By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
ST. JOSEPH — Go ahead. Make a mess.
Bishop Robert W. Finn says it’s OK. So does Pope Francis.
Echoing the words of the pope spoken three days earlier to thousands of Argentinean pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero, Bishop Finn told a few hundred Catholics at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph that U.S. culture needs Catholics to “make a mess.”
“He wants them to stir things up,” Bishop Finn said, referring to Pope Francis and the youth of his native Argentina.
“He wants them to live their faith. If that causes some logistical difficulties, then so be it,” Bishop Finn said.
The bishop noted that he, “not very knowledgeable in Spanish,” checked with a native Spanish-speaking priest to make certain the pope said what he was widely reported as saying — to return to their dioceses and “make a mess,” not merely “go out and make some noise.”
“No,” the priest told Bishop Finn. “It’s a ‘mess.’ It’s ‘chaos.’ It’s ‘confusion.’”
That kind of “mess” caused by faithful Catholics standing up for principles they will not compromise is also needed in a U.S. culture that is becoming hostile to religion, Bishop Finn said.
“It can be taken for granted today that we no longer live in a Judeo-Christian culture,” he said. “We cannot go along with the way of the world.”
He cited abortion, the acceptance of same-sex marriage, “widespread use of contraception,” and the “use of pornography,” as signs of a culture that needs faithful Catholics to stand firm.
“When the (Obama) administration says we must pay for contraception and sterilization, we have to say, ‘We cannot do that. Our faith will not allow us to do that,’” Bishop Finn said.
Likewise, “we cannot deny the sanctity of marriage,” the bishop said. “We cannot deny that truth which is at the very core and foundation of our society.”
But it takes Catholics who are strong enough of faith on the inside that they can bring it to the world on the outside, Bishop Finn said.
“We always have to have those two things that are linked,” he said.
“Faith requires an interior life and an exterior manifestation of that faith,” Bishop Finn said.
“If we just take care of people’s material needs and don’t do it out of Christ’s love, then those are just material actions,” he said.
But “if we never allow faith to go into action, we are like St. James wrote in his epistle — ‘Faith without action is dead.’”
A strong interior faith mean’s “staying in the state of God’s grace,” Bishop Finn said.
“That is the crisis in faith of the world today. We Catholics have lost the vital meaning of staying in God’s life of grace,” he said.
“There is an inner repentance required. This is real serious stuff,” the bishop said. But “we are not lining up for Confession.”
That interior faith is the power that drives charity, he said.
Without it, “it’s like having this apparatus, but not having the switch on, not having the power,” Bishop Finn said.
“If we have been attentive to spiritual life, then we have to go out into the streets, even if it makes a mess, even if it stirs things up,” he said.
“We cannot stop fighting for human life,” Bishop Finn said. “This is our faith come alive and active in the world.”
Bishop Finn urged his flock to build that power inside and take it outside into the world.
“Pray more,” he said. “Get to Confession so that we really have something powerful for the people when we go out.”
And should we begin to lose our way, “Go knock on Mary’s door,” he said. “She knows the way to Jesus. She, who was so faithful, so obedient to the truth, will keep us on a safe path.”