Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Ounce of Prevention: Praying and Pushing for a Holy Bishop

The Diocese of Baker is under the control of an Apostolic Administrator who, in my opinion, has taken and will likely continue to take actions that are unwise and unsupported by Canon Law and common sense. I could (and probably will in the near future) give some examples of what I mean by that. But for now…

The point is moot, in a way. The Apostolic Administrator will, at some point, be replaced, because a new bishop will certainly be appointed for this diocese…one of these days.  Usquoque, Domine (how long, O Lord!).  So, no matter what damage is done by Bishop Skylstad, it could conceivably be undone by a new bishop. Still, the more changes made by the Apostolic Administrator, the more difficult it will be for the new bishop to repair the damage.

But, looking at the long range future of the Diocese, we need to consider what kind of bishop might be appointed. We need to pray for a bishop who will be a good shepherd - one who will be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, uphold correct liturgical practices, and actively cultivate our Catholic identity. If we get a wayward bishop, we’ll be stuck with him for some time to come – likely until he reaches the age of 75, when his resignation is required – no matter how heterodox he is.

In a 2008 article, Charles M. Wilson of the St. Joseph Foundation examined the question: What Happens When Bishops Are Found Wanting? The article appeared in Christifideles, the newsletter of the Foundation.

In his article, Mr. Wilson examined some specific cases of wayward bishops and commented on whether it appeared that they were corrected by Rome, and/or pressured to resign before the mandatory retirement age. This is difficult to determine, since proceedings of this manner are kept secret by the powers that be. However, Mr. Wilson’s research does indicate that at the very least, these bishops’ harmful ways were allowed to continue for quite some time. Therefore, he concludes, it’s better to start off with a solid candidate, so that corrective measures don’t have to be implemented. Here is his conclusion:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Benjamin Franklin

Whatever our personal preferences might be, we probably will not see anytime soon a noticeable increase in the correction or discipline of diocesan bishops. And even if the number of such actions should happen to escalate, the excessive reliance on secrecy that prevails in many aspects of ecclesiastical governance will serve to keep the lay faithful in the dark.

It remains that if a bishop’s exercise of governance is problematic to the extent that it becomes evident to upright and serious-minded members of the faithful, then one might have cause to wonder if it made good sense to ordain him a bishop in the first place. It needs to be remembered that the law of the Church requires that a candidate for the episcopacy be outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question (c. 378, §1, 1ยบ). Had these words been more carefully heeded yesterday, how much better would be the state of the Church today? Perhaps Dr. Franklin’s wise maxim should be engraved prominently above the entrances to the Congregation for Bishops, “which deals with everything concerning the appointment of bishops, even titular ones, and generally with the provision of particular Churches” (Pastor Bonus, Art. 77).

For the Diocese of Baker – and for any vacant see – there are two things that the laity can do. First of all, we can and should pray for a good and holy shepherd to lead us in the true teachings of the Church. Here is a prayer for the election of a bishop:

Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant the Church (of Baker) a shepherd
who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through Our Lord…

But we may also make known our desires. There can be no doubt that the powers-that-be are aware that a growing number of the faithful are voicing their discontent with the sorry state of catechesis that has been ongoing for decades. It is perfectly reasonable for the faithful to write to the Apostolic Nuncio to express a desire for a faithful bishop!

So…have you written your letter yet?! I have mentioned the same thought previously. Go here for the address and a sample letter.

Pray. Fast. Write a letter.

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