Friday, April 12, 2013

The Bishops Are the Problem

And I’ll be scolded for saying something bad about bishops, but it’s true.

Our bishops have got to get their act together. Together.

On the one hand, we can, along with Fr. Z, give Archbishop Allen Vigneron “kudos” for saying that those Catholics who promote “gay marriage” should not present themselves for Holy Communion. Fr. Z adds, “Hopefully other bishops will take heart at his example and make strong public statements such as this one.”

We didn’t have to wait too long, though, to hear that a retired bishop advocates just the opposite – in the same diocese! Just yesterday (April 11), the author of an article at reported:

The Detroit archbishop's recent comments about communion and support for same sex marriage is still sparking debate among Catholics. Now a local priest is speaking out publicly against the archbishop's approach.

"Don't stop going to communion. You're okay," said retired Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Thomas Gumbleton.

Long a progressive voice in Detroit's Catholic community, Gumbleton is breaking with Archbishop Allen Vigneron days after Vigneron declared that supporters of same-sex marriage should refrain from receiving Holy Communion, comparing it to perjury.

"If you look at it from a pastoral point of view where you're trying to reach out to people, trying to draw them in, then the last thing you want to do is impose a penalty or make them feel like they have to impose a penalty upon themselves," Gumbleton said.

The bishop says the church's approach should be pastoral not punitive.

This just makes me angry – in several ways. First of all, what right does Gumbleton have to undermine the current archbishop of his diocese?! What kind of message does that give the faithful!? Of course, he’s not the only bishop – retired or otherwise – who holds that liberal, “pastoral” position. But the fact that he’s in the same diocese…well, that is just beyond the pale.

And then there’s the simple fact that, as Dr. Ed Peters explains,

Catholics who promote “same-sex marriage” act contrary to Canon 209 § 1 and should not approach for holy Communion per Canon 916. Depending on the facts of the case, they also risk having holy Communion withheld from them under Canon 915, being rebuked under Canon 1339 § 2, and/or being sanctioned under Canon 1369 for gravely injuring good morals.

Those who are not in communion with the Church, should not receive Holy Communion! Duh! Now some bishops persist it characterizing denial of Holy Communion as mean way of scolding a wrong-doer. But that’s not the point! Those who receive when not in a state of grace are receiving unworthily, and that is a sin against Our Lord Himself. Cardinal Raymond Burke has written that in recent years, bishops themselves have seemed to be confused about the issue:

First of all, the denial of Holy Communion was repeatedly characterized as the imposition of a canonical penalty, when, in reality, it plainly articulates the responsibility of the minister of Holy Communion, ordinary or extraordinary, to deny Holy Communion to those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin [1]. The denial of Holy can be the effect of the imposition or declaration of the canonical penalties of Excommunication and Interdict (cf. cann. 1331 §1, 2º; and 1332), but there are other cases in which Holy Communion must be denied, apart from any imposition or declaration of a canonical penalty, in order to respect the holiness of the Sacrament, to safeguard the salvation of the soul of the party presenting himself to receive Holy Communion, and to avoid scandal.

Bishops like Bishop Gumbleton want to be “pastoral”…well, what is “pastoral” about letting a person receive Holy Communion unworthily? What is “pastoral” about NOT letting a person know his or her soul is in mortal danger? What is “pastoral” about not calling a sin a sin?!

No wonder our Church is split right down the middle in this country. The US bishops are split! They cannot seem to present a unified front when it comes to some key moral teachings of the Church. That is ridiculous. And this disagreement of Gumbleton with Vigneron is just the most recent example.

I’m sure the bishops want our respect. And I want to give it to them. But I’m telling you, I’m having a real hard time respecting them as a group. Individuals, maybe – a few here and there – and I try to write about them to show that there is some good news in the Church. But then when you look at the big picture, you see a bunch of men who are supposed to be leading us poor sheep, but who can’t agree on where it is they are leading us! What are we supposed to think?! Should we have Vigneron and Gumbleton duke it out down at the corner after school?

I’m disgusted.


  1. But most of all, Jay, it is the bishops who penalise (sometimes most harshly) priests who wish to learn how to celebrate the TLM.
    I know of several priests who are under severe mental strain because of their bishop's treatment of them. They are caught in a vacuum; not able to celebrate the EF Mass (and reflect orthodox teachings) and held hostage to their pension schemes that would foreclose if they tried to leave. More pressure needs to come from orthodox Catholics and from blogs such as yours. God bless.

  2. Hope one of the bishops mentioned 1Cor 11: 27-30 somewhere along the line.

    Regarding the split between bishops, perhaps a call from their "boss" (in Rome) would help. If only....

    1. Late to the thread, but here goes:

      Mr. fRED,

      The Novus Ordo lectionary *leaves out* the verse you mention where St. Paul says to receive unworthily brings damnation upon oneself (paraphrasing).

      To be fair, the NO *does* have a lot more of the Bible than the TLM, even a lot of "tough love" verses.

      However, not in the case you point out, fRED (and I like to use it as well when I catechize).


    2. CK-

      Thanks for the info. I find it interesting to learn that the NO leaves out those verses. I'm not sure, though, that is relevent since the RC Church still follows the entire Bible. If only more people would study and pray their Bible. It is a great supplement for worship and education. Increased knowledge of God's word can only help us grow closer to God.

  3. Richard, yes, I know of similar situations to those you describe where a bishop is not amenable to the EF Mass. Our hope lies in that older form, and the traditional teachings of the Church taught in a straightforward manner! Our parish priest actually did tell the congregation a few weeks ago that "If you tell me you support gay marriage, I will not give you communion." Good for him! So far as I know, the bishop hasn't squelched him...yet.

    fRED, "if only" is right! I suppose the Pope could make a career of making phone calls to errant bishops around the world!

  4. I've always been amazed that fairies like Gumbleton and Weakland are still allowed to go on their merry ways without the slightest worry that they will be slapped by Rome. The same goes for Cardinals like Wuerl, who is a serious danger to the souls in his diocese. But as one knowledgeable writer has observed, the reason why these characters never get called on the carpet by Rome is because, in his words, "they know where all the bodies are buried."

    The very effective tool of blackmail must not be discounted. It would explain a lot.

    So would an almost catastrophic apostasy among the higher clergy, which every day seems more and more to be the case. One always hopes that this is not the case, but the evidence in its favor is there.

  5. This posting made me reflect on "The Crisis of Fatherhood in the Church," a sermon from the always fabulous (

    If there has been a collapse of fathers and fatherhood in the Church (and probably the world), then there has also been a collapse of masculinity, a void then filled by a femininity no longer characteristic of just one gender. If you look around at Catholic clergy and religious today, you find a disproportionate number of feminized men and masculine women.

    It is not hard to contrast the way truly masculine men and truly feminine women confront problem situations, and the "management style" of MOST of our hierarchy today is undeniably "feminine."

    We have, for the most part, "feminized" priests and bishops who prefer to keep everyone playing as nicely as possible, which is why they have such a hard time with traditionalists and "real men" like Michael Voris who refuse to "play nice" so as not to spill the tea. Traditional Catholics are almost always judged as "too rigid." People have been bounced from seminaries for that very reason, which means seminaries wanted men who are "not rigid," i.e. soft, and flexible and tolerant.

    Men, at the end of a battle, are not interested in having coffee and donuts with their defeated enemies. They don't go into battle to make friends. They go into battle to defeat the enemy and celebrate victory with their brothers over steaks and beers! Fathers are called to provide, protect and defend, mothers to inspire and provide the moral compass of their communities. Our "spiritual fathers" are failing us as MEN. They should be wearing PINK. Men take risks, women seek to minimize risks (remember "The Christmas Story" where the mother says "you can't have a BB gun because you'll shoot your eye out" and the father says ... "Merry Christmas, here's your gun!").

    "Feminine war strategies" include things like shunning, social isolation, backbiting, and gossip, exactly the kinds of strategies employed against Dr. Boyd (and others) by their local "spiritual fathers." Do "real men" refuse to meet with you etc.? I'm not sure that the "collapse" of our hierarchy can't be understood almost exclusively through the template of "the feminization of the Church." I mean, look at the Novus Ordo Mass! You call that MASCULINE?!?! Any priest who LIKES that "worship style" reveals a LOT about himself.

    It would just be so much more HONEST if they would all wear PINK.

  6. The bishops have generally failed the Church; miserably. In Canada, the situation is far worse than in the US. Part of this is the Canadian temperament, that seeks to be invisible. The general idea amongst Canadian bishops is to put off the fight. So, they released the dissenting Winnipeg Statement and rejected Humanae vitae; they then fudged about abortion, Sunday shopping, sodomy etc. etc. Eventually, they will run out of putting things off, but the it will be too late.

    They have been ashamed of Our Lord, and He is ashamed of them before His Father.

    1. You said it, Barona.

      Our Canadian temperament tends to shun confrontation. You cited the Winnipeg Statement. Our bishop-emeritus, Remi de Roo, was instrumental in writing and pushing through that diabolical document. The repudiation of said document can't come soon enough. Of course, the damage has been done and continues to be done because our bishops appear to be afraid, indifferent, unwilling or unable to muster the courage to cast the Statement into the dustbin of history.

  7. We don't know how or even whether Bishop Vigneron will respond to Bishop Gumbleton's activities in his diocese, but we already know what a Bishop Sample did and would do in response to the same bishop in October, 2009: and

    This is what "bishops acting like bishops" and "bishops acting like men" looks like!

  8. Aged parent,

    Some links to support your comment re Cardinal Wuerl please and who is your "knowledgable writer" and what proof does he/she provide to support his claim?


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