If I were bishop for a day.
Criticising offices in the Church is a delicate task if it is to be fruitful and uplifting. We will leave it to readers to judge whether the present writer has suceeded or not.
Who among us has not indulged in the fantasy of what we would do if we were to run the Church? Which Catholic has not--especially during the last few, trying years for the Church in North America, rocked as it has been by revelations of priestly malfeasance and the appalling episcopal cover-ups--thought about how he would run things differently if only the Pope had the good sense to appoint him as bishop somewhere? Whose mind has not been boggled by the topsy-turvy nature of the Church today, where the defenders of orthodoxy--and its necessary concomitant, liturgical beauty--are often laypeople lay·peo·ple or lay people
Laymen and laywomen. , whilst the pastors are trying to keep up with the latest trends from the 1960s?
Such a sentiment, alas, is not shrinking but growing; and it is not simply the product of old codgers who refuse to "get with the times." In the December 2003 issue of the American magazine First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus Richard John Neuhaus (born May 21, 1936) is a prominent Catholic priest and writer born in Canada and living in the United States, where he is a naturalized citizen. He is the founder and editor of the monthly journal First Things reports on a priest friend of his who has a large number of young, committed, orthodox Catholics in his parish. Their faith and charity are strong in all aspects but one: they "have great contempt for the American episcopate. They expressed total incomprehension in·com·pre·hen·sion
Lack of comprehension or understanding.
inability to understand
Noun 1. at the weakness and folly of the leadership being provided by the bishops, not just in the sexual abuse crisis but in the life of the Church generally ... These Gen X's are the agents of the New Evangelization e·van·gel·ize
v. e·van·gel·ized, e·van·gel·iz·ing, e·van·gel·iz·es
1. To preach the gospel to.
2. To convert to Christianity.
To preach the gospel. ; they deserve competent leadership they can respect."
Criticism of bishops
There used to be an unwritten rule among Catholics that their bishops were not to be criticized in public. (That rule was born of a gentler age, now long dead.) There is much to commend in that rule. And yet there come moments when this rule must be set aside. As the saintly and long-suffering Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for nearly half a century until his death in 1944, remarked immediately after his own episcopal consecration in 1900: "The people are completely right to demand certain things from a bishop, and it is absolutely correct to censure him if he shirks the task that he has to perform on behalf of the Church and his people."
What are the tasks that lay people expect their bishops competently to perform? What would be needed to garner renewed respect for the office of bishop, now at a perhaps historic low in North America? St. Robert Bellarmine, who knew how to be a bishop, once said that the number of sacraments was fixed at seven because no man could be expected to remember a list with more than seven things in it. Let us, then, confine ourselves to seven standards for superlative shepherding.
First and foremost, prayer. A bishop must be transparently a man of prayer. Not for nothing do the Orthodox Churches still draw their bishops from monastic houses (where many of them continue to live after their ordination, wearing the same habit as before). A bishop is to be available to God in prayer at all times, which is to say he is to be a monk. A bishop's first job is not as an administrator: his first job is to pray. He should be an embodiment of St. Paul's dictum, "Pray without ceasing."
Thus a bishop should be seen leading his flock in prayer if not daily then, at the very least, every Sunday and feast day. He should be in his cathedral, or one of his parishes, not only celebrating Mass on the feasts, but also praying Matins mat·ins
n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
a. Ecclesiastical The office that formerly constituted together with lauds the first of the seven canonical hours.
b. and Vespers vespers (vĕs`pərz) [Lat.,=evening], in the Christian Church, principal evening office. In the Roman rite, vespers have consisted since the 6th cent. of a few prayers, five psalms, a lesson, the Magnificat, and an antiphon. . In so doing, he would contribute to two major renewals (at least): a greater holiness for him and his people (who would therefore come to have greater respect for him), and a greater recovery of the Liturgy of the Hours
Vatican Council - each of two councils of the Roman Catholic Church (but hitherto generally unfulfilled). If it is objected that this would not leave the bishop enough time to fulfill all his tasks, so much the better. Nothing is more important than prayer. Everything else can be delegated or else dispensed with as superfluous. Some bishops nowadays seem to spend time on topics such as economics or terrorism, which are beyond their competence. They--and especially the bureaucracies of their conferences would do well to heed Wittgenstein's famous dictum: "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."
Second, simplicity. This touches several areas. The bishop should be accessible to the people on a regular basis, both at prayer and in the manner in which he lives. We do not need our bishops to be in episcopal "palaces," as they are still often called today. (In this regard, the decision of the new archbishop of Boston to sell his mansion was highly commendable.) There is no need for him to have a driver and a car, out of which emerges his retinue of lawyers and media advisors who rush him away before he can say something "controversial" or litigious litigious adj. referring to a person who constantly brings or prolongs legal actions, particularly when the legal maneuvers are unnecessary or unfounded. Such persons often enjoy legal battles, controversy, the courtroom, the spotlight, use the courts to punish . People should have much more regular opportunity to speak to him and especially to ask questions of him. Anyone familiar with the Apostles and Fathers knows what simple, accessible lives they led in the thick of things, never holding themselves aloof.
Under this rubric, the bishop could also make several important changes that would be simple to implement and would clear up confusion. I speak of the liturgy in particular and the sacraments in general. How the faithful long for a bishop to simply inform his priests that, from a certain date, the policy of his diocese is to follow, in fullness and without alteration or deviation, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal missal [Lat.,=of the mass], in the Roman Catholic Church, liturgical book containing all directions and texts necessary for the performance of Mass throughout the year. (and, for Eastern Catholics, the 1996 Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescripts of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) and so to celebrate the Eucharist according to the norms of the Missale Romanum (and other officially approved books). In one stroke so much of the ugliness and chaos could be swept away. Gone would be the entire so-called experts and their needlessly complex programs retailed out of diocesan liturgy offices.
Such an approach could also be taken to the question of confession. In 1984, in Reconciliatio et Paenetentia, Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II) born would frankly admit that "the Sacrament of Confession is in crisis." There is little evidence in the twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. since then that bishops have done much to change this. In addition to beginning a new catechesis cat·e·che·sis
n. pl. cat·e·che·ses
Oral instruction given to catechumens.
[Late Latin cat on the nature of sin and the importance of confession, one change a bishop could effect would be to implement the law of the Church as it is written: in a one-sentence decree, the bishop could simply insist that general absolution absolution
In Christianity, a pronouncement of forgiveness of sins made to a person who has repented. This rite is based on the forgiveness that Jesus extended to sinners during his ministry. in his diocese is forbidden and regularly scheduled individual confessions are the norm. If we want people to return to the sacrament, we have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Scheduling 20 minutes on one Saturday a month is grossly insufficient.
Third, truth. Every penny catechism will tell you that a bishop is ordained or·dain
tr.v. or·dained, or·dain·ing, or·dains
a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
b. To authorize as a rabbi.
2. to "teach, govern, and sanctify sanc·ti·fy
tr.v. sanc·ti·fied, sanc·ti·fy·ing, sanc·ti·fies
1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate.
2. To make holy; purify.
3. ." What is a bishop ordained to teach but the truth? A bishop should speak the truth forcefully and courageously; he should not hedge or defer to lawyers, or dash away when the questions get difficult. If the bishop is a man of simple truth and goodness, there will be no sleight-of-hand moving of problem clergy from parish to parish.
But the bishop must do and be much, much more than this. He must be a living embodiment of the truth, so much so that simply by looking at him one can "behold the Pierced One." As St. Seraphim of Sarov Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский) (July 19, 1759 - January 2, 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin (Прохор used to say, "Acquire the peace of the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved" or as St. Francis of Assisi famously put it: "Preach the gospel, using words if necessary." The bishop not only lives the truth but he must defend it vigorously and unfailingly--all of it. It is well and good to defend the popular bits like feeding the poor or decrying war but it is depressing to see how the rest of the symphony of Catholic truth gets drowned out by the cheerleaders Notable cheerleaders
1. Irritable and perverse in disposition; ill-tempered.
2. Difficult to understand; complicated.
3. Difficult to read; cramped: crabbed handwriting. restriction on human libido? Do bishops write columns in their diocesan paper explaining the necessity of going to confession regularly? How often do so-called Catholics--not least in the federal cabinet--claim to be in good standing with the Church while concomitantly defending the so-called right to kill the unborn child in the womb? When is this truth defended? When are these contumacious con·tu·ma·cious
Obstinately disobedient or rebellious; insubordinate.
contu·ma leaders brought to heel by their most reverend fathers in God? The bishops have the power of the keys: why do they not use it more often, not as a punitive device but in order to guard the truth for protection of which they were ordained and to correct the wayward sheep for whom they are to have boundless pastoral solicitude so·lic·i·tude
1. The state of being solicitous; care or concern, as for the well-being of another. See Synonyms at anxiety.
2. A cause of anxiety or concern. Often used in the plural. ?
Fourth, joy. One of the most widely ignored and little known documents of the troubled pontificate of Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino (9 May 1975), was an apostolic letter that dealt winsomely win·some
Charming, often in a childlike or naive way.
[Middle English winsum, from Old English wynsum : from wynn, joy; see wen-1 and exclusively with the topic of Christian joy. In an age where Paxil and Prozac are invariably in·var·i·a·ble
Not changing or subject to change; constant.
in·vari·a·bil in the list of the top drugs prescribed for North Americans by the millions, and when at the same time Catholic teaching is presented as a series of dour negations (no to pre-marital sex, no to abortion, no to homosexuality, no to divorce, no to the ordination of women In general religious use, ordination is the process by which one is consecrated (set apart for the undivided administration of various religious rites). The ordination of women ), the bishop must embody that joy which comes from knowing Jesus Christ and His liberating freedom that leads to the unending joy of eternal life. It is not enough to know the truth: we must also embody it concretely in the joy of living each day in and for Christ. As Paul VI put it, "This joy of living in God's love begins here below. It is the joy of the kingdom of God. But it is granted on a steep road which requires a total confidence in the Father and in the Son ... The message of Jesus promises above all joy--this demanding joy; and does it not begin with the beatitudes Beatitudes (bē-ăt`ĭtdz') [Lat.,=blessing], in the Gospel of St. Matthew, eight blessings uttered by Jesus at the opening of the Sermon on the Mount. ?"
Indeed it does, and so must we, led by our bishops who will teach the world that saying yes to Jesus Christ, and therefore saying no to such things as debauchery Debauchery
See also Dissipation, Profligacy.
Debt (See BANKRUPTCY, POVERTY.)
Borgia pope infamous for licentiousness and debauchery. [Ital. Hist.: Plumb, 219–220]
(Gk. and evil, leads not to a miserable, cramped, unfulfilled existence but, instead, to a fullness of life and an abundance of joy such that the world cannot imagine or replicate with all the technological advances it can muster. If we wish to convert people we must attract them by our life, and few things are more infectious or attractive than joy.
It cannot be manufactured and a pill cannot replace it. It can come about only by knowing Christ and by making Him known to the world.
Fifth, spiritual fatherhood. A bishop must be a father; a father by nature has children; and a father must know his children intimately. He must, perforce per·force
By necessity; by force of circumstance.
[Middle English par force, from Old French : par, by (from Latin per; see per) + force, force , be an image and an icon of our heavenly Father, who knows His children so intimately that even the hairs of their head are counted by Him. If a bishop is to be a father to his people--and to his priests in an especial way--he has to be something more than an absentee father who comes every couple of years for the patronal feast of a parish and then disappears. A bishop cannot be an abstract, distant figure (and, in this regard, the Vatican practice of naming "titular tit·u·lar
1. Relating to, having the nature of, or constituting a title.
a. Existing in name only; nominal: the titular head of the family.
b. " bishops with no flock--a category now encompassing a stunning 43% of the bishops listed in the Annuario Pontificio--should be looked at).
As we noted above, the first and foremost responsibility of a bishop is to be a man of prayer. Only if he prays constantly to the Father of us all will he be transfigured into a spiritual father to his people. In order to become a father, a bishop must be freed up from the myriad demands on his time. He is not a judge, financier, personnel co-ordinator, or chief executive officer (there are lay people more qualified as each of these). He was not ordained for those things and should not be expected to do them. (With the number of permanent deacons these days, some of them should be doing these things.)
What aspects of the fatherhood of God must he embody--in addition to those listed above? Three come immediately to mind: fecundity fecundity /fe·cun·di·ty/ (fe-kun´dit-e)
1. in demography, the physiological ability to reproduce, as opposed to fertility.
2. ability to produce offspring rapidly and in large numbers. , firmness, and forgiveness. Like good fathers everywhere, the bishop as a man of love knows that love kept to itself is no love at all. Love of its nature seeks to disseminate itself everywhere, withholding nothing. If the bishop is a man of love, his episcopate will be one of fecundity: he will beget be·get
tr.v. be·got , be·got·ten or be·got, be·get·ting, be·gets
1. To father; sire.
2. To cause to exist or occur; produce: Violence begets more violence. spiritual daughters and, especially, sons, chiefly by inspiring men to become priestly "co-operators in the truth" (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's motto on his coat of arms coat of arms: see blazonry and heraldry.
coat of arms
or shield of arms
Heraldic device dating to the 12th century in Europe. It was originally a cloth tunic worn over or in place of armour to establish identity in battle. as a bishop). The bishop, precisely as a celibate (and preferably as a monastic also), has unparalleled opportunity to spread the love of Christ everywhere. A married couple's fecundity is limited by biology; a bishop's fecundity knows no such limits.
As he is spreading that love, the bishop, as a father, must not give in to that common fallacy which portrays love as nothing more than a sentiment of sweetness and light Noun 1. sweetness and light - a mild reasonableness; "when he learned who I was he became all sweetness and light"
affability, affableness, amiableness, bonhomie, geniality, amiability - a disposition to be friendly and approachable (easy to talk to) . He must know and tell others that love sometimes consists in forbidding things that do not contribute toward the good of his sons and daughters. Among a typical bishop's more contumacious sons and daughters in North America are those of the catechetical cat·e·che·sis
n. pl. cat·e·che·ses
Oral instruction given to catechumens.
[Late Latin cat establishment, the teachers' unions, and the academic guilds who run the closed shop of Catholic schools and parishes. When do we hear a bishop taking any of them on? (To the objection that they attempt such things in private and we lay people do not know everything they say sotto voce or do behind the scenes, we may answer that this is correct: we do not know what they do, and that is precisely the problem. Public scandal from so-called Catholic leaders should be publicly corrected.)
Who can name a Canadian bishop who has resisted the rank nonsense and open heresy that more often than not gets passed off by the parallel "Magisterium mag·is·te·ri·um
n. Roman Catholic Church
The authority to teach religious doctrine.
[Latin, the office of a teacher or other person in authority, from magister, master; see " of theologians who have arrogated to themselves the right to decide what the Church should and should not teach as truth? Which bishops in Canada have attempted to receive from the theologians in their diocese the Mandatum that the Holy See expects all theologians to have who wish to teach in the name of the Church? In which Catholic universities or colleges in this country have bishops attempted to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Latin:"From the Heart of the Church") is an Apostolic constitution written by Pope John Paul II regarding Catholic colleges and universities. It was promulgated on August 15, 1990. ? If the faithful are to live the truth, the bishops must first teach it; if the children of the faithful are to be brought up in the truth, the bishop must protect it--and them from the devouring lions often lying about in their educational dens. The bishop, in sum, should be transparently and manifestly convinced that those who know the truth who is Jesus Christ have no reason to be afraid, least of all about what the Toronto Star or the New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times will say.
In the words of the Jewish theologian Martin Buber, "the ultimate act of teaching is knowing when to raise a finger at the right time." Thus must the bishop be firm in adhering to the truth and in correcting the wayward, but he must do both with boundless forgiveness. In the abuse crises of the last several years one of the more depressing aspects has been watching the language of sin and forgiveness get chucked overboard amidst media-inspired talk of "zero tolerance." Even so beastly beast·ly
adj. beast·li·er, beast·li·est
1. Of or resembling a beast; bestial.
2. Very disagreeable; unpleasant.
adv. Chiefly British
To an extreme degree; very. a man as the late ex-priest John Geoghan retained a call on the Church's--which is to say God's--forgiveness. The bishop must be firm with such sinners, but he must not deny them forgiveness or fail to acknowledge that they, like he--and, indeed, all of us--remain sinners forever in need of the mercy of God and to that extent members of the Church. There may be "zero tolerance" for priestly sodomy sodomy
Noncoital carnal copulation. Sodomy is a crime in some jurisdictions. Some sodomy laws, particularly in Middle Eastern countries and those jurisdictions observing Shari'ah law, provide penalties as severe as life imprisonment for homosexual intercourse, even if the , but there is, and must be, "seventy times seven" (and more) opportunities for the sinner to crawl back, confess, and be forgiven.
Sixth, healing. Following on from his commitment to forgiveness, a bishop should be prepared to seek out the lost sheep and offer healing to the prodigal son and the wounded Samaritan in whatever "distressing disguise" (to borrow Blessed Mother Theresa's phrase) he appears in our day, including in particular the lapsed Catholic--lapsed because scandalized by the Church's inaction in the past in righting injustices like child abuse. In particular, the bishop should be a healer of memories. Since 1980, Pope John Paul II has used the phrase "healing of memory" or "purification of memories" dozens of times, chiefly in his relationship with other Christians, especially the Orthodox. Yet for others it has remained just a phrase. Such healing cannot take place at so far removed a level as a papal letter. It must be enacted concretely, locally, personally. Here bishops have a splendid opportunity to give and receive mutual forgiveness, especially with their brother bishops in the Orthodox Churches. They should undertake such healing not only because it is right and necessary for the cause of Christian unity. They should also undertake it because of what the English Dominican Aidan Nichols has frankly admitted is Catholicism's great need of Orthodoxy:
At the present time, the Catholic Church, in many parts of the world, is undergoing one of the most serious crises in its history.... This crisis touches many aspects of Church life, but notably theology and catechesis, liturgy and spirituality, religious life and Christian ethics at large. Orthodoxy is well placed to stabilise Catholicism in most if not all these areas."
The sooner we are able to achieve reconciliation with the Orthodox, the better off the Catholic Church will be. Bishops are uniquely placed to help this process along.
Seventh, holy sheep. The last standard concerns not so much bishops as us. It is sometimes remarked that people get the leadership they deserve. While this may be the case sometimes, it does not always hold (who deserved Stalin?) and in the case of the Church, which is God's, He never gets the leaders (or followers) He deserves. The seventh and last standard of a sound shepherd, then, will be that he raises worthy and upstanding sheep and that such sheep, in turn, prove worthy of such a father. We must become better ourselves. If we wish to see a holier Church, we must ourselves set out to fast more frequently, to pray more fervently, to tithe tithe
Contribution of a tenth of one's income for religious purposes. The practice of tithing was established in the Hebrew scriptures and was adopted by the Western Christian church. more generously, to live more faithfully. It is no use blaming bishops for everything; it is equally fatuous to demand that everything be set right by them. They are men as we are, full of weakness and sin. If we wish to see the Church led by holier men, let us make that known by our own deeds of fidelity and fecundity, raising up vocations to monastic and priestly life from which the Lord can then call the brightest and the best to be shepherds after His own heart.
This past summer of 2003, when Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, the patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, was in Canada to ordain ORDAIN. To ordain is to make an ordinance, to enact a law.
2. In the constitution of the United States, the preamble. declares that the people "do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America. the new bishop, Stephen Chmilar, for the Eparchy ep·ar·chy
n. pl. ep·ar·chies
A diocese of an Eastern Orthodox Church.
[Greek eparkhi of Toronto and Eastern Canada, his homily homily (hŏm`əlē), type of oral religious instruction delivered to a church congregation. In the patristic period through the Middle Ages the focus of the homily was on the explanation and application of texts read or sung during the exhorted the hundreds gathered that day to remember that, for all the glimmer of gold in the mitre and staff, for all the exalted titles and extraordinary deference shown to a bishop, a bishop at the end of the day remains a man desperately in need of our prayers, our support, our forgiveness, and our filial filial /fil·i·al/ (fil´e-al)
1. of or pertaining to a son or daughter.
2. in genetics, of or pertaining to those generations following the initial (parental) generation. affection. Let us not forget to pray for our bishops often and ardently--but above all let us not forget to love them deeply. If they are not what we wish them to be, let us remind them--by our words but especially by our actions--that, as Leon Bloy memorably put it, "there is only one true sadness: not to be a saint." Let us love them into becoming the saints God deserves for His Church.
Adam A.J. DeVille is a Ph.D. student at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute for Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University, Ottawa. He is presently a subdeacon sub·dea·con
1. A cleric ranking just below a deacon.
2. A cleric who acts as assistant to the deacon at High Mass and normally reads the Epistle at the Eucharist.
Noun 1. in the Toronto Eparchy of the Ukrainian-rite Catholic Church. He was married in August 2003, and he and his wife, Annemarie, are expecting their first baby in June 2004.