Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Few Whacky Bishops...

There are many great Bishops out there. They are a credit to their position, true shepherds of the faithful who prayerfully lead the flock through these tumultuous times. Yet I have noticed a troubling trend lately during conversations with other Catholics. There is a sizable (or at least vocal) segment of the Catholic population that blindly trust every word from any bishop's mouth. I have wondered how, with so much disagreement on a variety of teachings among the bishops, every word that proceeds from each of their mouths can be taken as the pure, unadulterated truth, and the response is usually a snappy "do you think you know better than the Bishops?"

Let's see how we can answer this question:

I am loyal to the teachings of the Church and I submit myself wholeheartedly to them. I think Karl von Hefele, the Bishop of Rottenburg during the first Vatican Council said it well, after the vote was taken on papal infallibility: "Once the decision had been made, to tarry in the opposition party would have been inconsistent with my whole past. I would have set my own infallibility in the place of the infallibility of the Church." Unfortunately there are some Bishops out there who place their own infallibility above the infallibility of the Church.

Is it easy to submit? No. In fact, it's something that I struggle with, more or less, each and every day. Yet the struggle is well worth it, for we must force our baser desires and impulses to submit to God's will (and with prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist it does get easier!), which is truly the only way to find freedom in this world. But that leads us to another question... how do we know what God's will is? The question is answered, quite simply in Matthew Chapter 16 (16:18-19):

"And I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

More simply put, God established his Church on earth with Peter and promises that gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. If we all depended on our individual consciences, which can be warped by experience and sin, than each man's idea of God would be as valid as any other and confusion would rein.

Catholics who'd like to go the easy secular route might think that these guys are great modernizers. They'll likely point out that the Bishop is responsible for his diocese and is given a great deal of autonomy. And that's true. But what's also true is that the truth is the truth and the truth doesn't change. The truth is not dependent on what the bishop of such and such diocese says.

Still skeptical? Let's take a look at some examples.

What if your bishop was this guy? If he's right than the majority of the Bishops in the Church are wrong. And the Vatican is wrong. And the Magesterium is wrong.

Yes, the Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, is pretty far out there. He's challenged the papal ban on the ordination of women and expressed sadness at the Church's teachings on divorce and homosexuality. Oh and he's also challenged the Vatican rule that says that Protestants can't receive the Eucharist (as a Protestant I wouldn't have wanted to receive something that I didn't agree with, out of respect to the beliefs of the people around me!).

Maybe the people who say that all Bishops are always right and should be followed blindly, have had the luxury of having wonderful, orthodox Bishops who follow the Church's teachings. Maybe living in California just makes me a little more skeptical. And that brings me to my next post: What are the Bishops in California thinking?

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