Sunday, November 28, 2010
Preface: Making Martyrdom Irrelevant
The office of the Catholic bishop is the highest and most sacred office on earth. Catholic bishops are not only successors to the Apostles; they are the continuation of the Word Incarnate. It is only fitting then that they enjoy the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders in order that their words have efficacy.
St. Ignatius, successor to St. Peter as bishop of Antioch, just decades after Christ walked the earth, wrote that Catholics are to look at the bishop as the Lord Himself and that the bishop presides in the place of God. He even referred to Christ as “the Bishop of all.” Such was the acclaim given to the ministry of the episcopate and it still holds true today. However, a bishop’s vocation is probably best expressed in terms of spiritual fatherhood. And as a spiritual father, a bishop is to reproduce spiritual sons and daughters in the image of Christ.
The Catholic Church provides models of spiritual fatherhood such as the early Church Fathers and other saintly bishops and priests. Their words and deeds are enshrined in books, liturgical feast days and other forms of Tradition. The Church holds up their lives for our edification, to be sure. But they also serve as a standard from which we measure genuine spiritual fatherhood. Without them, it would be difficult to recognize the voice of Christ, our Shepherd. Therefore, the Church bids the faithful to esteem the witness of saintly bishops and priests who have passed into eternity. She also expects today’s bishops and priests to aspire to that same witness.
As a spiritual son myself, I want for our bishops and priests what the Church wants for them. I want them to be confident, to clearly and unapologetically represent the Catholic Faith and to be confrontational when circumstances warrant it. Is this not what a loving father does? However, when their witness falters or is compromised, I pray for them.
Filial love also bids me to take it one step further. When the Catholic clergy fall into certain patterns of behavior, behavior which differs from the great exemplars of the Faith, especially at such a critical juncture in our nation's history, then it is incumbent on me as a spiritual son to speak to these concerns. In 2000 the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) published a document called, Civility in the Media. What is noteworthy is the following statement from that document: “We acknowledge that our role in the Church inevitably puts us in a position in which we may be criticized for some actions. Catholic media have the right to engage in such criticism carried on in the spirit of civility already described.” I am assuming that this admonition applies to the Catholic blogosphere as well. With that presupposition in mind, I intend to do exactly what the USCCB prescribes: to blog with a spirit of civility.
For starters, there is a pattern among many a Catholic clergy to over-accommodate non-Catholics, members of the media and critics of the Church. There is such a thing as being diplomatic to a fault. This attempt to find common ground can lend itself to theological error or, at times, a negation of their own Catholic identity. One incident that comes to mind is when Gretchen Carlson interviewed Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Fox News, Wednesday, November 24th. What I heard was not a shock, but it was another disappointment. When referring to the meaning of Thanksgiving, he said to Gretchen, "We are conscious that Somebody…some call him or her or whatever you want ...Somebody beyond us is in charge and we are immensely grateful…"
The reason why this statement and other incidents are unhelpful to the mission of the Church in America on the next blog.
Posted by Joe at 3:08 PM