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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cardinal Tobin's real-life approach to faith

Cardinal Tobin's real-life approach to faith
Let your faith be how you see the world, says this newly appointed cardinal.

Faith, says Joseph Cardinal Tobin, is not what you do on Sunday mornings. It's who you are. It's how you see. It's how you act. 

"A joke I use sometimes to illustrate this is the one about the priest who's reading his breviary on a plane," he says. "At one point the flight attendant comes out of the cockpit rather ashen-faced and says, 'The pilot informs us we can't get the landing gear to descend. Make sure you're strapped in and assume the crash position.' The priest snaps his breviary shut and says, 'Oh my God, I'd better pray.'"

He's got an easy sense of humor, but Cardinal Tobin takes his role as a leader of the faithful seriously. He's one of the U.S. Catholic Church's most prominent voices against deportations and immigration bans. As the previous archbishop of Indianapolis he challenged Vice President Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana, when Pence proclaimed Syrian refugees would not be resettled in the state. More recently he accompanied Catalino Guerrero, a Mexican immigrant faced with deportation, to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center after Guerrero was summoned to appear there in March. 

His model of leadership is notable--one of accompaniment that does not shy away from reminders that our gospel mandate is to serve the common good--and it's earned him a reputation as a "Francis bishop." Cardinal Tobin says the association is inevitable (the pope named him a cardinal and appointed him to the embattled Newark archdiocese late last year). "Personally, I think that 'Francis bishops' are going to look different, and I hope so," he says.

You said at your installation as the archbishop of Newark that the biggest challenge the church faces today is the chasm between life and faith. What did you mean by that?

We're encouraged to compartmentalize faith. Faith is seen as equivalent to worship and thereby reduced to an hour on Sunday morning, if that. It really impoverishes the notion of faith, of which the biblical image is a type of vision, a different way of looking at things.

Faith is not an opiate or belief in the pie in the sky and the great by-and-by. It's about the great drama of human existence and seeing something differently. I think that part of ministry and the life of the church is to help people make that connection, to see something differently.

Faith tells me that my life with God is not simply about me and Jesus, because if it's just me and Jesus, then it's mainly about me. Faith impels me to have the vision to see other people not as objects or people who will do things that will meet my needs but as fellow daughters and sons of God, as brothers and sisters, as fellow pilgrims.

I ask Catholics to reflect: Do we identify predominantly with a political school or a personality or a label? Or primarily as disciples of Jesus? 
This notion of "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious," is really another way of saying, "I want to separate the faith part of me from everything else." But religion is a lifestyle. It means that what I believe influences the way that I live. I think that's true in politics as well.

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