With Pope Paul VI's upcoming beatification, it may well be of profit to us to re-read many of his teachings (usually ignored). Paul VI's address to the American bishops on the occasion of the canonization of St. John Neumann is even more salient than ever. A key passage on the need for bishops to preach the Gospel without the slightest compromise is the following:
The word of God is the message that we proclaim; it is the criterion of our preaching; it is light and direction for the lives of our people. We have no hope outside of God’s word. Apart from it, there are no valid solutions to the problems of our day. The faithful preaching of God’s word-in all its purity, with all its exigencies, in all its power-constitutes the highest priority of our ministry, because all else depends on this. Aware of its relevance in our day, we do not hesitate to repeat the solemn charge Paul made to Timothy with apostolic seriousness and with great simplicity and confidence: “Before God and before Christ Jesus . . . I put this duty to you . . . . proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience-but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching” (2 Tim. 4, 1-2). And with a realistic awareness of certain challenges today to Catholic teaching, not least of which is in the field of sexual morality, we add: “Far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and them, instead of listening to the truth they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service” (2Tim. 4, 3-5).
Brethren, these words are a whole program of apostolic charity. They are the expression of love, and when followed, they constitute a great pastoral service to our people. They were an inspiration to John Neumann; they were a holy challenge to every Bishop who ever lived. They represent fidelity to Jesus Christ, and to all his words, which are indeed “spirit and life” (Io. 6, 63). The most profound pastoral understanding, the deepest human compassion exist only in fidelity to God’s word. There is no division, no dichotomy, no opposition between God’s commands and our pastoral service. If all the exigencies of the Christian message are not preached, our apostolic charity is incomplete.