord is touching people beyond what we can calculate,” said Ouellet. “We need spiritual discernment and not just political calculation of the risk of the possibility of the message being received.”
Eight challenging years as Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada have forged Ouellet’s vision of the episcopacy. During that time he faced preaching the Good News in a culture that has fallen away from its Christian roots.
Being faithful to Catholic teaching meant opposition from Quebec’s deeply secularized, post-Catholic society. At the same time he had the challenge of making sure his priests were following him. “They are also in a situation of tension,” he said. “This is a difficult balance.”
Ouellet also stressed the importance of solidarity among bishops.
Earlier this year, Ouellet had spoken out against the lack of episcopal support for the Holy Father during the firestorm of media criticism for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis. Ouellet, too, has often stood alone inside a negative media maelstrom in Quebec.
But he recognized that in a large province like Quebec, each bishop has a different context. A rural diocese in a homogeneous part of the province faces different challenges from a big multicultural city like Montreal in how the Gospel message is conveyed, he said.
The need for unity and solidarity goes far beyond any political statements, he said, but involves a personal commitment that rises beyond a dogmatic faith to an “existential faith that means spiritual discernment of the presence of God and of God’s will.”
We are in a world where the Christian heritage being strongly contested, so we have to recognize that and propose it better, though not through an attempt to restore the past, he said.
“We have to tell people about the Crucified and Risen Lord, who is shaping the Church today, with people faithful to His Word, to His Divine Presence and to the community he wants to see living of His Spirit.”
A bishop must always take a personal approach, he said. Bishops not only must state dogmatic positions, they must believe in them deeply, “then you have the power of conviction.”
“If you state it only formally and in the end you do not really want to see it applied because you don’t believe that it is possible that people accept it, you are in trouble for the transmission of the message,” he said.
Bishops must also be close to people, he said. Being spiritual does not mean keeping a distance.
“The Lord has given us his own heart to be a presence of His heart in the midst of the people,” the cardinal said. “So we have to be aware of that and cultivate what we call holiness, unity with Him, daily unity, in a way that is very human and very spiritual.”
He advocated an ascetical attitude in prayer to maintain purity of heart. “The love of the people is fulfilling the life of the priest.”
Ouellet takes on his key role in the Vatican at a time when the Church faces a worldwide sexual abuse crisis, especially in the west, fueled by a secularist news media.
Ouellet said he shared Pope Benedict XVI’s vision that sins of the priests have come forward during the Year for Priests to give the Church “an opportunity for purification.”
Reports that go back as far as 40 years have created a sense of panic that has distanced many people from the Church, he admitted. But Ouellet said sexual abuse is a worldwide problem well beyond the Church. After the Church goes through her purification, the community of the faithful will help the rest of humanity to face this horrific problem, he said.
We have to solve the problem by virtue and prevention, not only by punishment and legal means, he said.
Ouellet came into Quebec eight years ago facing some suspicion as the “man from Rome” sent to set things straight.
He leaves Quebec beloved by many of the faithful, not only in Quebec but across Canada. At his final public celebration of the Eucharist before leaving for his new job, more than 2,000 people packed the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to wish him farewell, sending waves of applause and gratitude and thronging him afterwards.
Already speculation is growing on who might replace him as Archbishop of Quebec. In the next two years, nine or ten bishops in that province reach retirement age.
“We have to have a rebirth of the Church in Quebec, and it will come,” Ouellet said.
“My prayer and my wish would be obviously that we have living communities with good priests, well-trained intellectually, spiritually, with a sense of deep commitment to Christ, of evangelical life for themselves and love for the people.”
Ouellet called for openness to new movements in the Church, and expressed hopes those already in Quebec, such as Famille Marie-Jeunesse, Catholic Christian Outreach, and the Eucharistic movement around the Youth Summit/Montee Jeunesse will “multiply.”
“I believe deeply there will be a new evangelization,” he said.
The Cardinal also called for a new intellectual dynamism, especially a reform of education to “recapture the spirit of Christianity and “create a new Christian culture.”
“We need intellectuals for that, theologians, philosophers, Christians who really believe in the Gospel and share the doctrine of the Church on moral questions,” he said.
“We have suffered from this mentality of dissent” that is “still dominating the intelligentsia.”
“There is no real discipleship there, real discipleship,” he said. “The discipleship that is emerging is from those who believe and who really love the Church.”