SALT LAKE CITY — The pastoral implications of Catholic social teaching were addressed at the annual fall convocation of priests for the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The primary presenter was the Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Bishop McElroy holds two doctoral degrees, one in political science from Stanford University and the other in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The author of two books, he was a parish priest for many years in California, where he also served as the archdiocese’s vicar general.
Bishop McElroy addressed the Church’s fundamental moral theology principles on topics such as religious liberty, abortion and war, said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City.
"It allowed the priests and myself to think about these issues again in a fresh way, and Bishop McElroy gave us wonderful insights from his vast background," Bishop Wester said. "He’s very down to earth and brings a lot of examples and stories. I think he gave us good information and inspired us to be able to engage people on these moral questions and to help them know what the Church teaches in a way that’s going to be helpful, not just causing a lot of heat but rather a lot of light."
Priests’ role in social teaching is primarily to help form the consciences of the laity so they can make good decisions, Bishop McElroy said, adding that his presentations were meant to give information but also to help priests "wrestle with the question of pastoral practice" by giving methods with which they could bring Catholic social teaching to the people’s hearts in their communities.
"Bishop McElroy has been a great help," not only with his expertise but also with his wealth of experience as a bishop, said Father Samuel Dinsdale, pastor of Saint Marguerite Parish in Tooele.
Father Clarence Sandoval, pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Layton, agreed, adding that the topic was timely. "The election is coming very quickly so it helps us prepare ourselves," he said, adding that the information also gave him a foundation on how to answer parishioner’s questions about Church teaching on the moral issues facing people in today’s society.
For Father Donald Hope, pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Price and administrator of San Rafael Mission in Huntington and Good Shepherd Parish in East Carbon City, the convocation was "an opportunity for education but it’s also an opportunity to come and just share with my brother priests," he said. "We are spread around the diocese, so this was an opportunity to see some of the priests I don’t see very often. It’s an opportunity to bounce a few ideas off of each other and let them take root a little bit. It’s just nice once in a while to sit back and have a little time with another priest – someone who shares the same joys and challenges of ministry and sense of camaraderie. Sometimes just being with one another is important."
The other priests agreed that the camaraderie at the convocation was important, as did Bishop Wester.
"It’s good to deepen the bonds that unite us as priests," Bishop Wester said. "The fraternity of the priesthood is very important."