Here’s something you don’t see every day. A self-professed “lapsed Catholic” visits the campus of the new cathedral on Orange County to chat with Bishop Kevin Vann, and comes away impressed and, just maybe, changed:
I ask about tolerance, and about illegal immigration in particular.
The bishop immediately dismisses the term “tolerance,” which he says has become a politically-charged word. Instead, the bishop addresses the issue in religious terms, equally telling but more powerful.
He asks if Jesus would turn away a certain group. Answering his own question, Vann says, “God loves you. It’s not about issues. It’s about people.”
Vann practices what he preaches. As a young priest in Illinois, he taught himself Spanish so he could minister to a Latino family who ran a restaurant. He explains, “You minister to people who come your way.”
The bishop also has taken a leadership role in the immigration debate. In September, for example, Vann, as chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, co-signed a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security. It urged the secretary “to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible.
“With immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress, our nation can no longer wait to end the suffering of family separation caused by our broken immigration system,” he wrote.
Vann offers one of many gentle smiles and nods. “I just don’t categorize people.”
The bishop also doesn’t shrink away from the molestation scandals. English, Spanish and Vietnamese leaflets sit in the administration building’s lobby detailing the diocese’s pledge, “To do everything possible to help the healing process of the victims of sexual abuse.”
So what’s all this have to do with Easter? As a lapsed Catholic – and it’s impossible not to re-evaluate one’s relationship to the church when talking to someone like Vann – I would suggest everything.