Personally ... probably it's just me ... Pastoral Letters take me different ways. There's one English bishop whose PLs are laden with footnotes.
I like that. The man is saying: "This is not a load of my personal opinions. This is what the Church teaches." It is an immensely attractive indication of humility. Bishops are not forbidden to be humble.
Recently I wrote about a draft PL which cannot go out with the status of a Pastoral Letter of all the bishops of Great Britain, because not all the bishops have assented to it.
This text is totally unencumbered with footnotes. That strikes me as arrogant and prelatical and disdainful. It says to me: "We're Big Boys. We're telling you that you little fellers gotta fall into line and swallow the following, although we're not going to run the risk of being caught out by claiming that it is the Teaching of the Church."
The contents of the abortive 'Pentecost' PL do not engender confidence. I cannot discern within its text the authentic notes of Holy Scripture, the Fathers, or the Magisterium of the ages. Acts chapter 2 suggests to me that the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles so that they might proclaim to the world the Resurrection of the Lord. The abortive PL does not, as we say, major on that topic.
S Peter calls the hearers to repentance: "Repent (metanoesate) and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins ... Save yourselves (sothete) from this crooked (skolias) generation." Then, he promises, you will receive the gift of the Spirit.
The abortive PL does not preach to our world and to our society that it is skolia, bent; that it needs metanoia, a radical change of heart. It does not identify its authors as counter-cultural. At one point, it nervously assures its readers that the ecological agenda it enjoins will involve "minimum inconvenience and change". This is not the Scriptural call to metanoia. It is an invitation to self-righteousness at minimum cost.
The abortive PL suggests that 'we' are on the same side as the current fashions of World. It implicitly calls upon the World to accept this alliance. It is the sort of document which lives easily with the involvement of the Church in international ecological meetings (it mentions a couple of such meetings later this year).
I am unhappy because this sort of document represents the replacement of the Christan call to radical conversion with "minimum" morality.
Man does rather like to have a moral code. The code prescribed in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition is a hard one, involving the priority of worship; and sexual discipline, and withdrawing from lying and stealing ... But an Ecological Ethic offers Man the possibilty of complacently enjoying his moral righteousness without falling before the Lord in adoration, without giving up his own sweet covetousnesses.
It is an alluring, but a dangerous, temptation.
I believe that the bishops who declined to associate themselves with this draft did their own reputations, and that of all their confratres, a very good turn.
Two final (but not unimportant) points.
(1) The fact that congregations all over Great Britain will not be made to listen to this document is due to the acts of a minority (possibly, a minority of one!) of the bishops in the two conferences concerned. It is this insistence upon episcopal unanimity which is our safeguard against a takeover by a Deutsche Christen majority determined to bring the Church into line with the Zeitgeist.
(2) One of the dangers of this pontificate is its use of the mantra "the Holy Spirit" to validate and impose a particular innovatory agenda. It is a policy which seems to me to fall foul of the dogmatic decree Pastor aeternus of Vatican I. If I am right, it may be categorised as formally heretical.