David O’Connell, the former president of the Catholic University who was anointed coadjutor bishop of Trenton last weekend, may be a great guy–but given all that’s been happening in the church over the past few months, his allocution left me cold.
His official episcopal slogan, Ministrare non ministrari–to serve rather than to be served–sounds humble enough, but it’s simply an evocation of that old papal appellation, servus servorum dei—servant of the servants of God. Depending on who’s wearing the mitre, it can signify faux as well as bona fide humility. Which posture will O’Connell assume?
He focused his remarks on laying out three ways a bishop serves: 1) teaching truth; 2) sanctifying his people; and 3) shepherding his people. “To teach. To sanctify. To shepherd. This is what a bishop does for God’s people and with God’s people.” The most regal hierarch in history would have had no trouble uttering that line.
What about serving God’s people by ensuring that they are protected against sexual predators in clerical clothing? What about serving God’s people with an administration that is open and transparent? What about serving God’s people by pledging to fulfill their spiritual aspirations? What about serving God’s people, in a desperately poor city, with a renewed commitment to supporting their material needs? That’s ministrare in my book.