The Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo’s bishop, Daniel Thomas, has set a hopeful tone, as someone who is intent on reaching out to his flock in an open and inviting manner.
His first appearance this week was at a Catholic Charities organization that provides clothes, meals, and a food bank. His symbolic introductory acts included visiting students at Central Catholic High School, nuns at the Sisters of the Visitation Monastery, and priests and other infirmary patients at the Ursuline Center. All send a message of seeking to help and unify the local faithful.
Bishop Thomas becomes the eighth bishop of Toledo. He will lead the Roman Catholic Church in the northwest Ohio diocese, which includes 19 counties. He succeeds Toledo’s former bishop of 10 years, the Most Rev. Leonard Blair, who is now archbishop of Hartford, Conn.
Area Catholics can hope that Bishop Thomas will maintain a spirit of inclusion within the local church and its policies, particularly as they relate to women. He must press for transparency in the continuing scandal in the church about sexual abuse and other crimes committed by priests, sometimes covered up by their superiors.
He has already rightly spoken out against such abuse. During an interview with The Blade, Bishop Thomas said he stands with Pope Francis, who has said there is absolutely no place in the church for an abuser. Bishop Thomas also demonstrated a level of compassion by offering a “mea culpa in asking for deep forgiveness of any of the survivors who were wounded or hurt by what is a horrible, horrible crime, a grave moral sin, and a scourge to our church.”
Those were heavy words on a day otherwise filled with cheerful photo opportunities, He should be commended for addressing the important issue head on.
Bishop Thomas also said he wants to model himself after Jesus Christ by reaching out to people. The Catholic Church is in transition, grappling with difficult and divisive issues such as contraception, same-sex marriage, and abortion. The bishop is entrusted with representing the people of this diocese; he will do so best by exhibiting flexibility and open-mindedness as generations progress in their thoughts and beliefs.
It’s heartening, in a way, that Bishop Thomas said he will explore getting a cemetery plot in Toledo, because he does not plan on going anyplace else. At age 55, he could be a moral voice for this region’s Catholics for decades to come.