Is Being a Bishop Like Herding Cats? It Shouldn’t Be

I have written here before, (often to the great consternation of more than a few readers) of my concerns about disunity in the Church. In particular my concerns center around the dismissive attitudes many have developed toward the bishops. While this attitude was once the domain, largely, of dissenters on the theological left, it has now become quite a common attitude among many theological and ecclesial conservatives as well.

I am well aware of the (often legitimate) frustrations by some Catholics that the Bishops, either individually or collectively have not always shepherded in a clearer way; a way that both disciplined dissenters and corrected liturgical abuses and also encouraged those who tried to remain faithful. I get that. These have been difficult decades for the Church and for our culture.

But frustrations should not be permitted to draw us, even subtly, toward a posture that practically speaking severs our union with the bishops. Some of the comments that routinely come in to the blog here are quite shocking in their sweeping dismissal of the bishops, even the Pope. Some of them are so strong that I cannot post them. What makes them particularly shocking is that, these days, most of the comments of this sort come from those who would define themselves as conservative Catholics. That reflects somewhat the readership of this blog (i.e. more conservative), but it is shocking to hear conservative Catholics use the language that I had always associated with dissenters back in the 1970s and 80s.

In effect the dissenters of that time would dismissively opine that the Pope and bishops were out of touch and really knew little of what they were talking about when it came to sex and contraception, further, that bishops should listen to the faithful and get out of people’s bedrooms. They would also indicate that the bishops and the Church had all the wrong priorities and were not credible leaders; that the faithful could safely disregard their directives in any number of matters, especially sex. Thus a kind of parallel magisterium of experts and activists on the left generally worked to undermine respect for true Church authority, and sought to set forth their own priorities and interpretations of Church teaching and law. In their world, being a Catholic was an increasingly “self-defined” thing, and authority in the Church, to the degree it existed at all for them, was pretty theoretical.

Enter the conservatives – Yet, as I say, many of these attitudes, some times more subtly expressed, are now coming from more conservative circles in the Church. In the end there is a widespread dismissal of the role of the local bishop and or the bishops in general to shepherd the Church, set priorities, and to be a source of unity for the local Church.

Sometimes this dismissal comes in a legalistic way such that many will say, “If something isn’t infallibly taught by the Pope, or if the bishop isn’t repeating dogmatic teaching, I can wholly ignore them.” Perhaps this is true in a purely legal sense, but really, if we believe that our bishops are anointed by God to lead us, should they have to always meet this high criteria? Should we not remain open even to non-infallible teachings, and, as a general norm, accede to the just and reasonable directions set by our shepherds? Are their prudential judgements of no importance to us at all?

The second common way that many are dismissive of the Bishops (and even the Pope at times) is more attitudinal. For example, “Oh to heck with that stupid bishop, he’s just an idiot and shill for the left. He’s all wrong on immigration, and doesn’t emphasize abortion enough in his sermons and letters…to heck with him.”

Cardinal George in his recent ad limina visit to Rome summed up the difficulty the bishops face here in America in the following way:

The Church’s mission is threatened internally by divisions which paralyze her ability to act forcefully and decisively.

On the left, the Church’s teachings on sexual morality and the nature of the ordained priesthood and that the Church herself are publicly opposed, as are the bishops who preach and defend these teachings.

On the right, the Church’s teachings might be accepted. But the bishops who do not govern exactly and to the last detail in the way expected, are publicly opposed.

The Church is thus an arena of ideological warfare, rather than a way of discipleship, shepherded by bishops. And so, the Church’s ability to evangelize is diminished. Cardinal Francis George, May 28 2011 Ad Limina Visit.

In other words, trying to lead Catholics is like herding cats. And our descent into ideology stabs unity in the heart and gravely wounds our ability to impact our culture in any real effective and unified way. Consider that there are as many as 70 million Catholics in the U.S. Were we really together on any one topic, we would be a force to reckoned with. But we are not, and are thus largely ineffective as a force for positive change.

And it is always easy to say “It’s that other slob who is responsible for the disunity.”  But as Cardinal George notes, the bishop’s aren’t getting much support from any sector of the Church.

Canonist Ed Peters over at In the Light of the Law has some interesting insights in to this as well:

I often explain and defend in my blog legitimate exercises of ecclesiastical authority. I do this because we live in an age that distrusts exercises of authority in general and ecclesiastical authority in particular. Even within the Church, exercises of ecclesiastical authority are often suspect, nay guilty, till proven otherwise. Part of me understands that suspicion, at least when it arises from ‘the right’: I grew up with happy-clappy catechesis, suffered through clown Masses, watched the devastation wrought on religious life, mourned the closing of one Catholic school after another, etc, etc, etc…..

But, by the grace of God, I never let my disappointment ossify into distrust. As a result, I do not cling to my opinions about how things should be done in the Church (however sound my views might be) in the face of legitimate ecclesiastical determinations otherwise. I know all about Canon 212 § 3 3. It’s Canon 223 I’m concerned with now.

Widespread, knee-jerk distrust of ecclesiastical authority is perhaps the most crippling legacy left to the John Paul II generation of Church leaders by the past. This distrust is, of course, unfair to [the] new generation [i.e. of seminarians and younger priests] —who have done nothing to deserve it—but it is also increasingly incongruous to them. They didn’t grow up with the wackiness that many of us remember, and so they don’t understand the animus that is often directed by some otherwise orthodox Catholics against Church leaders just because they happen to be, well, leaders in the Church. Occasionally, when I see a solid young priest or seminarian suffer such [treatment], I call him aside and explain what things were like back in the day, and why patience is called for in this case or that. He listens, nods his head, and says, “Yes, I see what you mean, it must have been terrible. Well, time to get over it.” These guys are great.

Yes, distrust has led many to become disconnected from the bishops, who are our legitimate shepherds. This legitimate authority is the case even if they are not perfect. The first 12 bishops didn’t exactly lead with perfection either. Christ chooses and anoints imperfect men to lead the Church. And while we have every right to both petition the bishops and seek to influence their decisions, trust and respect are essential components of such a dialogue.

Being disconnected from the bishop is not of God and dangerously leads to becoming a member of a Church of one. Too many today proudly spout their views, and seem to imply they are more Catholic than the Pope and more orthodox than the bishops because they are able to quote St. “So and So” who said it just this way, and that is what it means to be truly Catholic. But its pretty hard to be truly Catholic and be utterly dismissive of the bishops or to remain at odds with the local bishop without a very severe doctrinal reason.

St Ignatius expresses the ancient and apostolic witness to the respect that we ought to have for the bishop:

It is therefore fitting that you should, after no hypocritical fashion, obey [your bishop], in honor of Him who has willed us to do so, since he that does not do so deceives not the bishop that is visible, but seeks to mock Him that is invisible….I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ,… As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavor that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled.  (Ignatius to the Church at Magnesia 3,6-7)

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. (Ignatius to the Church at Smyrna, 8)

None of this ancient teaching comports well with the derisive attitudes too common today regarding bishops among some of the faithful. God has summoned us to unity and obedience. And unity and obedience should not be reduced to theoretical concepts. There is an actual and real bishop to whom you and I each owe respect and obedience. And even in those rare cases when the Bishop is clearly at odds with a Church teaching or required practice, we humbly seek dialogue. And, if that is not successful, we appeal to higher authority in the Church. Other things being equal, we should seek and cultivate unity with the local bishop. We should seek to understand his priorities, along with that of our pastor. And even if these priorities do not perfectly match ours, we do well to remember who is the anointed leader and who is not. There is a reason that the Bishop is the leader and I am not. At some level we have got to trust God and accept that he works even through imperfect men.

A final thought from another Church Father meditating on the recent Christmas Feast:

And what can we find in the treasure of the Lord’s bounty more in keeping with the glory of this feast than that peace which was first announced by the angelic choir on the day of his birth? For that peace, from which the sons of God spring, sustains love and mothers unity; it refreshes the blessed and shelters eternity; its characteristic function and special blessing is to join to God those whom it separates from this world….For the grace of the Father has adopted as heirs neither the contentious nor the dissident, but those who are one in thought and love. The hearts and minds of those who have been reformed according to one and the same image should be in harmony with one another. – From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope (Sermo 6 in Nativitate Domini, 2-3, 5: PL 54, 213-216)

Beware the Church of one.

This songs says, I need you, you need, we’re all a part of God’s body. Stand with me, agree with me, I need you to survive.

192 Replies to “Is Being a Bishop Like Herding Cats? It Shouldn’t Be”

  1. Msgr. Pope,

    Thank you for this excellent post. I was raised in the 70’s so I’m not unfamiliar with the problems. I know where we were, and where we are now. While there are problems, I see a huge change in what bishops say and do from where we were 30, 20, and 10 years ago, with more and more being bold and forthright. I have even seen positive changes in the last 5 years, since I’ve been blogging. It’s not perfect yet, and it never will be because of concupiscence. I see an incremental change in the right direction and I am hopeful looking forward 10 and 20 years from now (even though secular and political pressures will get greater). I’m even more hopeful, seeing what I do in seminarians and young priests. Some years from now, from among their ranks will come tomorrow’s bishops. In the meanwhile, we need to look for any victory we get, putting a spotlight on what is being done right, rather than dwelling in what is wrong. There are proper avenues for dealing with those, as you explained in your post. I don’t believe the internet is best, first recourse for handling a disagreement we may have with a bishop. Hold that thought for a moment.

    In support of what you wrote, I would like to offer something from St. Thomas Aquinas and get your thoughts. It is from the Summa, The Second Part of the Second Part, Question 103, Article 2. I’m only pasting Objection 2 and his response to it:

    Objection 2. Further, honor is due to a person in acknowledgment of his virtue, as stated above (1; 63, 3). But sometimes those who are above us are not virtuous. Therefore honor is not due to them, as neither is it due to the demons, who nevertheless are above us in the order of nature.

    Reply to Objection 2. A wicked superior is honored for the excellence, not of his virtue but of his dignity, as being God’s minister, and because the honor paid to him is paid to the whole community over which he presides. As for the demons, they are wicked beyond recall, and should be looked upon as enemies, rather than treated with honor.


    Back to that thought I said to hold: I think that, even when we may have justifiable disappointment or anger, we must remember the dignity that goes with the office, no matter how imperfect the office holder is.

    1. Thank you, Diane for the quote from St. Thomas’s Summa. I just found this reminder from the Catechism in another forum this week, and it speaks assuredly of our obligation to revere them. Too often, people criticize as though they had certain rights to do so. Not so.

      1269 Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us. From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to “obey and submit” to the Church’s leaders, holding them in respect and affection.

  2. I lived in Massachusetts when Cardinal Law told the us that there was no sexual abuse among clergy and the faithful were sinful to even claim that the Archdiocese of Boston had ever done anything to hide abusive priests. And then there were the Bishops of Austria and Germany and many other countries who allied themselves the with the Nazis and delighted in genocide. And then there were the nine Bishops who were at the marriage of twice divorced but baptized christian Newt Gingrich.

    But no, you are right, as of this very moment in time, all Bishops are right in everything they say, and those past offenses are mere aberrations to be ignored. We should all be obedient as children are abused, and people murdered, and Church doctrine ignored because it fits political agendas.

    1. So are you a church of one? To whom do you report? And if you are a bishop in your new church have you never sinned, never had a lapse of judgement done all things well?

      1. I think one small part of the problem (that you outlined even better than did I) is, in fact, ecclesiastical websites that allow anonymous combox posting. Why should Msgr. Pope, a busy man trying to make an intelligent comment on a complex topic, have to pause (for the sake of others) to reply to an anonymous posting on ecclesiastical website stuck by someone writing out of contempt and even hatred of the Church, or at least of bishops? Really, why?

        I’m of two minds even in regard to the use of “handles”, but certainly anonymous posting on the interest is, at this point, a near occasion of sin, and it should not be allowed. Almost no good comes from anonymous posting, and much harm follows in its wake.

        1. Thanks for your reply. I really liked your post (and your website) and found it both understanding and encouraging. I had seen Cardinal George’s ad limina remark and then, when I saw your post I thought it a sign to continue this discussion. I think too you are surely right that many younger clergy are bewildered by the hostility to authority and do not deserve the treatment they sometimes get from some of God’s older (and hurt) children.

        2. Dr. Peters, all due respect, but do you really think that the answer to the problem “Many Catholics seem (for reasons which are totally inexplicable, of course) to have lost their trust in their bishops and chanceries,” is to insist on shutting down communication? To me (again, with all due respect) the only thing that might do is make it easier to reinforce the opaque walls of the chancery bubble, and somehow I think it is at least somewhat doubtful that this will improve matters as far as the laity is concerned.

          I think Msgr. Pope is to be commended for his willingness to engage in conversation on these serious and important matters, and I find it an admirable quality.

          1. Erin, you did read my post, right? Where did I suggest “shutting down communication”? Resort to such hyperbole does not foster communication, it just ticks off responders before the exchange ever gets started. But at least you signed your name, so, you get a real answer. Best, edp.

          2. Dr. Peters, again, all due respect, but I was referring to your comment here to Msgr. Pope about having to reply to Internet commenters (with or without “handles”). Since you don’t allow comments on your own site, I would never be so rude to Msgr. Pope as to address you about something you wrote there over here; I would either blog about it myself to invite conversation, or send you an email. But you seemed over here to be advocating that Msgr. Pope should not allow such open communication, and I wished to address that, and did.

    2. It should be noted that everything about this [anon’s] comment is completely false, including the commenter’s name.

    3. There’s nothing like projecting the errors in judgment and/or sinfulness of some bishops onto all bishops.

      If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were stereo-typing bishops.

      There are a number of dads out there who have been found guitly of incest and child abuse. Should we just project that onto all dads?

      As Aquinas explains (I quoted above), and applying it to bishops, even if he be wicked, he must still be honored for his dignity as a minister of God, not because of his virtue (or lack thereof).

    4. Anon, I was born (in 1943) and raised in the Archdiocese of Boston, and I was here in that Archdiocese during the entirety of Cardinal Law’s episcopacy in Boston. I cannot recall that he ever said the things you claim that he said. Please document your claims. Otherwise I will continue to believe that what you said is false and a calumny.

      And while you’re at it, please name the German bishops who delighted in genocide, and provide documentation of what they said indicating their delight.

      Finally, what is wrong with bishops attending the marriage of a prominent Catholic who — we must presume in the absence of personal knowledge to the contrary — was free to marry in the Church? (Can you say “decree of nullity?)

      1. Thank you as well for helping to clarify anon’s remarks. I think false claims and generalizations about bishops today are especially bad since many are prone to believe them.

  3. Sometimes obedience seems almost as touch as suffering. But, love bears all things, etc.

  4. Oh, the poor bishops.

    Look, these guys routinely come down on theologically orthodox Catholics, especially those attached to traditional liturgy. At the same time, they let heretical “Catholic” colleges and politicians run rampant and cause scandal. See the Archdiocese of Detroit’s arbitrary and selective condemnation of Michael Voris while actual heresy runs unchecked in some quarters in that local Church.

    In the face of that total failure of leadership and harassment of their own natural allies, what do you expect us to do? I think you’re being unreasonable to ask us to simply forgive the many, many injustices the bishops commit against orthodox Catholics and their sins of omission in politics and academia.

    What about the CCHD? What about their attempt to ban kneeling for communion a few years back? Where’s the support from chanceries for the next step of liturgical reform, the recovery of sacred music? Why is there only one diocese that has preserved all-male altar service (formerly two, before Bishop Loverde of Arlington attacked traditional Catholics on this matter last decade)? The USCCB is getting better now that the Obama Administration has given them little choice but to fight back, but that’s hardly a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy.

    Speaking locally, how are the plans going for this year’s Pontifical High Mass at the National Shrine? Any new parishes doing the Ex Form in DC proper that weren’t Ecclesia Dei indult parishes? Why can Nancy Pelosi, et al, still receive communion in the Archdiocese of Washington–even if their local bishop has asked them not to receive back home?

    Should there be no reaction? What about justice? Are we supposed to blithely just accept double standards and bitter intolerance from chancery bureaucrats and the bishops that foster that bureaucracy?

    Please don’t dismiss me as just some angry traddie in a Mark Shea-ish way. This is the reasoned response to your post.

    1. Well, I think you suppose I am asking you to personally like your bishop. I am not, but I cannot see how it is Catholic to either disobey or be dismissive of the bishops in a rather general sort of way. I think, whatever, our personal opinions, we owe them respect and obedience. I am not aware of any disobedience on your part but respect is less obvious.

      I know my father, with whom I had differences and who not a perfect man would never have tolerated from me the kind of strident tone I sense in you. And I would be wrong to treat my Father that way. I did air my differences with my father in my adult years but had been trained (properly) to use a respectful tone with him as when St Paul reminded Timothy Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father (1 Tim 5:1). As a young child when I was sometimes bitter at something about my father and pouted, my mother would often remind me in gentle but clear way: “Remember he is your father….” As if to say to me that I must show him reverence even when I am angry.

      Our Bishops are our spiritual Fathers and I do not think it appropriate to go about spreading and encouraging anger and calling them unjust and double-minded.

      I think back to St. Peter who, in Acts 15 rendered a decision about what rules Gentile converts had to follow and what not. I am sure his decision upset the Judaizers, and those from James who may have considered the non placet of Peter to be lax and undermining of both tradition and moral formation. And yet, Peter did and still deserved respect from those who did not like his decision.

      Diane quotes St Thomas above (103 2ad2) Reply to Objection 2. A wicked superior is honored for the excellence, not of his virtue but of his dignity, as being God’s minister, and because the honor paid to him is paid to the whole community over which he presides. As for the demons, they are wicked beyond recall, and should be looked upon as enemies, rather than treated with honor.

      Whither Ryan? Is the Bishop owed respect only because you like him and his decisions or is he owed respect in view of his office and that God has placed him there (not you)? Or is he merely a demon to be seen as an enemy rather than treated with honor?

      1. I fail to see where I was disrespectful of bishops in my comment. I pointed out the very many ways they have been hostile to traditional/orthodox Catholics, and the many ways in which they have failed to exercise governance over heterodox Catholics. That’s fair game. It’s also an opportunity for them to reform and start doing the right thing, as I believe they have started to do. But it’s not everywhere, and their governance is only now starting to firm up.

        It’s also fair game to answer the question that you yourself have posed on this blog post: why is it that conservative Catholics are dismissive of the bishops? That isn’t “spreading and encouraging anger.” It’s answering a question you have raised.

        I’ve given a detailed answer which is respectful of the dignity of the office and isn’t personally insulting to any bishop. But it is a strong disagreement with their bad choices, which I have every right to make as a layman. According to canon law, I have the right to call out pastors when they are making bad choices, provided I am respectful of their office.

        1. Sorry you cant see it. But that you are scornful of the bishops, since they dont follow all your preferences and priorities is pretty obvious. But, a bishop doesnt earn your respect by doing what pleases you. He should have it before that.

        2. Ryan:

          When two independent sources tell you “You are coming off as angry”, it might be time to ask not, “What is the matter with people who say Trads often come off as angry?” but “Could it be that critics of Trads have a point?”

          I only reply since you saw fit to drag my name into a discussion having nothing to do with me and suggest that I am somehow unjust to Trads who spend small oceans of ASCII fulminating about how much they hate my guts–and the guts of so many other of us Protestantized half breed Novus Ordo semi-Catholics practicing a bastardized faith that deserves only contempt. For some reason, normal people perceive that as hostile and angry. And when I mention that on occasion, I am instantly awash in an acid bath of hatred from the apostles of Truly True Pure Catholic Faith[TM]. Call me skeptical that this is what Jesus wants.

          Listen to Msgr. Pope. I mean, his name is Pope for cryin’ out loud. 🙂

          1. Thanks for this reflection Mark. As a lover of tradition and the new Mass as well, I must say I cringe at the tone of some of my more traditional friends and flock. You have issued a worthy cautionary note.

      2. You are creating a strawman of what the poster said. There is a difference between the office of the Bishop and the actions of the Bishop. Orthodox Catholics will/can continue to call a Bishop Your Excellency while pointing out that the Bishop persecutes those who desire the EF of the Mass, allows clownish and garish Masses, or continues to allow heretical priests to continue unchecked (e.g. see Fr. Pfleger in Cardinal George’s diocese). This does not mean they see the Bishop or his office as a “demon”. It is a sin if we do not admonish sinners, including Bishops.

        The Bishops will continue to have a hard time “herding the cats” as long as they try to lead the cats to a dog park. Bishops who preach and defend the faith are popular and do not have to herd anyone to follow them (e.g. Chaput, and former Bishop Burke).

        “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”

          1. Trad – your comment about my reply being ad hominem went to the spam filter and cannot be retrieved. But I think you should study the concept of ad hominem which it would seem you misuse as a term. An ad hominem argumentum would be something like calling attention to some personal trait of yours. Perhaps if I can you short or stupid, or called attention to your income or birthplace or race. Of, by extension if I referenced something in your argument that present but was non-essentially about you. But what I am doing here is is calling attention to your attitude somehow you have the answers to make the church run smoothly some that Bishops suddenly are respected and respectable. And thus you say, “The bishops will continue having a hard time” until they do x y and z. Therefore you open yourself to criticism that you are being a know it all and that if you ran things it would be different. Well guess what, you aren’t an anointed leader (neither am I) and there is probably a reason we aren’t. And in the end you have no business saying who Jesus will vomit from his mouth. That is His business not yours. Even if you want to argue that they are lousy leaders, that does not change the fact that they are there by God’s will and apparently he wills that they be the leader rather that trad or Msgr. Pope.

          2. I didn’t see where Ryan was coming across as angry–he sounded legitimately frustrated to me.

            Let’s face reality, we have some bishops who are and have been consistent public defenders of the faith, and we have others who are not. Bruzkewitz (Lincoln), Chaput (Denver, now Philadelphia), Olmsted (Phoenix), Burke (formerly St. Louis) have been consistent public defenders of the faith. Then you have ones who on social issues, were often publicly condoning behavior/actions/speakers at odds with Church teachings: eg. Mahony (Los Angeles), Bernardin (Chicago), Gumbleton (aux. Detroit), Weakland, and others.. Then you have bishops in the middle like Wuerl (DC), O’Malley (Boston). O’Malley, as many recall, presided over the canonization-style funeral of pro-abort, pro-gay Ted Kennedy, and he criticized pro-life Catholics who complained about the liturgy The funeral violated Catholic funeral rites in many ways, and O’Malley failed to ever even say that we need to pray God’s mercy on the soul of Kennedy in view of his pro-abortion policies that had killed tens of million of the unborn. Instead, O’Malley blogged about how he was awestruck over hearing famous singers perform at the funeral and meeting Obama, while he told pro-life Catholics they were out of line for complaining and their attitudes and practices, “do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church.”

            Better that pro-abort politicians and pro-life Catholics all sit around the table together and sing “Kumbaya.”


            “The music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.” Placido has a superb voice.”
            “Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn. ­­­Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.”

            How about speaking the truth that his policies resulted in the tragic killing of 50M unborn children? And how about the reality that by the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston presiding over the televised canonization-style funeral and blogging about it as though the pro-life Catholics are wrong, he gave the impression to the world that it was just fine to be a pro-abortion Catholic in political life?

            This is perhaps just one example of why Catholics like Ryan and others are frustrated.

            Msgr., what exactly do you expect us to do? Just sit back and let bishops who lack the backbone of a Burke, Olmsted, Bruzkewitz, etc. lead the faithful astray?

            Private letters or emails to the archbishop go unanswered. Phone calls to the Chancery receive a dismissive response. Several local bloggers have taken to blogging about the issues.

            As you said, our bishops are there by God’s will and apparently He wills that they be the leader at this time rather that someone else. But, I will still argue that some bishops are lousy leaders. And canonically, we the faithful are told we have the duty to make our needs known to our bishops.

          3. While I am not a “fan” of Ted Kennedy or even Cardinal O’Malley, Dan’s post makes me think that someone should defend His Eminence (while sharing Dan’s opinion…mostly.)
            I don’t think Cardinal O’Malley had any choice in going to the Kennedy funeral (which was a liturgical mess…no sung Mass parts…too many eulogies, etc.) If he decided that he would not go, he would have been marginalized even more than he already is. While Sen. Kennedy’s personal and public record is horrible, it was public and known. How often are we baptizing, confirming, marrying and burying people that would not be acceptable for this ministry if their inner disposition is known?
            I agree that Ted Kennedy did not deserve the presence of Cardinal Sean at his funeral, but I think that no matter what the Cardinal decided to do, he would have had someone on one side of the issue or the other saying he was wrong. Personally, if I were in the same position, I would have felt that I needed to “suck it up” and go. Cardinal Sean was not in any way endorsing the Senator’s positions by being there.
            I agree that we need to be sure that we protect the Sacraments, as well as honor those that are faithful to the Church’s teaching. And I believe that most priests are walking together on this. Thankfully, as a parish priest, I am not faced with such a public dilemma like the Kennedy funeral very often (if at all.)
            But he is my Bishop, and whether I like it or not, I am on his team.

          4. Boston Priest,
            Cardinal O’Malley may have found himself with critics on both sides of the aisle if he decided to be present at the funeral or not, and I wasn’t saying he shouldn’t have been present. But he did have a choice–he’s Archbishop of Boston and he’s bound to up hold the faith.

            If he was deciding to go, the first thing he had fully within his authority as the presider for the funeral was to make sure it held to the Catholic funeral rites. That would have avoided the liturgial mess!!

            Whether he attended and presided or not, its the authority of the bishop to make sure all funerals abide by the Catholic funeral rite. He could have told them it was impermissible in the Catholic funeral rite to have 3 eulogies and highly politicized prayers of the faithful. Want a Catholic Mass, abide by Catholic funeral rites.

            See this article by Fr. Roger Landry of the Fall River Diocese:

            “This leads to the final controversy, the actual celebration of Senator Kennedy’s rite of Christian burial, which in a sense unites the two previous ones. The overall tone of the funeral liturgy — from the three eulogies, to the prayers of the faithful, to the homily, to the celebrity musicians, to the guest list, and to the nationally-televised gushing color commentaries — seemed to communicate that it was more a public, political apotheosis of Senator Kennedy than a humble, insistent prayer of the Church his mother for the forgiveness of his sins and the repose of his soul. This was probably not helpful to the Senator eschatologically, obviously scandalous to devout pro-lifers spiritually, and likely injurious to the Church both doctrinally and practically.

            On the last point, since lex orandi, lex credendi — “the way we pray indicates what we believe” — the overall impression left by the tone of the funeral will likely influence the way Catholics and non-Catholics understand the purpose of the Catholic funeral liturgy for quite some time. It will, moreover, doubtless impact what some Catholics ask for in the funerals of their loved ones; if pastors are unwilling to allow what they observed Senator Kennedy received, there will be wounds to pastors and parishioners both.

            This last controversy was totally avoidable; all that was necessary was to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Catholic funeral rite. And the Senator, pro-lifers and the Church as a whole certainly deserved that the Senator’s funeral be an unambiguous and undiluted expression of the Church’s faith.”

            The commentary on his blog that squandered a teaching moment with praise for Kennedy and criticism for those who complained was my second point.

            You’re a priest so you’re bound by obedience to your bishop regardless of what he says or does. I’ve taken no vow of obedience to the bishop–my vow is to God so we’re in different places. What exactly do you suggest people do when they see this kind of action? More than 100 people wrote comments to Cardinal O’Malley’s blog after the funeral and most were critical of what happened. What’s that say?

          5. I agree with Dan Morgan and find the comments by “Boston Priest” contradictory and not believable.

            First “Boston Priest” said he wasn’t a fan of Kennedy or Cardinal O’Malley, then he said he felt he should defend Cardinal O’Malley, then he said Cardinal O’Malley didn’t have a choice but to go to the funeral and he’d have done the same thing in his shoes, then said “Thankfully, as a parish priest, I am not faced with such a public dilemma like the Kennedy funeral very often (if at all.)”

            He sounds more like an advisor to Cardinal O’Malley than a parish priest who is NEVER faced with a dilemma like the Kennedy funeral.

            I read the piece by Fr. Landry referenced by Mr. Morgan and found another at the same location entitled, “Sen. Kennedy’s Legacy.”

            This gets to what has angered Ryan, Mr. Morgan, and others–that many bishops are doing little or nothing about Catholics in public service and politics who work against the teachings of the faith.

            “At his death and for most of the second half of his life, he was the most well-known American Catholic in public life. His example was enormous — and enormously scandalous. Because of the choices he made, the expression “Kennedy Catholic” has become a synonym, sadly, not for “good Catholic,” but for a hypocritical one, one who pays lip service to the Church’s teachings on intrinsically evil acts while seeking to justify and facilitate public violations of them. This is part of his legacy, too. If Senator Kennedy had remained true to his Catholic faith and a “doer” of the Word of God proclaimed by the Church (Js 1:22), there would without a doubt be far fewer Catholics who support abortion, or same-sex pseudomatrimony, or other such intrinsic evils today that the Senator himself championed. His example taught other Catholics that one can pick-and-choose what areas of the faith on which to be faithful, as long as one tries to do good in some other areas.

            We have to add, however, that one of the reasons why Kennedy’s example was so injurious to the Church was because the pastors of the Church, for the most part, made the imprudent call to do little or nothing about it beyond general teaching statements that they hoped offending politicians would apply to themselves. There were no real consequences, and as a result, Senator Kennedy, scores of other Catholic politicians, and millions of American Catholic lay people concluded that the Church’s teachings in defense of human life cannot be that important if those who publicly and repeatedly act in violation of it do so with impunity. It would be very hard for an abortion-supporting Catholic politician to have watched Senator Kennedy’s very public and panegyrical funeral rites and not have concluded that the Church’s teachings on life are, in the end, a very small matter indeed. It would have been even harder for such a politician or others who support the evil of abortion to have been inspired toward conversion.

            This leads to one of the most important lessons that pastors in the United States need to draw from the history of the Church’s interactions with Senator Kennedy for its future engagement of other pro-abortion Catholic politicians. Despite the good intentions to try to engage him, teach him, and help bring him to conversion, the strategy failed. There were many words given at the Senator’s exequies about his “private faith,” but private faith is not enough. “Faith without deeds is dead,” as St. James poignantly reminds us. The Church has a responsibility to help bring people from “private faith” to see the consequences of it in public actions, and, in the Senator’s case, we didn’t succeed.

            When excerpts of his July letter to Pope Benedict were read at his committal at Arlington National Cemetery, those hoping for some sign of repentance for his formal cooperation in the blood of millions of unborn children were left disappointed: “I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic,” he wrote, “and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings.”

            If we take him at his word as we re-read his many past statements and work in favor of abortion, same-sex marriage, and other evils — in which he showed a total material disrespect and disregard for the Church’s teachings — it’s impossible not to conclude that after almost 35 years of patiently pastoral pedagogy, he still failed to grasp that abortion and marriage are “fundamental teachings” of the Church to which every faithful Catholic must adhere in public and private. The pastors of the Church obviously need to come up with a more effective way to get politicians to grasp the importance of the Church’s teaching than the failed strategy that was employed with Senator Kennedy.”

            I don’t know Fr. Landry, but would venture from his writings that he’d make an outstanding bishop–of the type laity and priests would trust and obediently follow, to Msgr.’s original point.

  5. I’m younger, so I’ve only heard about most of the post Vatican II era second hand. Hence, it’s been easier for me to accept the totality of a bishop or priest’s authority in their teachings and practical judgments when I began to see how good God has been to the Church by establishing Holy Orders as a source of her unity.

    Something I’ve kept in mind while interacting with priests who have been in error is 1 Pt 3:1-4:
    “Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
    Priests stand in relation to their parishes like husbands to their wives so it is most appropriate to win them over with obedience, revernce, and gentleness which are all precious in the sight of God. We’re not about changing the world as much as we are about being pleasing to God. He can do more towards changing someone’s heart than I ever could. While it is important to speak to the error (faith comes by hearing), as the passage from Peter indicates, a man is more easily won without a word by one’s personal goodness.

    1. Yes, thank you for a good reflection. It is clear that the “in your face” approach is not very effective and causes bishops many concerns if Cardinal George’s remarks are any indication.

      1. The other part about the “in your face” approach, is that one might be able to count the people they convert, but they can never know the number who were pushed away, perhaps even farther than they already were before they were confronted.

        There is a right time and a right place to get in someone’s face. It should be a last resort, not a first recourse.

  6. The bishops, with their moral failure, their LEADING the liturgical abuses and their abandonment of the traditional Mass and Faith, are reaping what they themselves sowed. They have no one to blame but themselves. While we are all under them in obedience, we have no obligation to follow them into sin, or into scandal.

  7. Unity is one of the highest apostolic values a pastor can promote.

    I’m dismayed that this essay–which does raise important points–starts with a complaint about dissenters. More healthy for the Church would be to examine what’s different about the bishops. I find it very curious that a notably more conservative American episcopacy is generating more opposition today than a decade ago.

    It might be that the appointments of the last ten to twenty years wither under the keen gaze of internet Catholics. But has it occurred that the quality of bishops has declined? Perhaps conservatives are detecting less the small deviations from ideological purity and more the open flaws of men who are inexperienced pastors.

    I’ve known many parish priests who excelled at promoting parish unity, of bringing the local left and right together. I’m less concerned as a church employee with the ideological stance of my pastor. Whether someone reads the Wanderer or the NCRep is irrelevant. I want to know: is he a fair and just man, listening to people, praying to God, devoted to service? Good pastors transcend “correct” ideology (however a particular community might define that).

    1. Not sure I follow every point you make exactly. However, I am unaware that the quality of Bishops has declined, but even if it has, they are the Bishops God has placed there and they deserve respect. As for your last paragraph, I think I am in agreement.

      1. Todd, I wouldn’t know for sure if the quality of episcopal appointments are down. Personally, I much prefer this bunch to the Jadot-era bishops. IMHO what has clearly happened is (1) the revelation of wide-spread coverup by the majority of US bishops for priests sexually molesting the young; (2) the rise of the internet which has allowed long-pent-up lay frustration and sharing of information, once reserved to The Wanderer and NCR, to boil over; and (3) the decline in our society for authority in general.

        Thanks Msgr. Pope for posting this though-provoking article.

        1. Thanks for the thoughts, Fr Michael. As for your number 1, I suspect it is part of what we’re seeing. I might also think about online conservatives “boiling over,” as you put it, but maybe I would be too dismissive of their genuine frustration. In my parish, I listen to conservatives, and I think we have a healthier community because they, and everyone else, is listened to, and respected. Online, perhaps that dynamic is lost.

          Decline in respect for authority dates to the 60’s, and for Europeans, it might have roots even a generation or two before that. Do bishops do well to insist they deserve respect? Or are they better served by leadership with substantive symbolism to persuade?

          I find the dynamic fascinating, however, that admittedly more conservative bishops are beset ever more by a more vocal and conservative laity. You’ve got to wonder what’s with that. You sure can’t blame the usual liberal suspects for this one. Clearly, somebody’s not with the program.

  8. Msgr Pope, thank you for this post. It helps a lot. Our diocese has been hurt not by the sexual abuse, but political abuse, and we want to be reconciled, but so far it has not come. Our story and subsequent “battle” (see was with a community organizer, Industrial Areas Foundation. Before its arrival, we all worked together beautifully, in big ways and small ways. Then came what proved to be a snake, sneaking in the back door of parishes supposedly under the approval of our archbishop (the words of a deacon, that where later denied by the archbishop…). Once we researched and found it to be left-wing ideology, Alinsky inspired (who dedicated his book “Rules for Radicals” to Lucifer, and horribly divisive, we worked with individual pastors and the archbishop to get it stopped. The archbishop, close to retirement, listened to both sides, then retired without a decision (which to the opposers was permission to procede) and so the fight became “ours” (the laity). Yes, our human/sinful side allowed some to become angry and use words they shouldn’t have, and the archbishop said he had received some ugly letters, but we did NOT receive guidance from anyone in the Church, while the pro-Alinsky side received money and leadership from Catholic Charities, local and national (through CCHD), and from the national community organizer–Industrial Areas Foundation, as well as from priests who were trained in Alinsky organizing (through their seminaries). The parishes split off and separated friendships, partnerships, working and ministering relationships, and much anger was directed toward these priests. Some pastors took the “conservative side” and either backed out or did not join the organizing. Their goal was 40 churches; it is over 20 after three-four years of organizing. The main goal of organizing around the country seems to be acquiring government and charitible grants to accomplish their “issues” (healthcare, transportation, housing, immigration, etc.). This either is accomplished by raising taxes, or pulling money from somewhere else. The object of community organizing is to give power to those who don’t have it (which assumes taking it from those who do have it, which I translate as a constant see-saw battle that never ends…). Now we have a new archbishop, and as the community organizing continues (we think it has a potential for great harm because it answers only the material needs of the poor), we have seen no leadership in the Church to bring us back together. The non-community organizing side (over 100) are willing to do positive ministering to the poor, for pro-life, for many causes, and some of us do as individuals, but we would like to see a Mass of reparation and forgiveness, and do positive issues as a large group. To us the words “social justice” now have a nasty taste that will require something extremely positive to change us. Many have stopped donating to Catholic Charities, some even stopped tithing at their parish (if they still give their 1% of yearly budget to them) and choose to give to charities that are open and accountable. What you have written, Msgr Pope gives me hope, and I will forward your post to the people of our diocese. I pray that our archiocese and others around the country that are negatively impacted by community organizing (I have been contacted by people in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Illinois, Texas, and California who are having the same problems). Unfortunately the USCCB gives full support to these groups especially through the CCHD, which should be shut down since it has not “reformed” and it an embarrassment/scandal as big or bigger than the sex scandal. Until that is stopped, the conservative Catholics will not trust the bishops. We may give them respect, but not trust. God Bless you for your ministry.

    1. Well, I can’t speak to your experience, but it is not the same everywhere. Here in the DC area we and Three IAF based organizations: On in DC, one in Montgomery County and one in the Arlington Diocese and the trouble you described has not happened. The IAF organizers here seem to be quite respectful of Church doctrine and also do not reference Saul Alinksi of Rule for Radicals. So it seems to me when it comes to these sorts of things a prudential judgment by a pastor and bishop is involved. In some places the IAF approach may work and in others not. Hence I can’t agree that CCHD is doing something intrinsically wrong. Your experience has been poor, to be sure, but it does not necessarily follow that it is poor everywhere.

      1. Are you directly involved in community organizing? Here is an article a friend from No. Carolina sent to me. I know this isn’t a forum to debate the good/bad of community organizing, but those of us (and there are many) who are against our donations/tithes going to left-wing politics disagree with the bishops who allow donations to be given to community organizers. Usually 1-2% of the annual parish budget goes to fund the local organizers, with a portion of that going on to the national organizer (IAF); what do they do with that money??? They are NOT funding pro-life causes, but in fact the ALL report has proven for years now that the grants from CCHD have gone to pro-ABORTION groups. How are Catholics supposed to feel about their bishops when then has happened for years, amid many complaints and many changes in leadership for CCHD, among other scands there as well. That national CCHD collection also funds the community organizing–until 2008 millions went to ACORN. Now if someone could prove that the organizers/bishops have truly made a DENT in the situation of the poor, including their souls, it could be a good thing. Many of the community organizers partner with groups such as La Raza which is pro-abortion. Look at the funding from other sources that are pro-abortion, like the Center for American Progress, and many many more. The whole mess of Catholic Charities being shut down because we are being forced to allow adoptions to gay couples stems from this “rounding off” of the laws and doctrines that the Church has had to protect all people. The bishops must teach the truth, they must not pass it off to groups like community organizers to “teach” us how to help the poor. The Church has done it, and done it well, for thousands of years. Our Catholic Hospitals, our Catholic Colleges, and our Catholic Charities are all failing because they lack the strict following of true Catholic doctrine. We’ve been nibbled away year after year because “someone” looks the other way and says “it is too big for me to do anything about” or “I can’t go against the bishop.” I don’t want to tear down his door and arrive with torches and pitchforks literally or figuratively, I want to understand why decisions are made, why others are ignored (problems), and where the heck (hell?) is our Church going with the leadership we have? I hope to God, and I mean that, someone passes this onto every bishop in our country, every cardinal, and on to the Vatican. If this many people are upset, and I’m sure we are a small representative group, then there are many unhappy people who need to be addressed in a loving way, but listened to, and then some actions need to be taken. Sometimes all it takes is for the “father” to hear his children, acknowledge they are hurting, and tell them he promises to address the problems.

        1. Jo, if it would help you, I’d like to share this information about the CCHD which I gathered a while back:

          I do respect my bishop and am obedient to him. However, when the annual collection for the CCHD is taken up and we are reminded from the pulpit that our bishop “strongly supports” the CCHD collection, I sigh, and charitably suppose that none of the negative information about the CCHD which is widely available has ever been presented to him by someone he would respect or trust.

  9. The Catholic church teaches that the pope is infallible, that the bishops are successors to the apostles, and that the Holy Spirit guides the church, but many prayerful Catholics cannot square this majestic, ivory tower theology with the inexcusable, real world behavior of our bishops.

    If the popes and the bishops are only human, as surely they are, and if the church is another human institution composed of sinful human beings, as surely it is, then the Catholic church may be like any other church or club, but if the Catholic church is truly what is professes to be, then the Catholic church is much more than this, and both the clergy and the laity have a solemn duty to cleanse the church and restore its former sanctity.

    It is shocking that over 10,000 children have been abused by pedophile priests. It is even more shocking that some of these pedophiles have been enabled by their bishops:

    Bishop Vangheluwe of Belgium admitted (unashamedly) to molesting his nephews
    Bishop Lahey of Canada pled guilty to possessing child pornography
    Bishop Finn of Kansas City avoided the review process and left a pedophile priest in place

    Last year, an Irish commission released the Cloyne findings, which show that Bishop Magee of Ireland had not followed the church’s guidelines for reporting abuse, that Vatican officials had discouraged bishops from following the church’s guidelines, that Magee had misled investigators, and that Magee had himself been accused of abuse. Magee was a Vatican insider, who previously served as secretary to three popes. According to The Dublin Herald, Vatican insiders report that he is “hiding out in Rome,” protected by the pope.

    The Irish government denounced the Vatican coverup, citing “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism — and the narcissism — that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

    As the abuse scandal unfolds, we are told that the scandal is behind us, that the situation is improving, that the pedophile priests are finding help, that the bishops are enforcing the church’s guidelines, and that the pope is cleansing the temple. Some prayerful Catholics cannot square these assertions with the sad reality we face.

    If some of the priests are pedophiles and some of the bishops are enabling them, and the pope is protecting some of the pedophiles and enablers, then are we to follow them or to follow our consciences? Admittedly, a “church of one” may be an unworthy home, but a sinful “church of many” is surely an unworthy home.

    We owe our religious leaders the benefit of the doubt, until they demonstrate that they are unable to lead, and many prayerful Catholics believe that the bishops have (in fact) demonstrated their inability to lead.

    As laity, we cannot do anything but express our concerns to the bishops, and as bishops, they cannot do anything but express their concerns to the pope. So far, these concerns have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

    Imagine a world where the pope removes pedophile bishops and pornographer bishops and enabling bishops, and we can imagine a world where bishops fulfill their roles and the faithful bestow their allegiance.

      1. Yes, Monsignor, this post from the benedict person is a mirror of a post at another blogsite today; a screed cobbled together by a brain heavily influenced and driven by the popular media. As for Ryan’s crack about Bishop Loverde, someone should inform him that the Arlington Diocese has not fallen apart since the advent of female alter servers here. Yes, Bishop Paul is my bishop and I have not personally met a kinder or more pastoral member of the clergy than he. He is truly a shepherd as the state of the Diocese attests: we are ordaining our second batch of Permanent Deacons in the past year, we have 37 Seminarians currently studying, and our parishes are well-attended. It’s a blessing to be led by such a man.

        Thanks for indulging my mini-rant. Let me tell your readers…it’s a very good thing to dedicate oneself in prayer, service and obedience to your Bishop.

  10. The big difference between liberal Catholics and traditionalist/conservative Catholics is that the former seeks to change the laws, rubrics, teachings and disciplines of the Church, while the latter largely seeks to enforce the laws, rubrics, teachings and disciplines of the Church.

    I think this is often the cause of frustration (and lack of charity) by those on the right, especially when bishops over the last half century have seemed to ignore or downplay the heresy espoused by the left. The abortion and sodomy issues with respect to politicians and law are the prime examples. It’s easy to slap someone around for supporting the traditional Latin Mass; it’s much more difficult to excommunicate (per canon law) hundreds of politicians who have voted for every pro-murder and pro-sodomy bill put in front of them.

    This is not an excuse for the right to ignore the virtue of charity — but I think simply equating the left and the right is a terrible mistake, much like the USCCB’s and various state Catholic conferences’ election documents that give the impression abortion legalization carries the same weight as environmental justice. Shouldn’t we start with Sins That Cry to Heaven for Vengeance, then the Ten Commandments, and after all that, then worry about recycling, if at all?

    The Catholic left does not believe in essential Roman Catholic teachings and works to change them. The Catholic right believes in essential Roman Catholic teachings and works to restore them to society. We shouldn’t gloss over this point in some attempt to blame everyone equally for a hostile culture.

  11. If my bishop says stand to receive Communion, I will stand. If he says kneel, I will kneel. I will respect him in his office for any canonical directive he gives. I like the new translation of the Mass, but truth be told, I liked the old one.

    But when I read almost daily of Catholics protecting grave evil – abortion – and bishops don’t act, or hide behind excuses like ”they need more education”, then I have legitimate cause for complaint. I recognize some prudential factors obtain, but about what other form of murder do so many excuses get made? Do Pelosi, Biden, and Sibelius need further education? For their souls sake, do something. For the sake of the Churvh, act.

    Until the bishop’s of this country deal with pro-choice politicians who continue to present themselves as Catholic, they will reap the whirlwind they have sowed.

    1. “If my bishop says stand to receive Communion, I will stand. If he says kneel, I will kneel.”

      That’s not obedience, you’re a drone. I’m glad you’re strong on life, but I think you should begin to delve a little deeper into your Faith, and understand what you’re standing in front of instead of dropping to your knees.

    2. Yes, agreed with adfero. Ken N. you seem to have an all or nothing understanding of respect and obedience. I wonder what you might have done to engage your bishop in any dialogue about this? At some level canonical penalties apply, but they are a complicated matter in Church law and involve prudential judgment. You clearly think your bishop has made a prudential judgement. But perhaps that is worth engaging him bit. Write and tell him you experience about this and how it confuses you that nothing is done. Be respectful, but engage him. Encourage others to do the same. But spreading resentment on the Internet hardly seems something that will please God.

      1. Adfero –

        You utterly missed my point. If you think that your private liturgical preferences are authoritative, I suggest you read the saints and call them “dronelike”. I KNOW who I am receiving, and He has enjoined obedience to lawful Church authority.

        Msgr Pope –

        You also miss my point: the problem of conservative renegades (which you raise) is a symptom. Our bishops’ have failed to act decisively in the matter of politicians who present themselves as Catholics and promote gross evil. If you perceive lay response to that as “resentment”, or wish to hide behind the fig leaf of “prudential considerations”, then you should consider if you are part of the problem. But if you don’t want to hear an answer (and your replies down this thread suggest you don’t), then refrain from raising the issue.

        And please don’t presume to know my mind on respect and obedience based on a couple of sentences.

        1. By “conservative renegades ” do you mean people who want to celebrate the Mass that the vast number of Saints oncecelebrated and is allowed/encouraged by current Church law?

  12. Right again. And as an owner of two cats I can understand the analogy. Cats do have an independent, ungovernable instinct.

  13. Ken you say “The big difference between liberal Catholics and traditionalist/conservative Catholics is that the former seeks to change the laws, rubrics, teachings and disciplines of the Church, while the latter largely seeks to enforce the laws, rubrics, teachings and disciplines of the Church.”

    My question to you is simple, when in the 2,000 yr history of the Church did the laity gain the power to enforce the laws, rubrics, teachings, and disciplines of the Church? The answer is even simpler. Never. Christ instituted the office of apostle/bishop to do that. Our responsibility as laity is to be obedient to the proper ecclesiastical authority. To do otherwise is to declare the individual believer to be the source of magisterial truth – that is the classical difference between Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

    In the end, if you add an adjective before the word “Catholic” to describe your religion (regardless of whether that word be “conservative” or “liberal”) you have officially become a dissenter, in other words a Protestant. Martin Luther claimed that the Church authorities of his day had forfeited their authority as well. Instead of Pelosi and Sibeliusm he pointed to Tetzel and the bad behavior of the Renaissance Popes. Luther would have described himself as “conservative” and claimed not to be changing things, but to be riding the Church of the changes its bishops made.

    In short, all dissenters claim the moral high ground. “Liberals” say the Bishops are outdated and oppressive to women. “Conservatives” that the Bishops haven’t done enough to silence liberals. Read history, these justifications are in line with those made by the Reformers.

    To be a Catholic layman is to respect the authority of your bishop and the Pope. If you disagree with them, too bad – they are still in charge. This is how it has been from the start. Read Pauls letters. He doesn’t ask the Corinthians their opinions, he tells them what they are doing wrong, they are to obey. That is hard for us Americans, but that is what we are called to do as Catholics.

    The Church simply is not, was never, and will never be a democracy. Laity obey your Bishops for it is your “bishop (that) presides in the place of God” To do less makes you, by definition, a Protestant. You might be a “conservative, high Church” Protestant. But you are a Protestant nonetheless.

    1. “My question to you is simple, when in the 2,000 yr history of the Church did the laity gain the power to enforce the laws, rubrics, teachings, and disciplines of the Church? The answer is even simpler. Never. Christ instituted the office of apostle/bishop to do that.”

      You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. Laymen have had strong influence in the Church since her beginning. Especially recently, much to the detriment of the Church. Not only did laymen have influence at the Second Vatican Council, the entire implementation of the New Mass is usually decided, at each parish, by the “liturgy council.”

      Novus Ordo Catholics really have the most bizarre understanding of true obedience.

    2. I think your reflections here are well said, especially the way they connect to history and Scripture. Conservatives have to be very careful about the road many of them are currently walking down….it has been well traveled by many they rightly call liberals and dissenters. At some point the similarity in this regard is troubling.

      1. Msgr. all due respect, you cannot compare the path of traditionals fighting for their patrimony (ala SSPX) to liberal dissenters before and after the Council. That’s like calling St. Athanasius a dissenter.

          1. So I should respect bishops who openly talk about women ordination, who give protestants Communion, who given Nancy Pelosi communion? Should I follow the ones who say contraception is fine?

            Your obedience call would be fine, in 1912. In 2012, it’s a whole other ballgame. That’s not protestant — the only thing protestant is the theology of many of the bishops. And if the laity doesn’t stand up, our Church will fall.

          2. Martin Luther couldn’t have said it better himself. By the way, Christ himself promised the Church would NEVER fall.

          3. Christ promised to never let the gates of Hell prevail against the Church. While times may be frustrating now, Father Zuhlsdorf’s advice for writing to a bishop and this blog post have made think hard about my positions. Sure I identify as conservative. But not even the great defenders of Truth against difficult situations-St Athanasius for one-never encouraged anyone to take such harsh measures against the Bishops. Msgr. Pope, don’t Catholics have a right to appeal to the Holy See? I feel appealing to Rome for conservatives in frustrating situations would hurt them if the investigating clergy from the Holy See find much anger and dissent; also, I feel we should exercise this only after respectfully engaging our bishops on the issues at hand.

    3. Nathan — careful with the broad brush in your criticism. There are such things as conservative and traditionalist priests. And deacons. And even bishops. And many (most?) have been persecuted greatly in the past few decades.

      As far as your argument that bishops are never wrong and/or always ought to be obeyed, allow me to recommend any biography of Athanasius of Alexandria. Summary: he took on about 90 percent of the Church’s bishops at the time of the Arian Heresy who believed our Lord could not be both true God and true man. We now call him Saint Athanasius. There are several other examples of similar canonized saints, both clergy and laymen.

      Moreover, as some have stated above, Catholics have absolutely no duty to obey a bishop doing bad things. Your argument completely falls apart in the case of someone like Archbishop Rembert Weakland. I sincerely hope you wouldn’t have done what he told you to do in the fear of being labeled a Protestant.

      This is an interesting thread, as always. I do, though, wonder why these debates did not occur (even in journals and typical communications of the day) with nearly this frequency and fervor before the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). Was it because the bishops stuck to the script, enforced the law, and thus the Church was always much more unified? It seems that when the bishops strayed leftward and caused division, it took a while, but the conservative and traditional side of the Church (both clerical and lay) have now begun to gain a credible voice of opposition. Some would say we’re in a mini counterrevolution. It helps that the right can usually quote Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict in most matters, particularly on the liturgy and pro-abortion politicians.

      1. Nathan says: The Church simply is not, was never, and will never be a democracy. Laity obey your Bishops for it is your “bishop (that) presides in the place of God” To do less makes you, by definition, a Protestant. You might be a “conservative, high Church” Protestant. But you are a Protestant nonetheless.


        If it were only that simple. What would you do if you KNEW to a certainty that the local Bishop was not teaching in unity with Rome? If the answer is to simply follow the Bishop because “he presides in the place of God” (a very true statement), that’s a simplistic answer that doesn’t cut it.

        I choose Rome.

          1. Rome gave us Adolf Cardinal Bertram (Breslau) who worked to ensure that the prohibitions against Catholic joining the Nazi Party were dropped. He announced it and accommodated the German Government.

            Now, would a lay Catholic have been right in remonstrating him in light of Mit Brendenner Sorge?

          2. Monsignor:

            I chose to use the name Anonymous 2 because I work in a field where it is better to be that way.

            Respecting the request for an email address, I entered my real one. You are free to write me, and if you google my name on the email you will have an idea pretty quickly.

        1. You are not the judge of whether your bishop is teaching correctly. If you have doubts, write Rome. Then pray for the strength to continue to obey your bishop. A very un-American, but a very Catholic thing to do.

      2. Bad example Ken. Athanasius was NOT a layman, he was a bishop. The Arian hersey was NOT put down by a “conservative” revolt within the laity – it was resolved by the Pope. In the Church matters are resolved by the next level higher in authority, as laity we obey. If we see something we don’t like, we can respectfully write our bishop. If we are troubled with our bishop we can write to one of his brother bishops or the Pope. We cannot simply disobey and claim the moral high ground. That is what Arius and his followers did.

  14. Thank you monsignor for posting on this topic. I believe this is THE topic for the Church in America today. We hear talk of a divide between “liberal” and conservative” Catholics, nonsense. We can’t categorize a 2,000 yr old institution with terms that developed in the last couple hundred yrs in reaction to the French Revolution. The 2,000 yr old distinction is between “Catholics” that is those faithful to the magisterial teaching of the Church (that is the bishops) and “Dissenters (we used to call them “heretics” but that has become a much uglier word than it was in the beginning when it meant something closer to “dissenters”). Dissenters have been around from the beginning including the Gnostics, Arius, the Cathars, Luther, Calvin, “liberal catholics”, and “conservative catholics”. Love this post!

    BTW, didn’t Leo XIII speak about this under the rubric of “Americanism” in his encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae? Seems this has always been a major problem for the Church in America.

  15. For me, the bishops have only themselves to blame. Their repeated failure over the last 40 years to do anything substantive against attempts to destroy the Faith gives them very little weight. The family or marriage analogy is often applied, appropriately, to the Church. How do you respond when your “father” has been repeatedly demonstrated to be incompetent in governing the family? How often does the wife have to put up with being beaten before real conversion is demonstrated before reconciliation?? Were the AOD interested in restoring credibility perhaps they could suspend every priest who participates in the “Elephants in the Livng Room” group of dissenters.
    I wonder if these new young priest the Dr. Peters speaks of would simply advise the abused child or wife to simply go back home without any regard for REAL change in the home situation.

    1. You’re livin in a pretty small Church there Matthew, you seem to be your own pope and your own bishop or at a least you get to decide who your bishop will be and what he gets to teach you and what his priorities will be. As for the battered wife analogy….PLEASE…Bishops are not physically beating anyone. Your own analogy show how dangerous your thinking is. In effect you say to leave the Church by your analogy.

      1. Msgr:
        I honestly don’t see how you got that from what I wrote. I think the family analogy is spot on and in fact refutes your charge. A family or a marriage is fixed and permanent this does not mean that all member (inlcuding parents) always act with the integrity and prudence necessary to their position. Does St. Paul want to “leave the Church:” because he “resists Peter to his face”??
        PS: I do agree with you the overall situation is sad and I think BOTH SIDES need to correct their behavior.

      2. Monsignor – the repeated accusation that people “want to be their own pope” or “their own bishop” does not advance the discussion. It’s a bit disingenuous of an accusation, I fear, to those, like myselves, who are struggling to articulate or to find the line between “respect” of an institution or office, but whom don’t wish to collapse into total subservience and trust to a fraternal organization who’s trust has been squandered.

        I can’t honestly read any of these frustrations as either desiring, subconciously or otherwise, to be their own pope, start their own church, etc. Nor does their arguments attenuate logically to such an end (for the most part – I can’t speak for everyone’s intentions or argumentaiton of course). It’s a tough issue; we should give people the benefit of the doubt in struggling through this. People are angry and frustrated because they themselves, their communities, their parishes, their liturgies have been (many feel) betrayed, spurned, or cast aside.

        1. You are entitled to your opinion that it does not advance the discussion but frankly what does NOT actually advance the discussion is the all the bitter disassociation with lawful and legitimate authority in the Church. I get that the lawful authority in the Church does not appeal to everyone and does in fact suffer at times from poor judgements. But the generalized “heck with the bishops” mentality that provokes this post is what I am talking about and it is THAT which does not advance the conversation. I do not see how, by disassociating with the bishops one even has a church any longer and, on this matter many on the right have become quite liberal in their thinking and do, in effect become their own bishop or pope. I do not think it is my words that stop the conversation but the reality of the often bitter, and divisive attitude that is not helpful to the Church nor do I think comes from God. The bottom line is the poisonous attitude and the attempt to draw others into that bitter and poisonous place.

  16. Re: Why Attack the Faithful?

    In 1899 Pope Leo XIII published his Encyclical condemning the heresy titled “Americanism” wherein American Catholics surrounded certain points of Catholic faith and morals in order to fit in better with society but retained the name Catholic and remained in the Church. Our Bishops responded essentially by claiming that there was no Americanism in America.

    In 1917 Pope Benedict XV asked our Bishops to do everything he could to prevent America from entering WWI which in the Pope’s was: “the suicide of Europe”. In response our Bishops formed the National Catholic War Board (Council), the direct forerunner of the USCCB, to help facilitate America’s entry onto the battlefields of Europe.

    In September 1960 John F Kennedy essentially renounced his Catholic faith in Houston, Texas before an assembly of Protestant Ministers. Our Bishops remained silent.

    In July1964 the Hyannis Conclave consisting in part of Father Robert Drinan; Father Charles Curran Father Joseph Fuchs, Richard McCormick, Albert Jonsen, and Giles Milhaven formulated the American Catholic “I am personally opposed to abortion but” strategy. Our Bishops remained silent.

    On June 22. 1965 Cardinal Cushing of Boston appeared on a local radio program: “I do not see where I have an obligation to impose my religious beliefs on people who just do not accept the same faith as I do… If your constituents want this legislation, vote for it. You represent them. You don’t represent the Catholic Church.” The Catholic dominated Massachusetts Legislature promptly legalized artificial contraception.

    In July 1967 some 250 Catholic College & University Presidents released the Land O’ Lakes Conference and Statement wherein they essentially renounced the Catholic Faith in exchange for federal money. Our Bishops remained silent.

    In 1968 Humanae Vitae is published by Pope Paul VI wherein he condemned sodomy, artificial contraception and abortion as intrinsically evil. Our Bishops ignored the encyclical.

    In the history of the Republic not a single Bishop has been martyred for the Faith. Only two, both retired auxiliaries, have been imprisoned; albeit briefly, for anti-abortion activities.

    Christ and the faithful both deserve better from the Successors to the Apostles.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

    1. Just out of curiosity Richard, what is your point? Is it that only perfect bishops who follow Richard’s views (by the way Richard has not been martyred either…but I digress), are to be obeyed and respected? Even the first apostles (martyrs though they eventually became) did not give stellar example from day 1 and could not meet your criteria. It would seem that Bishop must deserve your obedience and respect. Only problem is that I can’t find that in Scripture.

      1. Msgr. Charles Pope

        “Richard, what is your point?”

        My point is the same as Pope Leo’s XIII in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae.

        “by the way Richard has not been martyred either”

        How do you know?

        “Even the first apostles (martyrs though they eventually became) did not give stellar example from day 1”

        They did after they were confirmed by the Holy Spirit. All of our American Bishops have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

        “and could not meet your criteria”

        Not mine. Every Vicar of Christ since the founding of the Republic has called on our Bishops to witness bravely.

        “It would seem that Bishop must deserve your obedience and respect.

        A follower of Jesus Christ must obey his Bishop in all things just and licit – but not in what is unjust & illicit. And if a Bishop, for instance, enables & protects predators he will command little respect.

        “Only problem is that I can’t find that in Scripture.”

        St. John specially warns us to flee from the bearers of false doctrine. What are we faithful to do when Bishops and priests, in good standing with their Bishops, publicly advocate for, among other things: artificial contraception, abortion, sodomy, divorce and remarriage, women priests and contempt for the papacy – stand up & cheer?

        The True Faith is rapidly dying in America for want of brave Bishops.

        God bless

        Richard W Comerford

        1. Have you read Testem? Nowhere in that document does Leo XIII say the laity are set free from their obligation to obey their local bishop. Sorry, Richard your ecclesiology is very un-Catholic and thus is not The True Faith.

          1. Mr. Nathan:

            “Have you read Testem?”

            Gee. I might have. Maybe, Once

            “Nowhere in that document does Leo XIII say the laity are set free from their obligation to obey their local bishop”

            Wow! You are exactly right! I bet you read, what is it you called it, “Testem”.

            “Sorry, Richard your ecclesiology is very un-Catholic and thus is not The True Faith.”

            Oh my goodness! You see I posted that we have to love Our Bishop. I also posted that we have to obey our Bishop in all that is just and licit. I further posted that when our Bishop allows his predatory priests to rape our children that it is kind of hard to respect and trust him. What part of the aforesaid is “not The True Faith”?

            God bless

            Richard W Comerford

  17. Mons. Pope:

    I do think there is a certain amount of anger and bitterness that is evident on the “right” or “conservative” side of the Church. (I don’t like that terminology, but will accept it as reflecting popular opinion.) However, some of that is more than justified based on what many of us have seen in our lives, and lived through.

    I guess I am the middlin’ generation. I’m 41, having grown up in a thoroughly post-Vatican II generation. Yet, when I was very young, where I grew up, the faith was still taught. Then, I remember that one day, it was literally as if it were overnight, there was some new religion which I was part of. We went from having altar boys to passing around Communion in baskets. Literally.

    But more to the point…. the Bishops. Why are some on the “right” so willing to dismiss them?

    Just look at what happened under the administration of our Bishops. I could care less who they were appointed by. Just look at what happened. Christ’s Church is literally collapsing. And it’s not just the Scandal that caused it. It was an unwillingness of Fathers to BE Fathers. They did not ensure their children were fed or well educated. They abused them by their lack of involvement and their unwillingness to be Fathers.

    Ultimately, it’s the same damn contraceptive mindset that infected our society. Fathers who ignored their spiritual fatherhood. They generated nothing, not even new Priests.

    Will I give honor to the Bishop? Of course. His office demands it. However, the individual man often does not have my personal respect — quite simply because they often do not teach in union with Peter.

    I usually keep my feeling to myself on this, and sit in the pews silently. I do not speak of this to my five children, and yet I am sick and tired of explaining to them why they feel like it’s a “different religion” when we travel. That “different religion” quote was from an 8 year old. I am so tired of it.

    The Bishops did this to themselves. They have no one to blame but themselves.

      1. I would remonstrate the Bishops to teach, sanctify and govern, nothing less.

        They have been an abysmal failure in this.

        It is about what we should do. I am doing my part as best I can. I do not believe that of the Bishops.

        In 1990, after serving Mass at the the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I asked Pio Cardinal Laghi why Rome doesn’t do more to correct the outrages here in the US.

        He said to me (and this is virtually verbatim): “What good does it to call attention to it? Some say we have a schism. I do not think this is formally true, but only true de facto. Do we want to formalize it?”

        Now, this is a man who was a professional part of the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps. And, I understand why the Vatican may have see it this way. But, in his succinct answer, it told me everything I already knew and saw.

          1. Mons.

            No, I do not want to formalize it. bu at some point we need to be the Church of the mustard seed. At that Time, in 1990, the statistics of our Church were only horrific. Now they are beyond comprehension. We’ve apostasy throughout Europe, Catholic marriages collapsing in numbers, births plummeting.

            It has gotten so bad, the Holy Father feels compelled to study the issue of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics when the first Marriage was faithless, but Christian.

            I want to make clear I am not criticizing the Holy Father for this stall. I believe he is trying to respond pastorally to the functional collapse of the Sacrament.

  18. Caro Monsignore,

    A great step forward in resolving the problem you describe lies in this: our bishops often fail to tell us when they are speaking with the authority of the Magisterium, on matters of faith and morals, where Holy Mother Church’s teaching is binding on the faithful and true for all humanity, and when they are not.

    Often they address political issues not by reminding us of principles, but by advocating specific approaches, even particular pieces of legislation right down to amounts of line items in the budget.

    Lumen Gentium, however, considers these particulars to lie in the realm of the laity. Many bishops ignore that, and fail to advise us that “good Catholics can disagree with our opinions on these particular political issues.”

    Perhaps they should try to do so. If they did, they would dispel a lot of confusion, as well as reduce any alienation that they might engender by implying that Catholics who hold political views contrary to their own are somehow immoral, or even heretical. That just turns a lot of intelligent people off.

    Perhaps we need a “Truth in Advertising” label: “This teaching of the Church on contraception (may they preach it, please!) and abortion is binding on all the faithful.” Or, “These political opinions regarding the federal welfare budget are the result of your bishops’ prayerful reflections, but good Catholics can and do disagree.”

    Such an approach would support the rights of the laity and increase the clarity of the Church’s magisterial teachings on such fundamental issues as those addressed in Humanae Vitae. Both of these are worthy goals.

    1. Well of course I am proposing in this article that bishops should not have to meet this “authority of the magisterium” hurdle to be deserving of respect and obedience. A lot decisions bishops made are judicial, prudential and practical. Magisterial authority does not need to be invoked when a bishop establishes priorities for his local Church or engages in (or refrains from) a disciplinary action. He must follow canon law in to be sure in allocating resources, engaging in disciplinary actions etc, but acts of governance do not require magisterial seals. My point is that respect is a wider virtue than the very narrow path you suggest.

      1. Nowhere did I suggest that the faithful should not prayerfully respect and reflect on statements that bishops make on particular political issues, such as line-items in the foreign aid budget. We pray for our bishops and priests every day.

        Rather, I simply request that the bishops helpfully instruct the faithful, and the public, on the authoritative difference between Humanae Vitae and the Kerry-Lugar Foreign Aid Authorization Bill.

        The distinction I draw is not one between magisterial teaching and prudential decisions regarding parish appointments, school closings, and the like. Rather, I am referring to the distinction between the teachings to which “faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind” (Canon 753; Lumen Gentium 25), and those with which good Catholics can disagree because they deal with prudential particulars which are, after all, the responsibility of the laity (e.g., Lumen Gentium 37).

        Last spring, Archbishop Dolan, USCCB President, and Congressman Ryan, Budget Committee Chairman, had a cordial and lengthy exchange of letters that articulates this distinction better than I can. Regarding the budget, Archbishop Dolan wrote on April 29 that, “within the given parameters of such principles [of Church social teaching], people of good will might offer and emphasize various policy proposals that reflect their experience and expertise.” He then went on to affirm that “we bishops are very conscious that we are pastors, never politicians. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, it is the lay faithful who have the specific charism of political leadership and decision (Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolica Actuositatem 13).”

        You might recall that a gaggle of “Catholic” educators suggested that Speaker Boehner be excommunicated for his “failure” to adhere to Church teaching because he did not buy into their rather expansive views on the budget.

        Archbishop Dolan does not follow their lead. He makes it clear that good Catholic laymen can differ — among themselves and with their bishops –on the particulars of budget issues, always within the parameters of Church teaching. On the other hand, I cannot differ fundamentally with the teachings of Humanae Vitae. That is a teaching to which I am “bound to adhere with religious submission of mind.”

        “Hurdles” aside, I think such basic distinctions matter. On the practical level, would it not profit both the bishops and the laity if the USCCB articulated more clearly in their political pronouncements the same critical distinction that Archbishop Dolan acknowledges and respects regarding the rights and charisms of the laity in his letter to Congressman Ryan? Don’t we need some valuable “truth in teaching” here?

        1. Are you filtering your respect thru pols? I like paul ryan but that is not why i agree with Archbishop Dolan whose position i think you simplify. Mine too. I do not argue that people must agree with bishops on everything. I argue that they must respect them and follow their lawful decisions and stop all the dismissive attitudes and disrespectful diatribes on the internet.

          1. Thank you for your reply. I quoted Archbishop Dolan directly, instead of paraphrasing him, in order not to distort his careful articulation of what I consider to be a helpful and critical distinction.

            I do not ask our bishops to agree with my political views, far from it. Nor do I believe that their political opinions are un-Catholic. After all, they have been with us since at least Cardinal Gibbons, Woodrow Wilson, and World War One, not to mention Msgr. Ryan, the “Right Reverend New Dealer.”

            But I do want to advocate the rights of the laity that Lumen Gentium and Archbishop Dolan acknowledge — that laymen, like bishops, have rights to their political views as well, and indeed a charism in that regard that is proper to them.

            In my view, the gaggle of eggheads who attacked Congressman Boehner intentionally exploited the very confusion that I have identified above, pretending that Boehner’s budget was heretical because it did not conform to the USCCB’s own agenda.

            I am reminded of the book by Bill Buckley’s sister, as I wonder, “Will Speaker Boehner Go To Hell?”

            I am grateful for Archbishop Dolan’s gracious explanation, unfiltered and unsimplified, and suggest only that the USCCB’s political advocacy efforts make reference to it (or at least keep it in mind) in order to avoid that confusion and its unhappy consequences in the future.

            I believe that the exchange between Archbishop Dolan and Congressman Ryan gives an important and helpful example that both laity and bishops can follow in order to minimize the problem that you describe in your original post. I agree that it is indeed a problem that weighs heavily on the Church in America, and I pray that it can be resolved in charity and in truth.

            Thank you for your patient responses, Monsignor.

          2. I don’t think you get the gist of Christopher Manion’s concern. Let me put it this way: bishops, like any other public speakers, have only a finite number of opportunities to make an impression. They have but few ‘bullets in the gun’, so to speak, and should spend them wisely.

            If they use those opportunities frivolously, ignoring matters about which they have a real God-given charism (faith and morals) and concentrating on secular prudential matters outside their competence (e.g., immigration policy, global warming), the public is going to get the impression that the bishops are fundamentally unserious, and they’re going to tune out. This is precisely what has happened to Church of England bishops, who have volumes to say on every subject but the core of Christian faith.

            I’d go farther than he would, however, and say that bishops ought to keep silent unless and until the ‘weight’ of their office is needed. Fewer statements of higher importance, in other words. It would go a long way toward re-establishing trust that the bishops really do speak as successors of the apostles.

  19. Blind obedience is not a virtue. And our trust and hope should be in the Lord. Recovering trust is slow and painful and one that might take years and be as individual as each persons fingerprints. What I hope never happens again is unquestioning trust. I am saddened that I still see that – the Bishop or Fr said so – so it must be ok. Respect is different. It is honorable even to show respect to the most despicable criminals because of their nature. But I do agree that sometimes it is easy to be dismissive especially if you have “been there, done that” and know how they may veer from the truth.

      1. “And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6

  20. Bishops should be evaluated on their actions, and on the way they implement God’s laws and What Would Jesus Do.

    A groundswell of people have lost faith in the Catholic church because of the way Catholic bishops refused to implement God’s laws. When it was discovered that thousands and thousands of pedophile priests raped tens of thousands of children worldwide, bishops moved them, then denied it, then lied about it, then fought the victims. They never, ever actively tried to find the victims of their own child rape and get them therapy, which is What Jesus Would Do.

    Instead, they protected money and property, which is never mentioned by God or Jesus.

    None of these were the will of God, so God made the truth clear to everyone, despite the attempts of the bishops to fight the truth.

    Bishops are the leaders that gave true Christians a reason to blieve that they were not the real messengers and leaders of God’s church, so they actually led people away from the Catholic church.

    That is the tough truth.

    1. I have to agree with Neil Allen. There are numerous independent and evidence-based reports of SOME bishops’ complete disregard of victims. Bishops who failed to report crimes against children, who allowed rapist priests to remain in contact with children, and who fought civil accountability every inch of the way. I cannot imagine that you do not know this. Parishoners owe such bishops respect, for sure, as they are human beings like the rest of us; but do not owe them obedience and certainly not confidence (I write as a parishoner of one implicated bishop who has accept the independent findings and, as a direct result, has had his diocese under administration). Would you show “obedience” to such a bishop?

      1. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times in this discussion but it bears repeating. We, the laity, are NOT in a position to judge our bishops. They judge us. In our political world power flows from the bottom, from “we the people,” is exercised through popular elections, and we rightly demand to vet and sit in judgement upon our political leaders. In the Church power flows from on high, from God himself, is exercised through Peter (the Pope) and the Apostles (the bishops), and we wrongly demand to vet and sit in judgement of them. The laity must obey the bishops, not just the perfect ones, not just the ones we agree with, not just when relaying infallible teaching, but always. That is what we owe them. If a bishop behaviors poorly God will deal with him, if we refuse obedience God will have to deal with us. If you listen to your bishop and then decide for yourself if the teaching is true you have become a heretic (literally one who chooses for oneself) and, as I’ve said above, a Protestant. If this is your ecclesiology, perhaps you’d be more at home in the Anglican Church or a Free Baptist Church, but the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church – the one founded by God Incarnate – doesn’t work that way. Never has. Never will. Thank God for that.

        1. Nathan, I refer to a bishop’s actions, not teaching. Who would have listened to Jesus if he didn’t live up to his teachings himself? Who would follow him if he were a hypocrite? Who would believe his call to justice if he hushed up an apostle’s crimes against children?

  21. Here is something else to keep in mind, and I say this as one who has suffered a great deal myself due to the reticence of some bishops and clergy from my youth (for whom I sincerely pray, and forgive).

    Raymond Cardinal Burke was suppose to speak at a conference in London. When he learned that on the registration form there was criticism of bishops, he promptly withdrew and sent a letter explaining why. Had His Eminence not canceled, he would have given scandal of a different kind, where his participation would have been exploited to pit one bishop against another. This flies in the face of what St. Thomas Aquinas says about how we are obligated to treat those over us (I quoted it in the very first comment of this thread).

    The bottom line is that we cannot advance the most noble of causes by use of unvirtuous, or evil, means. This is not God-pleasing. In what ways can our desire to see the right things happen make use of evil means? First, through rash judgment, which can have different degrees of sinfulness. Rash judgment can lead to detraction and calumny. Rash judgment happens when we see “A” happen and we then see “F” happen, we only consider the most negative, unethical, or immoral possibility. We do not do as CCC 2478 suggests, which is to interpret our neighbor’s words (or actions) in the most favorable light. There is nothing “orthodox” about violating CCC 2478 because we are hurt and wounded by the past, or something in the present, especially when that something involves the hierarchy. It sets us up for a subtle form of anti-ecclesial activity and interior attitudes which are spiritually corrosive.

    Because some bishops don’t act, or because some bishops say and do the wrong things, doesn’t give us license to stuff the rest of the CCC in the closet when we want to do something about it. Our efforts to drive change will be doubly blessed when we follow the most virtuous path to dealing with the problems, and avoid sinful paths of a stealthy nature, like rash judgment.

    What is that? Fr. John Hardon says:

    Unquestioning conviction about another person’s bad conduct without adequate grounds for the judgment. The sinfulness of rash judgment lies in the hasty imprudence with which the critical appraisal is made and in the loss of reputation that a peson suffers in the eyes of the one who judges adversely.

    What does Fr. Hardon say about “Imprudence” since it is mentione above:

    Sins against prudence that are either by defect or by excess. Sins by defect against prudence are: rashness, which acts before due consideration has been given; thoughtlessness, which neglects to take the necessary circumstances into account; and negligence, which does not give the mind sufficient time for mature deliberation.

    I explored the subject of “Rash Judgment” in great detail – drawing on Sacred Scripture, the CCC and no less than four saints, and two respected theologians – because I learned I had engaged in it unknowingly. I wanted to understand it better and share that learning. Catechesis didn’t only fail us in the hard teachings about things like sexual morality; it failed us in our understanding of these things too.

    I really hope we can continue to discuss these kinds of things. We need to work to build the Body of Christ, but only in the most virtuous and God-pleasing ways.

  22. When the Cuban revolution started they used the Catholic Church to advance their causes until they organized and formed groups such as IAF.They did not need to use us any more, the Catholic religion was persecuted, several religious were sent forcibly out of the country, some ended up in prison and yes, some shot in the firing squads.

    We became the voice of the counter revolution and organized into underground groups who actually fought the enemy, our cardinal Arteaga became the voice of the counter revolution.

    I never will forget the words of our spiritual guide, leader and friend in the Cuban Catholic Youth father LeBroc,

  23. Monsignor Pope, thank you for your views. I say with respect that it seems you are focusing on the laity as the problem here, when they are not the problem.

    Please recall that when it came time to vote for head of the USCCB, about HALF of the U.S. bishops voted for +Kicanas, who is SO liberal on abortion & homosexuality he was endorsed by the Rainbow Sash movement. Nearly half!

    These same bishops repeatedly ignore the respectful pleas of the faithful on issues of liturgical abuse and heterodoxy, and let their dioceses run rampant with abuse and heresy. Yet you choose to focus on the laity as the problem.

    I am disappointed.

  24. This is very tricky as occasionally I admit I get angry with our bishops too. I realise they can’t – and shouldn’t – try to please everyone. But what is a more traditionally minded Catholic supposed to do when faced with a bishop whose job it is to preach the teachings of the magisterium not only fails to do so but acts more harshly towards those who then speak up for such teachings than those who seek to change such teachings. That this has been the case for decades is scarcely to be doubted.
    Or what to do with bishops who clearly ignore what the pope wants? For example, by refusing Communion to those wishing to receive kneeling.
    I try to respect the office, realise I am not pope, realise that bishops have it tough – but isn’t it a fact that many bishops don’t have their heart in the teachings of the magisterium.
    So, we respect their office, respect their humanity, but what practical and charitable steps are open to us when it appears they either contradict the teachings of the magisterium (rare) or simply ignore them and never mention them (not so rare).
    Comments above said it’s not the laity’s job to enfoce the teachings. Quite right – it’s the bishops’ job. Now: what do we do when they don’t?

    1. Appeal to rome. Bishops hear from roman official all the time. You speak in very general way about bishops not preaching the teachings of the magisterium. Who and what are they saying? Are some defending abortion or contraception perhaps? Regarding kneeling, i am not aware of any bishops forbidding the practice. They cannot forbid it. There is a lawful norm that Catholics in this country generally receive standing and that conformity to this practice is to be encouraged. But if one insists on kneeling, they are not to be scolded or denied communion. That is universal law. What bishop does this forbidding you describe. If he exists, he can be asked to clarify and if the result is poor, informing the congregation in Rome is an option.

      1. Thank you for answering this, as it seems like a natural question given your position. I have a follow-up to your “appeal to Rome” advice. Namely, are we to obey the bishop in question while the appeal to Rome is pending if doing so violates our conscience? Is there a distinction in your advice between matters of faith and morals, and matters of discipline? Anything else you want to tease out?

        I think this is key, as you seem to be obliged (given your criticism) to give the laity something to do should they have a strong disagreement with a bishop to whom they owe respect and obedience.

      2. Monsignor – thanks for your response. Well, here’s an example:

        I do admit I have received kneeling from the same bishop without incident some time after this video was taken.

        It may be a different topic but do you think there is a problem with bishops who do not believe the church’s teachings?

        I know I speak generally but it seems too often the Catechism says X. Dissenters say Y. Traditional Catholics say X. Given that the Catechism says X, you would expect the bishop to say X too and to support others who say X. But, too often, they say nothing, or say Y, or chastise those who say X.

        There is a real risk as you point out that ‘conservatives’ risk becoming as dissenting as ‘liberals’. But liberals want to change ‘church’ teaching. If conservatives do too, I see your point.

        But can you at all understand why people get frustrated when people who believe X is X because the Catechism says so get frustrated when bishops seem to go very vague silent or hostile when pressed on X?

        I don’t agree with daily litmus tests of orthodoxy – and anyway who would administer them – but surely a large part of conservatives’ gripes is that they suspect the bishops themselves have no enthusiasm for the fullness of church teaching.

        Isn’t that the crux of the problem?

  25. The name of the Cardinal was Boza Masvidal I gve you the wrong name on my previous e-mail.

  26. Resubmitting this after a correction:

    I often see the argument in favor of fraternal correction of the bishops by the laity. Some point out that when there is public scandal, it deserves a public response.

    Thomas Aquinas would agree, but within limits. What does he say about fraternal correction of those over us?

    From Summa 2ad2, Q 33, Art 4. Please don’t stop at the first paragraph because you will miss the context:

    I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.

    Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 5:1): “An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father.” Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.

    So, it follows what I said earlier, that it’s ok to point out problems, and it’s even ok to point them out to the prelate, but we also have to exercise the virtues in order not to wander into a sinful manner of dealing with them (venially or gravely).

    St. Thomas goes on to say:

    Reply to Objection 1. It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God’s condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.

    Aquinas talks about not using Insolence. What is that? According to

    1) contemptuously rude or impertinent behavior or speech.

    Here is Aquinas again, with further food for thought in another reply:

    Reply to Objection 2. To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians (4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: “Say to Archippus: Fulfil thy ministry [Vulgate: ‘Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.’ Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5.” It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”

    We need to really understand these things better before deriding bishops in public.

      1. Most sadly, people often begin and end with the last sentence in Aquinas’ “Reply to Objection 2” where he says:

        It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”

        Just like Scripture, we cannot read Aquinas in isolation. He must be read in the context of other things he says.

  27. Well, I would like to share a slightly different view, which I wrote here:

    The point I try to make in that post above is that trust is the first casualty of betrayal. Has every bishop in America actually betrayed his flock, either in regard to the Scandal or some other serious matters? No, of course not, and to speak derisively of “the bishops” is to lump the just in with the unjust, something no Christian should be in the habit of doing.

    On the other hand, I am truly puzzled by the notion that despite the Scandal, Catholics still automatically owe a level of trust, respect, and outright admiration to bishops and chanceries that they do not owe to anyone else, even their own spouses or families. Yet it seems that this is what is being called for.

    In another post recently I wrote that lay Catholics should, perhaps, write to the appropriate authority if they are in a situation where a priest is preaching in his homilies things that are actually heretical. But I cautioned my readers to expect one of the two following responses: either total silence, or a letter like this one:

    Dear Lay Person,

    Thank you for your concerns about Father Whosis’s ministry and service at St. Whatsit Parish. St. Whatsit Parish is deeply blessed to have the ministry and service of Father Whosis, who sets a tremendously important example for us all of ministry and service. We hope that you will agree that the ministry and service of Father Whosis to St. Whatsit Parish are tremendously important.

    Sincerely, etc.

    Am I wrong, here? Is there some particular virtue in experiencing the above sort of thing times without number and yet continuing in childlike trust to write to the bishop about real and serious problems, knowing that his excellency will likely never see your letter and that the chancery official designated to answer it on his behalf has been selected specifically for his ability to fill a page with either faintly scolding or faintly reassuring nothingness?

    1. Erin, during one of my extended absences from the parish one of my associates acted and spoke in an unpriestly manner to several people. They complained to the chancery and received a form letter very close to what you wrote. Are you from Northern California?

      The chancery brush-off is a fine art here. Even we parish priests get them on occasion from the chancery.

      1. No, Father Michael, Northern California is one of the few places my rather mobile family never lived. 🙂 But I’ve received similar letters from different chanceries/officials/etc. in different places around the country. In one of the most recent examples I had asked why Catholic homeschooled children (that is, children being taught in the Catholic faith at home) were required to take *parish* religious education like public school children before receiving the sacraments instead of being exempt from this requirement like children attending Catholic (non-home) schools. The reply I received cheerfully informed me that I was mistaken; all children in the diocese had to be educated in the faith! Which, of course, was not my question…

        If an enterprising Catholic ever started a website titled something like “chancerylettersdotcom,” I have a feeling we’d find out that all the letters are being written by an automated software program created for the purpose–because their strange similarity and lack of actual meaning would fail the Turing test. 🙂

        1. Yes, Erin, I’ve received a few too. But better yet is the ones I sent to the archbishop that he never got! It took me passing an envelop to him after Mass for him to actually call me! and that was after he’d had it in his pocket of his coat for 2 weeks before he found it. I only wish I could pass a letter to the Pope in the same way…sigh.

  28. I cry internally over the condition of the USCCB. They do not lead, they do not Sheppard. They publish tomes to one another, protect one another’s bad priests, congratulate one another, and sell property to avoid jail.

    Never once have I observed the formation of conscience regarding how to vote, in my parish or state.
    I blame the USCCB for the politicians who are persecuting the church because good men, with unformed conscience vote. Never once have I observed the USCCB, as a cohesive group, enforce a ban of sacraments to political heretics. What a sad example that sets. When religious orders are found to have corrupt leaders, nothing is done for a generation.

    There are half dozen good men that are glorious exceptions to the above, but my heart aches because of what the USCCB could really say and do.

      1. The USCCB, as a cohesive group (using your phrase), seems to have rather less moral authority than that of any actual Bishop. Meaning, we are called to obedience (the degree to which of course the subject of debate here) to our Bishop, but there is no such calling that I’m aware of to the USCCB. Bishops are free to reject the USCCB’s policies and recommendations, etc. As has been said here, the Church is no democracy, so I hardly see why the collection of them provides greater authority than that of an individual. As a group, they have lost whatever “moral authority” (speaking in a secular sense) they had after how they handled the pedophilia and molestation cases over the decades… So I’m stuck with struggling to accept the authority of individual Bishops. Fortunately, we have a good one (Sartain), one of whose predecessors anyway, was absolutely leading his flock into sin.

        And yes, Msgr., the fact that USCCB’s political views are significantly different than mine is a cause for concern (for me).

      2. I would like to think that my political views are formed by the Magisterium circa 0100 to 1850. The current crop are bland. If, in the last 15 years one of them choose to go to jail instead of selling schools to pay fines, our collective moral spine wouldn’t be so distorted because we would have had a Sheppard to follow.
        The scandal caused by the illegal activities of USSCB individuals did not stop at the border of their diocese; neither does their good example, especially on the national political stage.

  29. Pace much of the sturm und drang at St Blogs over the years, I believe most Catholics in the pews in the US (and the Internet representation of Catholics is a bar-bell curve that is quite the opposite of the reality in the pews) are simply becoming more like real Roman Catholics. I actually think they spend less time actively opposing their bishops than they once did. They hear them, they if and see how the bishops’ talk matches their walk and the Gospels, and take matters under advisement. American Catholics no longer give as much mental space to their bishops as perhaps they once did; they are becoming much like their Roman brethren in that regard.

    I will say this: a great deal of what dominates traffic at Catholic blogs appears to be extraordinarily ruddered by issues of self-dramatization and egoism. People seem to love to use God to exercise vices masquerading as virtues. Overheated rhetoric needs to be identified not only as self-subverting, but an occasion of sin.

    1. I’ve been blogging since 2006. I do not recall the kind of division back then, that I see now. I’m not talking about division between faithful Catholics who want to follow Church teachings and those dissidents who don’t want the follow Church teachings and are working for change. I’m talking about division between faithful Catholics.

      I think some have chosen to treat certain matters of Church discipline as if their preference is dogmatic. An example of this would be Communion standing and in the hand vs. Communion kneeling and on the tongue. I happen to prefer the latter, but would never speak condescendingly or in a derisive way about people who prefer the former. I know Bishop Schneider, author of Dominus Est, personally. This meek and gentle bishop, who received his First Holy Communion in secrecy behind the Iron Curtain, uses reason to discuss the subject. He would be greatly disappointed, if not outright disturbed, to see derision used as a means to “teach” others. Instead of winning hearts with reason, they become embittered and defensive. I’ve witnessed it. It’s fine to hope that a norm will be changed; it’s fine to promote this, but it must be mindful of the dignity of others, especially given the great lack of catechesis on the Real Presence.

      Some treat their political party’s position on things such as immigration, as dogmatic. If a bishop’s view of immigration doesn’t line up with their party, then some are dismissive of anything he has to say on anything. He becomes persona non grata.

      Holy Mother Church allows for some lattitude on things. We need to respect that while continuing to discuss these things with reasonable discourse.

      1. Diane, I appreciate this comment. But speaking as a faithful liberal Catholic, I can attest that the blogosphere has indeed been pretty bad since 1998. The maltreatment I’ve received on some sites has been offered to others as well. I find that as I drift away from the more disrespectful bloggers, they tend to turn on others not perceived as pure as themselves. As Liam suggests, self-drama and ego are in play. I have to watch this in myself, and I continually ask myself as a blogger: why am I doing this? I cannot attest I have a totally pure and virtuous answer.

        I think some conservative bloggers got into a snit in 2008 and haven’t gotten out yet. I was banned from at least three blogs that Fall–and I’m not even a Democrat.

        Getting back to Msgr Pope’s essay–which I’m glad to see is getting traction around the web even if I disagree with a few of his particulars. I wonder if the bishops are getting caught in some of this ideological cannibalism. The blogger that dismissed me in 1998 went after the bishops in 2002, then Mark Shea in 2006 when he went anti-torture, moved on to all non-Republicans in 2008, and is well-practiced for anyone–even a bishop–that doesn’t fit a certain narrow profile today. We have social sin and a mob mentality never before seen in human history: a worldwide network that encourages and reinforces like-minded thinking, and is ready to eject a person for any dissent. That won’t happen in a parish because you’ll run out of enemies soon enough. In a big wide internet world, there are always new allies with whom to chum.

        1. I think the key phrases you have used that are very descriptive are “ideological cannibalism” and “narrow profile.” These are helpful in summing up the problem succinctly.

        2. Todd,

          When you say that you are a “liberal” Catholic, can you clarify in what sense? I tend not to use that word because it can be misleading. That’s why I tend to use the word dissident or dissenters when I write because I’m describing people who openly dissent on the teachings of the Church, most often on sexual morality and on women’s “ordination”. Those are pretty blatant and easy to see. Now, there are people who may struggle with a Church teaching, who are not openly dissenting and that is different. I haven’t hesitated to refer to the National Catholic Reporter as a dissident rag because it has no qualms openly promoting dissent. Now, some would call it “liberal”. I don’t.

          Now, if you are talking about liberal in another sense, I’d like to understand. Help me out here.

          I too agree that “ideological cannibalism” and “narrow profile” fits, regardless of which end of the spectrum we are talking about. And, it may very well have intensified in 2008, for obvious reasons.

          1. Diane at “to God,” thanks for the last comment.

            As for your personal questions, I have a rather public presence on the web and it’s easy enough to contact me through my blog. I would prefer not to derail Msgr Pope’s thread here justifying my self-identification as a faithful, though liberal Catholic. But I would be happy to continue a mutual conversation leading to a mutually deeper understanding.

            What I will say in response is that I don’t believe that “conservative” Catholics are any more or less loyal believers than “liberals.” They do not have a more faithful sexual morality. Matthew 21:28-32 comes to mind. The misbehavior of any number of internet Catholics of all stripes suggests to me the problem goes deeper than any single ideology.

  30. When would we be justified as lay people in disobeying our bishops? In the case of the abuse crisis, that’s a no brainer, but are we supposed to remind bishops of their duty as well?
    To take an example, here in Britain our Archbishop Vincent Nichols has been supportive of hosting masses for openly gay people in Soho. Those who oppose this, he says, should “learn to hold their tongues.” There have been a few other issues, but that’s the main one.
    Granted, he may have perfectly legitimate reasons for this (non-judgement, maybe, as a way of reaching out to the gay community) but shouldn’t concerned, orthodox Catholics be right in asking for some clarification? Can we, in extreme cases, upbraid our Bishops for failing to hold up Catholic Doctrine?
    Is it possible to do this while retaining respect for the Bishops office?

    1. It depends on what is being said to the participants.

      BP Jaime Soto accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a confererence for LGBT Catholics and to their surprise he accepted. Of course, some loyal Catholics were dismayed.

      Ah, but when it came time to talk, he explained the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, exhorting them to follow it, while upholding their dignity as sons and daughters of God.

      Then, he had the intestinal fortitude to stay for refreshments and answer questions and talk to.people.

      If what happened in the UK reinforced them in their present lifestyle, presuming it is not in accord with Church teaching, then thefaithful should contact the Holy See and let them investigate. Details help, given dispassionately. Then, go to Adoration and get on your knees and tell Our Lord you trust him to influence all those thrum whose hands it will pass to do his will, and believe it!

      BTW, a little positive reinforcement can go a long way. Thank bishops who do these things as Bishop Soto did.

  31. Re: Why Respect?

    I am perplexed as to why on this (and other blogs) there is a sudden demand that we respect our Bishops? I can understand obeying Bishops in all that is just and licit. I can understand loving our Bishops ( and everyone of our neighbors). But respect?

    In 1968 the local Ordinary courageously condemned the National Catholic Reporter and ordered it to stop using the word “Catholic. He asked for the help of his fellow Bishops in this matters. See: For the next 48-years his Brother Bishops ignored him. Bishop after Bishop published pieces in NCR praising this condemned publication to the sky and advertised for services. .
    One Bishop even became a regular contributor with his smiling face appearing on every edition of the condemned publication. And from what Diocese was this smiling Bishop from? Why Detroit of course. And what Diocese recently announced that a layman could not use the word “Catholic” in his apostolic Work? Why Detroit of course.

    Obedience – yes. Love – yes. Respect – ???

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  32. Thanks, Monsignor, I feel as though I caused this post of yours to appear. Having read all the comments above, It’s come to my mind that these things have happened for a purpose.
    I recalled a homily in which a monk, long ago, found his monastery being sacked and burnt by invading barbarians, and when they left, he calmly went about salvaging what he could, with his usual content look on his face.
    His brother monks who survived asked him why he wasn’t excited or upset. He replied ” if God didn’t want this to happen, it wouldn’t have, so surely a greater good will come of it”.
    Thanks again Monsignor. I stand corrected.

  33. I realize your article has more to do with comboxes than private conversation in the confines of one’s home, or as one exercises his peripatetic rite with friends. Nontheless, it has spawned some questions that I don’t have a ready answer to and that I hope will be answered here, even though they don’t exactly follow the conversation or blog post itself.

    In what kind of things are we obliged to obey our bishop? Can you list a particular real life example for each kind?

  34. Through all this discussion we as Catholic should address our struggles with humility (something I’m spectacularly poor at!), prayer and charity. These have been hard years for us, but harder still for the many, many good priests and bishops out there who’s offices have been sullied by evil done by their brethern; many are stuck in a purgatory here, and they need our love and support.

    And remember, as bad we might think this is… it’s hardly the worst of times. My wife was reading to me of the Medici family which ruled Florence for some 400 years. At one point in their history, the current pope wanted to give Florence to the rule of his nephews… and exasperated after being unable to do so, had local priests murder the two young Medici rulers during mass. Or so they tried; they killed one, but the other escaped, regrouped, and hung the priests and others involved in the plot. So the pope excommunicated the entire province. Hmmm. Which naturally irritated the local bishops, who in turn… excommunicated the pope.

    You think you have conflicts NOW in authority? Thank God we aren’t living through that! 🙂

  35. Msgr.,

    You asked what we ought to do besides complain? My answer is to vigorously support the good bishops and priests that we have – men like Cardinal Burke – while patiently waiting on the flower children of Vatican II to die off.

    You are too hard on traditional minded Catholics. We have been given the shaft for decades. You don’t notice it, perhaps, because the DC metro area has been a somewhat better environment for us than most cities. Why the bitterness and anger from the ‘right’? Perhaps because it is nearly impossible to live a Catholic life in today’s society and a large percentage of the shepherds who should be there to support us in our struggles (the bishops) have plunged a knife in our back instead of offering a helping hand.

  36. There are a lot of comments here and it has taken me a while before I could even sit to read the post, so I’m sorry if someone has already asked or answered this:

    I recently had the idea and desire to do something to support our bishops. I had a failure of imagination in how best to support them though aside from our prayers. I even emailed a priest, faithful laywoman and a bishop asking and got only one reply – the bishop said he didn’t really have a good answer other than to pray for our bishops.

    To counter dissension and promote unity and solidarity in our universal Catholic identity, do you have any suggestions for how we can support and encourage our bishops to be the shepherds Christ has called them to be (aside from prayers, which, I assume, we all already offer)?

  37. Since I posted this over at Deacon Greg’s site, and as I am a member of the Archdiocese of Washigton, I thought I would also post my comments here as well. Thank you.


    Let me say first, that from all indications, Msgr. Pope is a good and faithful priest. A person who works with me, and is in his parish, has nothing but the highest regard for him. I trust her when she tells me this. So, that may be one person, but I thought it was important to state.

    However, I think Msgr. Pope raises a number of issues regarding those who criticize our Cardinals, Bishops and Priests. I will be the first to raise my hand and state that I have been very, very critical of Cardinal Wuerl, the Catholic Standard and even some of our priests. However, I have done it because I was sick and tired of writing and calling and there seemed to be nothing done.

    Now, I am not talking about if the vestments should be dark purple or violet or if we should hold hands during the Our Father (which I am not in favor of). I am talking about what many of us sitting the pews consider scandalous.

    For example, why were our parishes hosting Voice of the Faithful? An organization that is not looking simply to get rid of pedophile priests but making some really fundamental changes to the priesthood and other items.

    Why is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese (and our priests) lauding pro-abortion and pro-homosexual politicians?

    Why is the Archidocese telling us that support of the Dream Act in Maryland is basically on the same level of opposition to homosexual marriage?

    Why does the Cardinal go to events which honor pro-abortion, and pro-homosexual celebrities, and then these events are either glossed over or never reported by the local Catholic newspaper?

    Why are Catholic orgainizations within this Archdiocese, honoring pro-abortion and pro-homosexal supporters, and yet, because they bring in the big bucks, it seems to be okay.

    I can go on and on.

    I think that Msgr. Pope, instead of looking at those who criticise, should be asking the questions of the Cardinal, Catholic organizations within the Archdiocese and of the priests, who do these things.

    1. If it were me, I would first take my communication records, bundle them and ship them to the appropriate office in Rome.

      However, I would caution that if you send in a laundry list it’s not going to work.

      Follow some tips Father Z has provided for writing (and these apply to writing to a diocese, as well).

      You might want to take just one of those issues from your list – the one that gives you the most heartburn, and send a new letter to the Archdiocese of Washington DC, using those guidelines by Fr. Z. Give it a month or two and see if you get a response.

      If you get a response and it is not to your satisfaction, or if you get no response at all, then send a copy of your original letter to Rome, following Father Z’s tips.

      If more people did these things persistently, dispassionately, and respectfully – following through to Rome when necessary, I think it can work (consider the AdW or a dicastry in Rome getting dozens of letters, respectfully pointing out the same concern).

      When I have written a diocese (and I have many times), I always submit my concern first and foremost to the Holy Spirit. Let’s face it, if God wants my little, humble letter to make a difference, there isn’t a force behind any wall that can stop it from getting into the right hands. It helps to ask your guardian angel to work with the guardian angels of all who will touch the letter to get it where it needs to go. It helps even more when you ask the BVM for her intercession. Once all of that is done, pray and leave it to prayer. If nothing comes of your efforts, it could be that God is permitting the thing to persist for reasons unknown to us. You have done your part and at this point, nothing more is left but to offer up an act of reparation and, if need be, move on to another parish or another diocese.

      Best wishes and prayers. Parishes hosting Voice of the Faithful? Yeah, that’s a problem.

  38. It is sad to see that on this issue, here and elsewhere, a common response is ask what the limits to respecting the bishop(s) are, and to look for exceptions and excuses not to do so.

    I confess I really do not see why it should be all that difficult. Either one truly believes that the bishops are the Successors of the Apostles, possessing the charism of the Holy Spirit, or he does not. It is that simple.

    As Successors to the Apostles, the bishops are the shepherds of the Church. Whoever hears the bishops, “hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.” LG 20.

    We owe the bishops respect, not because Don Wuerl or Ted McCarrick or Bernie Law are personally such great men, but because we owe Jesus and the Holy Spirit respect and, as bishops, they are the emissaries (apostles) of Christ whatever failings or shortcomings that they may or may not have in their personal capacity. Whoever rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ. Period. End of analysis.

      1. But how does this analysis square with Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 letter to the bishops in which he points out that Catholics are free to disagree with Church officials (I believe he actually specifies the Pope) on prudential issues like war and the death penalty, but not on issues like abortion and euthanasia?

      2. Forty years ago, at Notre Dame Law School, Prof. Charles Rice led an informal symposium to address this question: “Resolved: the Pope should be universally acknowledged by all nations and peoples as the legitimate interpreter of Natural Law.”

        I argued in the affirmative.

        In the meantime, and moving right along, however, I can anticipate a complaint to that admirable approach somewhere along these lines:

        “Do you mean that we are to support our bishops’ political agenda until it comes to this — ‘Slaves, obey your masters’?”

        Lumen Gentium is the key, as are the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. But like the Natural Law, they are not exact.

        In the U.S., unlike most other countries, we need to bear in mind that these principles apply to the federal government in a different way than they do elsewhere, because our Constitution is one of enumerated powers. Hence, properly interpreted (of course it is not), if certain “problems” cannot be addressed on a lower level closer to the people, or even on the state level, the federal government does not have the power to address them if such exercise would extend beyond the limits defined by the Constitution.

        We need to bear in mind that some “problems” are actually “conditions”: problems have solutions, but conditions do not (mortality; “the poor you shall always have with you”).

        Of course education, health, welfare, and a great deal more of what the federal government does today lie outside its enumerated powers, but that’s another problem (and a great one). My concern is that, because of the USCCB’s focus on specific legislation outside the realm of objective evils like abortion and contraception, the laity have taken to think they “gave at the office” when they pay their taxes — after all, Catholic Charities USA gets some two billion taxpayer dollars a year. “Why pay twice,” they might well ask.

        The laity have rights, which I have advocated above; but we also have responsibilities, as well as specific duties. Carl Anderson’s marvelous work at the K of C reflects the vibrant charism of lay charity via volunteering, whether taxes are high or low, and whatever political line is coming out of the USCCB at a given moment.

        We might have “given at the office,” that is to say, but we have to give again. And again.

  39. I do understand what is being said here: there is a tendency to have a blanket mistrust of ecclesiastical authority and a strident, disrespectful tone and attitude which encourages disobedience, or very selective obedience, which undermines the hierarchical nature of the Church, and the respect due to our bishops as our spiritual Fathers and Pastors.

    With that, I agree. And traditionally-minded Catholics need to be aware of this.

    However, it saddens me that Monsignor *appears* (it may not be the case) quite dismissive of the struggles of lay Catholics (and priests, and deacons, and religious) who are battling to remain faithful, trying to live Catholic lives and raise children in the Catholic Faith, obey the magisterium, etc, when we seem to get so little support, and even active opposition, from our pastors. I am not here speaking only of matters of preference or taste, or discipline, but actual Catholic doctrine. Sure, we must respect and defer to our bishops, not get strident, obey them in all but actual sin, etc, but does Monsignor honestly expect us to see what we hold sacred dragged through the mud, be attacked openly by our pastors for our adherence to the catechism, to liturgy (whether modern or traditional) in accordance with the rubrics, dismissed with contempt for respectfully voicing our concerns over scandals and heresy, see our children have their faith underminded by use of heretical catechetical texts, dissent from the pulpit, etc, etc…..just meekly “taking it”, doing nothing, smiling, nodding, wheresoever the bishops lead, even if it is away from Rome and the Holy Father? Surely not. I know we must be cautious in criticising our bishops and not make blanket judgments; some places are worse than others. Many bishops are courageous, admirable pastors. Not all are. Some openly dissent from Catholic doctrine and are a scandal to their flocks. We respect their office, try not to undermine their authority by attacking them or criticising their person, but we surely cannot be expected to passively put up with dissent from the Magisterium, from the Pope, from doctrine.

    The advice to “write to Rome” may be technically correct, but there is a sad irony about this. “Rome” – meaning Curial dicasteries, etc – is notoriously slow in responding to this sort of thing. Does correspondence always reach those who can and will make a difference? If any action is taken at all, it often takes months, if not years, unless it is ignored. I know from personal experience. What does one do in the meantime? Yes, I know, pray, pray, pray some more, and obey in the meantime….oh gosh, what terrible times we live in.

    God bless.

    1. Nicholas,

      When you encounter things I really hope you do write to your bishop, and to Rome, no matter how long it may take.

      Father Z writes some excellent guidelines that apply not only to writing to the Holy See, but to one’s bishop.

      When I write to one (and I have many times – sometimes with impact; sometimes without), I leave it in the hands of the Holy Spirit. If my letter is meant to make a difference, it will get through to the right person and “stuff” will happen. However, I also accept the fact that God may permit the thing to continue. We have to just do our part and write, and let God handle the rest. And, as you say, pray.

  40. I don’t often reply twice but I’ve had an ” evil ” desire. I’ve always wanted to have about 20 of my buddies sneak about 20 cats ( you can only one at a time! ) into a crowded enent and just at the right moment set them loose and watch the fun!

  41. Msgr: I was taught that to criticize a Priest was, if not sinful, very close to it. To this day, the farthest I can go in criticism is to say that,”It appears that he is not all he should be.” Beyond that, I can and do pray for him. Each of us has burdens to carry. As a husband and father, I am at least partially responsible for the souls of my wife and children. As a Pastor, a Priest carries a burden of partial responsibility for the souls of each member of his Parish; the Bishop for the Diocese, and so forth. Every Priest, of whatever rank, needs and deserves our prayers; not our condemnation. Being human, I make mistakes; should I expect that Priest to never make one? Our first Pope denied Christ on the eve of His great sacrifice, yet the Church as lived for over two thousand years, subject to the mistakes men have made, but also glorying in their good deeds! If we find ourselves unable to get along with, or to accept the Pastor, then find another Parish to join. Please do not just leave, and leave the Sacraments behind. Oh, and be sure to pray that God will help that Priest see the error of his ways!

  42. The best response to this whole thread is an article written some years ago, in Catholic World Report by Paul Shaughnessy SJ, then a marine and military chaplain stationed in San Diego ,it is entitled “The Gay Priest problem”. It is well worth googling it and reading, it may be difficult to find, but worth the effort. Not that the issue at hand is gay priests. Although it discussed that issue, which perhaps foreshadowed the abuse crisis, I mention it more for tis discussion of the the possibility that the episocopacy can become corrupt. Not corrupt in the sense that all individual bishops are corrupt, or even most Bishops, and certainly not the Bishops in unison with the Pope which is preserved from error of course. It meant that a functioning institution such as a nations Bishops sometimes actiing as a body through a national conference sometimes less officially perhaps, can be “corrupt”. I am afraid that is what we are now facing. If the sexual abuse crisis said anything then surely it said this. On multiple levels this should tell us the gravity of the problem .Of course there are any number of other problems , including funding ACORN through the USCCB that are evidence of this, and that simply can not be dismissed. It should be obvious that Episcopal conferences can become “corrupt” and unreliable, witness the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops conference rejection of Humane Vitae in its Winnepeg statement in the late 1960s. IT is difficult for me to see how Msgr Pope’s formulation of lets all obey etc… would deal with this kind of situation. IT seems to want to sweep it under the rug. This is unfortunate and in fact is part of the problem, that will block any real renewal of the Church and any hope for effectively fighting the moral decay we are facing. That is why conservatives if you like are so strident, well when your brother is driving off a cliff, you yell. In fact the idea is not so out of line as some among the episocopacy have mentioned it even Pope Benedict deried the “filth in the Church”. What was he talking about if not this?

    In any case maybe in ordinary time this call to unity and docility might have some validity out of respect for the office of the Bishops, but it is a hopelessly inadequate response to the situation now, which can be encapsulated by the anecdote that a Priest engaged in desperately needed work like Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life is “imprisioned” in some convent in Texas. while Fr. Pflegger in Chicago, buddy of Jeremiah Wright, is doing his thing. Undoubtedly there are those capable of some sort of legalistic canon law defense of this kind of thing, but for most us, the minuate of Canon law aside, this is a travesty and injustice. I feel no particularly need to respect this kind of decision making. If people like Msgr Pope do, it tells us only how deep the problem has become.

    I think this issue can not be brushed aside, although some would like to, I encourage people to find Fr. Shaugnesseys SJ piece and judge for yourself. We owe the office of the Bishop respect, We owe individual Bishops respect for their office, if what the do, or decide or fail to do is manifestly unjust, foolish, or harmful (Funelling money to ACORN for Gods sake! ) we owe the decision honest criticism. These are not ordinary times. We have the support of St Thomas In Summa Theologica, Q.33 Art 4, St. Thomas Aquinas makes it clear that we are bound to correct even his superior saying “if the faith is endangered a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.”
    good enough for him, its good enough for me.

    1. That was a wonderful article, along with its sequel. I had an unexpected encounter with Fr. Shaughnessy sometime after the publication of the articles and thanked him profusely!

      Still, we are called to obey the bishops, even corrupt ones. Call the cops on them when criminal laws are broken and notify Rome when absurdities arise in liturgy and theology, but obey we must (or at least, I must as a priest) in those areas where their corruption is not operative.

  43. People generally only have the experience of their immediate parish and diocese, so when a conservative Catholic complains about heterodoxy in the parish, this usually does not translate to a broadbrush denunciation of all bishops; it is what it is: a Catholic expressing concern and frustration about his/her situation.

    Catholics have always been called to know their faith. With the advent of the internet, there has occurred a blessed opportunity for many Catholics to become more acquainted with their faith and the liturgy. Church documents are available at a keystroke. This is a wonderful thing.

    Along with accrued knowledge comes awareness — and responsibility. If Father is repeatedly teaching error from the pulpit, and I am aware of it, it is my duty to address it, because less knowledgeable innocent brothers and sisters are sitting in the pews beside me, absorbing these errors. We are talking about souls here. This is serious business. The bishop is not there to hear it, so it is my duty to speak to the pastor. If he is not willing to listen, then I must inform the bishop.

    The problems which have been discussed In your blog and in the many (!) comments are that when a layperson writes his/her individual bishop, there may be a dismissive or uncharitable reply, and the errors continue for years (in my case – 9 years).

    I know a number of wonderful faithful priests. While they are sympathetic to the concerns of those Catholics who suffer from unaddressed serial heterodoxy, I sense it might be difficult for them to understand how frustrating it is for those in the pews listening to this week after week, year after year, knowing their brethren (and vulnerable children) are lapping this up. The faithful priests offer their faith-filled Masses, and share their orthodox homilies week in, week out. They often do not experience what pew dwellers experience, sometimes for years.

    Yes, we are to pray and fast for our priests and bishops, but laity are also called to address serious matters in their parishes. Our last bishop used to reply to letters of concern (but did nothing); the current bishop does even bother to reply. And the heterodoxy beat goes on. Are souls being lost? That is the crux of the matter.

    1. If the bishop does nothing, change parishes. In my experience, two things trigger repentence among clerics: cops at the door and empty pews (with lighter collection baskets). How many regions can there be in the US where every priest in driving distance is heterodox? Maybe if you are an adult you can tolerate a bad priest, since access to orthodox Catholic materials is so easy nowadays. But families with children: flee, you fools!

      1. “If the bishop does nothing, change parishes.”

        Of course, that is sound advice; we had had to join the ranks of ecclesial vagrants three times.

        “In my experience, two things trigger repentence among clerics: cops at the door and empty pews.”

        I wish that were always so, but many a heterodox preacher tickles the ears of the faithful, and they declare they just love Fr Smorgasbord Catholic, because he is “not judgmental,” and he understands the “real world.” Quite often these priest’s parishes and collection plates are filled to the brim due to this preaching.

        In the end, I repeat, “Are souls being lost? That is the crux of the matter.” Before we beat a path to the next parish, those of us who know our faith are duty bound to address heterodoxy in our parishes. When we have done all we can do, we shake the dust off our feet (very sadly), continue to pray and fast, and move on.

  44. This is so ridiculous. Bishops have treated faithful catholics abusively and shamefully for so long. All the good catholics I know rush behind any decent thing a bishop does – it’s just these good things are so few and far between.

    Bishops are the princes of the Church. If they want to be followed and obeyed and respected, they should start acting that way.

  45. There seems to be some confusion.

    It is a priest’s evocation is to be obedient to his bishop. It is not the evocation of a lay person to be obedient to a bishop, because we have children and families. It is our evocation and duty to get to Heaven and bring as many people with us as we can.

    Many priests confuse these evocations.

    The instruction to lay people that Christ warned us about false shepherds with the intention that we are to be obedient to them is spiritually disordered.

    I’m here to remind all who read here that Christ warned us about false shepherds and advised us to test everything. His instructions were clear. We are to shake the dust from our feet as a witness to the uncatechized, to our children, our neighbors and to the priest and Bishop himself so that he may know God sees what he is doing. Never, ever, sit in false witness or in silence when a shepherd is leading the flock astray. He is on the road to Gehanna and is not to be followed under the guise these are the instructions from Christ on ‘obedience’ to His Church.

    Let those who have ears hear, in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

  46. Msgr. Pope,

    Tell us, please, how can one in Detroit be “obedient” to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton? Gumbleton tells us Church teaching on homosexuality is wrong and will certainly change in time.
    Gumbleton with the permission and support of Archbishop Vigneron, sponsors conferences in Detroit-area parishes that feature speakers who can charitably be said to hate the Church. Fourteen months ago Gumbleton was the the keynote speaker at Marian high school assembly required of all students (and which parents knew nothing about until after it happened) that included Grace Lee Boggs, a self-described and avowed communist, as well as Fr. Peter Dougherty, who says in a YouTube video he “hates” the capitalist system. One of the speakers talked about Church teaching on sexuality — I did not hear it, and am pretty sure it was not what I’d hear in a place like Lincoln, Nebraska, where if Gumbleton happened to live there, would be excommunicated because he belongs to Call to Action.

    In Michigan, last year Marquette Bishop Sample forbade Gumbleton to speak in his diocese.

    Please tell us.


      1. Matthew 23;
        [2] “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
        [3] so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.

        It seems to me that the scribes and Pharisees Jesus was speaking of here were actually preaching orthodoxy but not practicing it.

        It sounds to me that in Bishop Gumbleton’s case he is not a simple hypocrite but leading Catholics astray with his teaching. A different animal entirely, I think.

        1. We’re not talking about bishops who deny doctrine. Please. there are remedies for this. Bishop G isn’t even an ordinary. Talk to Bishop V and Rome and stop straining gnat and swallowing camels. IOW you Matt 23 DOES apply to you.

          1. You are supposed to correct bishops, fraternally. However, the Life of the Catholic Church in America is at stake, and Catholics are tired of bishops like Gumbleton. Remove them. They can work on straightening out their heterodoxy on their own time, not the Church’s.

            “Can. 1389 §1. A person who abuses an ecclesiastical power or function is to be punished according to the gravity of the act or omission, not excluding privation of office, unless a law or precept has already established the penalty for this abuse.

            §2. A person who through culpable negligence illegitimately places or omits an act of ecclesiastical power [like teaching heterodox doctrine], ministry, or function with harm to another is to be punished with a just penalty.”

            JUST PENALTY: For leading the flocking astray in doctrine I say is… 1) Remove them from their diocese 2) Send them to a monastery 3) Have them lead a life of penance.

            I thought leading people astray in doctrine is a grave scandal. Is not scandal a grave sin? It is not harm to another to be correct in teaching on homosexuality and persist in it?

            “Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

            They are not to receive communion, after proper consultation takes place, and they persist in their schismatic doctrine.

            By allowing such bishops to remain in charge of their diocese, the Vatican is allowing grave scandal to take place. This means there is a sin of omission involved on the part of the Vatican Congregations.

            Faithful Catholics are tired of our bishops being bad examples. We are faithful to the heterodoxy of the Church, why are they not faithful? While I agree with supporting others to grow in holiness, they should be a complete package before they take the office of bishop. At the very least, their orthodoxy should be rock solid.

            We seem to need another Council of Trent. There are too many Protestants in Spirit (hippies in roman collars) in our Church.

  47. Dear Monsignor,

    Yes, evocation.

    evocation vs. vocation

    You have a vocation to the Church of Christ as a priest. There is a subset of evocations that fall under your vocation. One of them is obedience to your bishop. Lay people do not have this evocation. Our obedience is doctrinal and is limited to the litmis test of whether the doctrine of the particular bishop (or priest) is in communion with the Catholic Church. If it is not in communion, then we are not to be obedient.

    A lay person’s vocation when married – is husband, wife, father mother. There is a subset of evocations that fall under that vocation. We have evocations to the Church, to our community, our colleagues that are the duties and devotions to our baptismal vows.

    I think many priests confuse the vocation and evocations of a lay person with their own vocation and evocations.

    If a priest or bishop is misleading the flock, our evocation is different than yours.

    God Bless and protect you.

    1. Our obedience is doctrinal and is limited to the litmis test of whether the doctrine of the particular bishop (or priest) is in communion with the Catholic Church. If it is not in communion, then we are not to be obedient.

      Not quite. It’s those things in which he is not in harmony with the Church that we do not, and should not, obey.

      Let’s use the example of a bishop who uses cool-aid pitchers on his altar for use in consecrating the Precious Blood; has liturgical dancers in his Mass; and has a reputation leading members of his diocese to believe that he condones a sexual lifestyle which involves objectively grave matter. For talking purposes let’s say that this bishop has a mistress on the side.

      If that bishop imposes a lawful directive on you, or one affecting the people of the diocese – one which is within his right to make and one which is not opposed to Church teaching, then you are obliged to obey.

  48. “Never, ever, sit in false witness or in silence when a shepherd is leading the flock astray. He is on the road to Gehanna and is not to be followed under the guise these are the instructions from Christ on ‘obedience’ to His Church.”

    Amen Carol. Exactly right.

  49. I’ve some comments. Due to their length they can be found on my blog at

    On the surface, it does appear that two different concepts are being confused. Indeed I agree that we do obey lawful directives of a bishop even if he engages in questionable conduct, clown masses, etc. Of course, orders to contribute to various CCHD-esque collections are not lawful.

    The other matter – It is not lawful to expect silence on the part of laity when such malfeasances are committed by clergy.

  50. Speaking of herding cats;

    On a more serious note it might be useful to review the early history of Arianism, the Council of Nicea and subsequent events. It was in Alexandria and Constantinople that the mobs of orthodox laity prevented heretical friends of Arius from being re-established in their churches despite the careful machinations of Eusebius to manipulate the Emperor Constantine.

    While I don’t see the orthodox Catholics of today rioting in the streets at dissident Bishops and priests and those of orthodox faith with weak knees and spines, there is indeed precedent in the history of the Catholic Church. Perhaps today’s riots occur in the blogosphere, a much more civilized protest when you think of it.

    1. Once again, this article is not about bishops who teach error. It is about the daily prudential authority and leaderships of bishops appointed by God to whom you owe a little more respect. It is an article about the smug self-righteousness of certain Catholics who just don’t like authority and children of 1960s in their attitudes. Stop comparing yourself to the great Athanasius and others. You don’t deserve to be in the same company with people who fought a real and good fight. Most of the modern griping is about a narrow-casted version of the faith that some Catholics think of as the only things that matter. There is actually more to the faith than some modern Catholics like to admit and, as Cardinal George articulates, too many Catholics get angry if the bishop doesn’t follow their agenda to that last detail, and use the exact words they want or use the disciplinary tools they want him to use and have all their priorities, then he is a zero and total loser and they feel they can reject him with impunity. That is what this article is about.

      And where there are real doctrinal issues at stake, take it up the chain of command. Fight the good fight until the end is achieved. But stop sowing seeds of dissent and hatred of authority. Too many Catholics act like a spoiled baby boomers.

      St Ignatius of Antioch says:

      It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good works that you are members of his Son. It is then an advantage to you to live in perfect unity, so that at all times you may share in God. For if the prayer of one or two has such power, how much more has the prayer of the bishop and the whole Church.

      Final Comment from me, Y’all. This is now an older post and very few new ideas are coming. Love and respect your Bishop, pray for him and if, there are true doctrinal issues at stakes, take up the chain of command. But in all things, love.

  51. Yesterday evening:

    Louis-cat: Let meeowt.
    Me: It’s raining. And cold.
    Louis: Let meeowt.
    Me: (opens door)
    Louis: (peers outside, reallizes it’s raining, and goes back to his chair)
    Me: (closes door)

    ten minutes later:

    Louis: Let meeowt.
    Me: It’s still raining. And still cold.
    Louis: Let meeowt.
    Me: (opens door)
    Louis: (peers outside, reallizes it’s raining, and goes back to his chair)
    Me: (closes door)

    ten minutes later:

    Louis: Let meeowt.
    Me: It’s STILL raining. And STILL cold.
    Louis: Let meeOWT.
    Me: (opens door)
    Louis: (peers outside, reallizes it’s raining, and goes back to his chair)
    Me: I TOLD you. NOW do you believe me?
    Louis: (curls up in his chair as if that were his plan all along)

  52. Please stop making excuses for your inaction and start acting like a father. It’s all too easy to sit back and do nothing under some guise of “pastoral” or “prudential” consideration while souls are being misled by the thousands.

    1. Steve G, Stop being so precipitous. Your rush to judgment is very un fatherly. Slow down a little, get the data, don’t rush to judgment. Have a nice day

  53. As we say that we pray for our priests/bishops, we should invoke the Holy Spirit to be ever with them!

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