Philadelphia; a different scene

Tonight in Philadelphia was nothing if not interesting.

A large crowd turned up in the science building of the University. There were a number of different reform organisations represented.  Again I was very well received, and the welcome was warm and open.  I felt a little tired during the talk, and the words didn’t come as easily as I would like, but it was all right.

Almost from the beginning I felt that the atmosphere in the hall wasn’t the same as we had the night before in Baltimore. I wasn’t sure what it was until I had finished my talk and it was opened to the floor.  As I usually do, I suggested that instead of asking questions they might like to make their own comments on the reform issues. I needn’t have bothered. They started straight away, and they had a great deal of frustration and even anger to ventilate. There was a level of discontent in this group that was not present in Baltimore. And I gradually began to see why.

Baltimore had been blessed for years with the presence of an auxiliary bishop called Murphy, who was loved by everyone, and who projected a wonderful image of the Church.  Philadelphia, on the other hand, has had a long series of extremely conservative and autocratic bishops, the latest being the current incombent, Archbishop Chaput.  Only the other day Chaput came out with a statement openly critical of Francis and of the Synod.

This brought home to me again that bishops are actually important, and that a good bishop can make an enormous difference, while the opposite can spread discontent and unhappiness around the diocese.

The organisation for gay people, Dignity, was strong represented at tonight’s meeting.  I found what they had to say really interesting; as were also the chats I am having with Jannine Grammick who continues to chauffeur me as far as New York tomorrow. I think any doubts I had about about how I might vote in the forthcoming referendum on gay marriage in Ireland have been cleared up.  It will be YES.

Tomorrow is New York, and there my talk is in the afternoon, for a change. I will be glad of that, and of the chance to relax in the evening and had a drink.  I think I will be staying with a priest there.

Incidentally there is a good account of my talk in Washington in the National Catholic Reporter: “Fr. Flannery talks about Church Reform with a brogue!” (I think in the American context I can take that as a compliment)