Flying home from Washington, D.C. this evening (in clerical attire), I was sitting there (in coach, needless to say), and happened to think of certain religious dignitaries I am aware of who insist on flying first class and what kind of statement it makes concerning the common people they are supposed to care about and the Lord they are supposed to represent. The irony was underscored when we arrived in Milwaukee, and I stood up to retrieve my bag from the overhead compartment to discover my wife and I had been sitting in the row behind Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, who was also flying in coach, coming home after rocking the CPAC convention in Washington, D.C., with a speech some have described as "electrifying." I don't know who was sitting in those first three first-class rows tonight, but it wasn't the chief executive of the great State of Wisconsin, of whom I happen to be very proud.
How do we who are in positions of public trust, whether it be in government or in the Church, act when we are spending other people's money? I am reminded that air travel is how I first met Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Dolan. Unlike Anglican bishops who wear purple shirts, Roman Catholic bishops wear black shirts just the same as priests. So I got on a plane to Milwaukee one time to find myself sitting across the aisle from a jovial clergyman (also in coach), only to realize that it was Archbishop Dolan. What a great and humble man! While his elevation to the archdiocese of New York and then cardinal was well deserved, many in Wisconsin think his time as Archbishop of Milwaukee was all too brief.
I couldn't help but pull for Cardinal Dolan during last week's election of a new Pope. However, the election of Pope Francis appears to be an excellent choice, especially given the burgeoning growth of the Roman Catholic Church in parts of the Global South such as Latin America. He is, by all accounts, a man of the people also, who took the bus rather than a limousine as a Cardinal in Argentina.
We need more leaders like this in government and the Church who know whom (or Whom) they represent. May their tribe increase!