July 09th, 2012 A.D.

So Who Wants to be a Bishop?

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There were times when being a Roman Catholic bishop could be a pretty sweet deal.  In addition to getting a miter and a nifty ring, bishops often had control over towns and villages within their dioceses that both supplied their sustenance and enhanced their net worth.  It was little wonder that in many cases the time and money spent to acquire a bishopric was one of the better investments one could make during those periods when leadership within the Church lost its moorings.

It’s been some time since episcopal appointments have gone to the highest bidder, and today about the only things a bishop gets are a miter, a ring, and enough headaches to stun a blue whale; which is something dissident catholycs, the Magisterium of Nuns, and other Church despisers seem to forget as they continue portraying the episcopacy as a group of authoritarian traditionalists willing to do anything to maintain their grip on power.

Right.  Tell that to Archbishop Chaput who was called from a relatively peaceful diocese in the Rockies to the ecclesial Cuisinart known as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  There he’s had to deal with sexual abuse scandals, an imprisoned monsignor, and a nearly one million-dollar embezzlement by an archdiocesan official.  Couple those with ongoing budget problems, agonizing decisions about parish and school closures, and even larger issues of protecting the religious freedom of his flock and you have to ask if the good Archbishop is a tad masochistic.

Or take Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who is the target of local officials who claim he withheld information about a priest who had child porn.  Or Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria who, after giving a speech calling Catholic men to a more heroic faith, received an onslaught of obscene and hateful emails and phone messages from people who despise him, his message, and his Church.  Or ask any of the other prelates who have been vilified for their stands on moral issues how much fun it is to sit on the gridiron of public opinion.  It’s not hard to picture the average priest, rather than running for the office, being far more likely to run from it.  I know of a retired Archbishop in the Midwest who’s been known to say if he had a hundred lives to live, he’d live every one as a priest but not one of them as a bishop.

So why would any priest with an iota of common sense ever want to be a bishop?  Call me naïve or idealistic but I believe there’s a one-word answer: obedience.  When a priest is ordained he swears obedience to his superiors, up to and including the Pope.  From that moment he will go where he is sent, do what he is directed to do, and may some day be asked to accept an office he doesn’t not want or even feel worthy enough to occupy.  But in accepting the heavy responsibilities of bishop, a priest displays the same humble obedience as did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who had every intention walking out of the last conclave and retiring to his home in Germany where he planned to live out his years studying and writing.  Instead, in obedience to the will of God, he emerged as Pope Benedict XVI, and few will say he’s had an easy job.

Now if I’m right, and the average bishop accepts his office as a matter of obedience, it stands to reason that we, the laity, ought to return the favor.

6 Responses

    • admin Wrote:

      Appreciate your response, Dan. Your own comments on docility toward the bishops are aptly put. If I get a touch edgy about supporting the bishops it’s because I’ve dabbled with the Church Fathers, who gave us zero wriggle room in regard to loyalty and obedience to our bishops. They are a gift that’s kept on giving for two millennia.

    • Luna Wrote:

      Oct09James R Yes they do! Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock has been on FB since shortly after his Ordination as Bishop here in the state. And he’s an acvtie participant as he posts comments, homilies, etc.

  • Dan F. Wrote:

    It’s a real struggle for this former Protestant what with the extreme focus on the individual and the individual’s conscience. Truly though, I have found more freedom in submitting myself to the Pope and bishops than I ever felt I had when I thought I needed to decide everything for myself.


    Dan F.

    P.S. I’ve appreciated your curmudgeonly thoughts (as a junior curmudgeon myself) since Mark Shea linked to you. Keep up the good work. :)

    • admin Wrote:

      Dan – As a recovering Protestant myself, I feel your pain, but I also agree that there is great freedom in obedience. Jesus knew what he was doing when he outlined how Church leadership should look and we depart from his model to our great peril.

      Thank you for your kind comments and if you think the CC site has worthwhile content, be sure to tell your friends, family, acquaintances, and complete strangers about it.


      Ol’ Uncle Lar

      • Bohuslava Wrote:

        I personally would be deetghild if B XVI is taking his model on saint (sacerdos you forget to say it) Leo IX, the one and only pope born in Alsace. Saint Leo IX was exceptionnally tough on corrupt clerics, rotten bishops, unfaithful monasteries. He was also a champion of the Blessed Sacrament orthodox theology. He was a great traveller in Europe in order to discipline the corrupt clergy, especially the plague of “married” priests.All we need today : the situation of the Church in the XIth century was just as bad as the situation we have in the XXIst century. However saint Leo IX was defeated by civil powers and his efforts had to be pursued along several pontificates – the Gregorian reform popes -to become finally fruitful.We’ll see if Benedict XVI is ready to confront the corruption within the Church as much as saint Leo IX did.Are the calling of cardinal Hummes in Rome and the wait-wait-wait “policy” on freedom for TLM significant signs of such a Leo IX-like resolution and bravery ? Maybe some others have an answer.

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