Monday, January 9, 2012

A Different Breed of Bishops

This is a follow-up on my post of January 6, “Filling the Vacant Sees”.

In any situation, of course, the best thing to pray for is always God’s will – what could be more perfect than that?! Still, with regard to the appointment of a new bishop for a vacant diocese, it seems to me that we can look for models of good bishops, and pray that a new bishop meets some of the criteria of holiness set forth by the saints of the Church.

For instance, January 5th was the feast day of St. John Neumann, who was born in Bohemia in 1811 and who dedicated himself to the American missions. He was ordained a priest in New York in 1836, and eventually became bishop of Philadelphia. He died in 1860, was beatified in 1963, and was declared a saint in 1977.

In the office of readings of the Liturgy of the Hours for January 5, the second reading is from a letter from St. John Neumann to Cardinal Barnabo. It reveals a bishop who looks a lot different than some we see among us today.

It seems that although our saint had no intention of resigning from the episcopacy, another priest told him that the Holy See thought that he intended to do so, or perhaps wanted him to. Regarding this, he wrote (my emphases),

I was no little disturbed by the fear that I had done something that so displeased the Holy Father that my resignation would appear desirable to him. If this be the case, I am prepared without any hesitation to leave the episcopacy. I have taken this burden out of obedience, and I have labored with all my powers to fulfill the duties of my office, and with God’s help, as I hope, not without fruit.

He repeats at the end of the reading:

I am, indeed, prepared either to remain in the same condition in which I am at present...I am equally prepared to resign from the episcopate and to go where I may more securely prepare myself for death and for the account which must be rendered to the Divine Justice.

I desire nothing but to fulfill the wish of the Holy Father whatever it may be.

His letter shows us a bishop who is unequivocally in the service of God at the hands of the Holy Father. He talks about obedience, a fear of having displeased the Holy Father, and an acute awareness that he must be prepared to account for himself at the time of his death.  These things are a good example – a requirement, really – for all of us, clergy and laity alike. How much more important for a bishop, though. After all, “unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required” (Luke 12:48). 

Yet, seldom do we see such sentiments expressed by bishops today. Instead, we sometimes see the opposite. Recent international examples that come to mind include the German bishops’ pornography scandal, and Australian Bishop William M. Morris of Toowoomba, who was finally removed by the Vatican for his dissenting views and leadership.

In the US, there are also examples that indicate a less that faithful adherence to the Church’s teachings by some of our shepherds. For instance, Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of El Paso, Texas (at the time, now of Fresno) transferred Fr. Michael Rodriguez from El Paso to a remote parish in the diocese ostensibly because of the latter’s active engagement of the local community on the issue of homosexual “marriage”. This led to some doubts about the bishop’s firmness of commitment to the Church’s teaching on that issue, as well as exposure of a heretical catechetical program in that diocese.

In the Diocese of Spokane, Bishop Blase Cupich told his priests not to pray at abortion clinics. Following media attention concerning that order, there was “clarification” and softening of the directive, but reports suggested that in private emails and messages to priests from the bishop, the order still stood. Pro-life faithful were dismayed, to say the least.

There is also the problem of bishops who fail to correct parishes (e.g., Archdiocese of Portland) which participate in such anti-Catholic events as “Gay Pride” parades or “Gay Pride” Masses (e.g., Archdiocese of Boston). The photo below bears the caption “The St. Andrew contingent at the Portland Gay Pride Parade”; even though its date 2006, it’s still on the website, so one assumes that the parish still supports that type of activity.

In my mind, these bishops are falling short of their duties, even if they want to excuse themselves on the grounds of being “pastoral” – because these days, being “pastoral” usually means avoiding coming right out and calling a sin a sin. But what’s pastoral about even appearing to condone sin? The sinner in such a case will likely continue to sin, endangering his soul.  And the “pastoral” priest or bishop may be endangering his own soul as well, as he fails to lead the faithful under his care to holiness.
So let us continue to pray that God’s will be done in filling the vacant sees. And let us keep in mind the examples set by previous bishops who are now considered saints, and pray that that sturdy stock returns to the episcopacy in great numbers. We are hearing predictions – even from the likes of Cardinal Raymond Burke and Archbishop Charles Chaput – that times of persecution of Christians are coming. We need strong, holy leaders to guide us.

1 comment:

  1. A whole lot of Bishops are still living in the can't we all just get along, feel good, period of the past. They are so myopic that they cannot see the war that is being waged against the Church by the forces of evil. If you can't see it you certainly can't fight it. St. Michael lead us in battle.


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