Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, Take 5Three times each year, myFaith reporters have a chance to speak with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki about anything young adults want to know – send a question to be asked anonymously in the next issue to The archbishop recently sat down to talk with myFaith Staff reporter Ricardo Torres, who shares his responses, edited by myFaith Staff, below.

1. Some people have warned about things Pope Francis recently said, like Rush Limbaugh: “The pope has written, in part, about the utter evils of capitalism… It’s sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth.” What’s your take on his approach?

Rush (Limbaugh) has a particular turf to protect. Basically he (Rush Limbaugh) is the voice of capitalism and certainly capitalism has produced some good effects in the country. It’s supported private enterprise, which has helped us in terms of reaching out to the poor and those in need. I don’t think what Rush understands about the pope is that the pope is a moral voice and he’s making a moral determination. Any system, ideological system, whether it’s an economic system or it’s a social system, it has to succumb to the critique of the moral voice. 

Many of the social critics would have been cheerleaders of Pope John Paul II, who was bringing down communism. I don’t know if they where paying attention when he challenged materialism, commercialism and the West. He was doing that at the same time. But what you have in Pope Francis, as you have in Pope John Paul II, you have a moral voice making a moral determination about the responsibility of any system or any ideology to respect the dignity of individuals. The pope has to be the moral voice.

Some people say the pope should stay out of issues like this.

No, it’s nonsense. You live in the world and you’re not going to be making a statement about the world? You can put I said, “It’s nonsense.” It’s nonsense when people say that. The pope should stay out of politics? Well, politics are the engagement of people within the culture in which they live, so obviously the church has to make a stance. 

When there’s an issue here in Wisconsin, people come to me and the other bishops and ask us to weigh in and give analysis to what the church view is. When we start to say “The church shouldn’t…” then suddenly we begin to create a religion that has no effect in reality. And that’s certainly not Jesus. Jesus, in fact, demanded that we do good to others. People don’t want to be challenged by the church. They want a level of religious comfort that always says, “It’s OK. However you want to do it, OK, and the church will make no determination about that.” Sorry, that’s not what Jesus called us to do.

2. If you could compete in the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7-23, in which event would you participate?

One of the things that always fascinated me about the Olympics is ski jumping. 

I love watching the courage of individuals coming down the ski slope. The athletes look like they’re flying through the air. Would I see myself in that? Probably not.

But the closest event in which I see myself participating would be hockey. 

But I would be in the nets and I certainly wouldn’t be on the ice. I’m a poor skater so I’d be a goalie. 

3. What are your thoughts on an “open-minded” faith?
We all think the same way. No one person is right?

No one person is right? Yeah, one person is right ­– Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is invested in the church. This goes to the problem with the age, which is they believe the truth is fluid. Truth is nothing more than a person’s personal perspective, so you’re as right as I am right. Well, that’s not faith, that’s not the church. That’s saying there are no absolutes in the world. Well, there are. And because there are absolutes, it makes demands on us to respond appropriately.

So when you say, “What do you think about open-minded faith?” Yeah, faith is open-minded. It’s open-minded to your conversion; it’s open-minded to your growth; it’s open-minded to your ability to appropriate the teaching. But if you mean open-minded is that anybody can basically hold any tenet they want, that’s not the church. 

4. With your background in basketball, do you have any advice for the Bucks – what’s the key to turning around their season?

They always say, “You stick to the game plan,” and I see the Milwaukee Bucks as a team that has talent but hasn’t quite found itself yet. You have to give those players time to jell, and basically that’s what they need to do. Recently you’ve seen games where they really have come together. They’ve pulled together the defense and allowed the flow of the game to dictate the offense.

5. Other people are reporting that since Francis became pope, more people are coming back to church. What is your perception of this and why it is happening?

We’ll have to see after we do our “October count” (count of the number of people attending parish Sunday Masses) and take a look to see what the numbers are. I certainly can tell you there’s a renewed enthusiasm. That’s for certain. Even people outside of the faith have tremendous admiration for Pope Francis. He’s leading by example. He’s not only saying we should care for the poor, he’s out actually caring for the poor. 

He has, in the best sense of the word, a common touch. People identify with his ability to pull in the common person to the things he does. He continues to live in the real world and, because of that, he’s kind of teaching by example.