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Archbishop Schnurr speaks at Theology on Tap

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

By Carmen M. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ky. — The final night of a weekly series brought participants from both sides of the Ohio River together to discuss and learn more about Christ and the Catholic Church.

Organizers of Theology on Tap Cincinnati concluded their six-week, Thursday evening gatherings on May 28 with Cincinnati Coadjutor Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr as the guest speaker. Tickets Sports Café in Covington, Ky., was standing-room-only as more than 200 young adults anticipated the archbishop’s arrival.

Archbishop Schnurr’s 90-minute discussion emphasized the importance of spreading the complete message of Christ, not just sharing a “smorgasbord” of the Gospel. He also mentioned the challenge of applying the word of God to everyday life.

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Archbishop Schnurr chats with some young people after speaking to an overflowing crowd at Tickets Sports Café in Covington May 28 as part of the Theology on Tap series. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

“First of all, in teaching faith the Gospel has to be proclaimed in words and in action. The proclamation of Jesus Christ is not just accepting the person but also the message of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Schnurr said to the audience. “Perhaps there’s a lost sense of how the word of Christ is to be understood. As Christians, we are all called to proclaim it. We don’t necessarily have to be eloquent in speech. The word has a life of its own, an authority of its own.”

Theology on Tap originated in the Archdiocese of Chicago during the 1980s. It has been held in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for the past 10 years. Organizers from Cincinnati and the Diocese of Covington host the series of national and local guest speakers every spring. Religious and lay people serve as speakers for the gatherings and discuss a variety of topics.

“We have diverse topics about social justice and speakers — people who are single, married or have shared their personal journey having converted to the church,” said Matt Schlotman, an organizer of Theology on Tap Cincinnati and  a member of St. Susanna Parish in Mason. “The archbishop did a wonderful job of letting us know who he is. He took more time (than other speakers usually do) to answer questions. There was a great sign of hope. I was excited about the things he said and [about] meeting him for the first time.”

Father Kyle Schnippel is the archdiocesan director of vocations (www.cincinnativocations.org) as well as the archdiocesan liaison and chaplain for Theology on Tap Cincinnati. He said as soon as he heard that Archbishop Schnurr would be the coadjutor for Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, he asked him to be a guest speaker.

“I thought it’d be a great way for young adults in the area to experience Archbishop Schnurr’s personality,” Father Schnippel explained. “It was just a way to get to know each other. I hoped he enjoyed it as well.”

Archbishop Schnurr grew up in the 1950S in Iowa, and statistics show that an estimated 60 or 70 percent of Catholics in the United States attended Mass regularly at that time. Today, most studies suggest that less than 35 percent attend Mass on a regular basis, according to the archbishop.

The teachings of Christ are clear, the archbishop said, but it is how to apply the Gospel to everyday life that becomes a challenge.

“Perhaps we are not as clear as we could be when we use the expression ‘this is what the church teaches.’ Unfortunately, in this secular world that expression seems to allow some to come to the conclusion that we are speaking about the opinions of an aging male clergy,” Archbishop Schnurr said. “Maybe it would be better expressed that ‘Christ teaches,’ then it is clear what is at stake. When Christ states, ‘I will be with you till the end of time,’ He promises to remain with His church and guide it in the truth. The teachings of Christ and the doctrine of the church are one truth.”

Archbishop Schnurr compared the teachings of Christ to a mosaic.

“The study of the Catholic faith has to go on for a lifetime. You won’t see the beauty of a mosaic until it’s been completed,” he said. “In a similar way, the beauty of the message of Christ cannot be appreciated when it is partial and incomplete.”

The archbishop said the liturgy is a celebration of the message of Christ.

“Here, too, fidelity in the celebration of the message is important. If it is not celebrated properly, the beauty of the mosaic is diminished. Following the Second Vatican Council, church leadership did not always give adequate attention to catechesis, explaining to parishioners why changes were made in the liturgy. This led to some unfortunate confusion and misunderstandings,” Archbishop Schnurr said.

He asked the audience what attracts Catholics who attend Latin Mass regularly.

“Among other things, they appreciate the fact that there is great consistency in the prayers and rubrics of the Mass from one location to the next,” Archbishop Schnurr said.

The archbishop said he encourages people, especially young people, to ask questions about the Catholic faith.

“Questions can be a healthy thing. They indicate that the mind is engaged.  The danger comes when an individual doesn’t take the time to seek the answers,” Archbishop Schnurr told the audience. “The church has 2,000 years of experience in responding to questions. In particular, when it is a question of ethics and moral behavior, the Christian is to respond with an informed conscience. Christ entrusted His teachings to the church, and it is the responsibility of the church to inform consciences.”

Before the program ended, Archbishop Schnurr answered questions from the audience that had been submitted to Father Schnippel. Questions ranged from how to properly address the archbishop to the definition of a coadjutor. He was also asked about his reaction to President Barack Obama being the commencement speaker for the 2009 graduating class at the University of Notre Dame.

“I’m with (Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John M. D’Arcy), who said it was a mistake to invite the president and give him an honorary degree,” said Archbishop Schnurr, whose comment received applause.

“All of the other bishops recognize the authority of the bishop. Secular media wants to create the illusion that no one spoke out.”

For more information about Theology on Tap Cincinnati, visit www.totcincinnati.org.

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