Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fran on Tap

And three months later... suffice it to say, they're still dancin' down in Wilmington.

From the first moment the Delaware diocese's succession crept onto the radar, Fran Malooly's name topped near-every wish list in it. Reason most-often expressed: "The perfect choice."

It didn't hurt that the Baltimore-born bishop seemingly knew half the place by name even before his July appointment... but ever since, the rationale's borne itself out as groups ranging from the pews to the presbyterate to even the local chapter of SNAP have taken to the new arrival with that special something very close to rapture.

Long a faithful friend to youth ministry in the church, Malooly took the Catherine Rooney's floor in Trolley Square the other night, not to lead the Irish Pub's Karaoke, but a session for the diocese's Theology on Tap.

Fielding an hour of questions, the bishop delved into matters pastoral...

A Baptist man and Catholic woman attending the talk asked for the bishop's advice. They are dating, and both are committed to their faith. They wondered how to proceed.

The good news is that their faith is important, Malooly said. But moving forward will be a blessing and a challenge.

He suggested that they map out strategies for the next five years and that they ask what compromises they are willing to make and how they will raise their children. He also suggested they meet with clergy from each faith.

The bishop was asked about Americans and the faith worldwide. He said that the strongest Catholic countries are in Africa and South America, where parishes are much like American churches of the 1940s and '50s.

Finally, the bishop was asked about his own spiritual practice.

He said he finds it easy to pray when he walks outdoors and that Christian music helps him focus on his relationship with God.

Others pray when they drive, find renewal in spiritual reading or spend time in adoration of the Eucharist. He said everyone should look for what works best for him or her.

"I ask for God's grace to make the right decisions and do the right thing," he said.

...and, well, guess what else:
A young man said he imagined the bishop was surprised to be caught in the controversy over [VP-elect Joe] Biden's being a high-profile Catholic running for vice president. (Early on, Biden said he was personally pro life but often voted pro choice since U.S. law says abortion is legal. A few bishops said he should not receive communion, though Malooly said he would not deny Biden the Eucharist.)

The man said the bishop's stance took guts. But Malooly demurred, saying he was following the lead of a majority of the 390 American bishops. They've advocated a moderate approach.

"My own conscience tells me I have a better chance of helping someone if I don't alienate" that person, he said.

He added that politicians who are not on the same page as Catholic teachings are nothing new. In Maryland, where he served as priest and bishop, he dealt with the pro choice stances of Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Referring to his reluctance to condemn a politician, Malooly said: "I don't know everyone's conscience."

He suggested that Catholics use the litany of St. Thomas More to pray for politicians, lawyers and jurists. When it comes to pro life issues, there is a lot of work to do in the U.S. and he hopes to be persuasive on this issue, he said.
PHOTO: William Bretzger/Wilmington News-Journal