Thursday, May 1, 2008


I feel sorry for bishops (and would not want to be one – ever.) On a day-to-day basis your own bishop will make decisions that somebody in the diocese will not like. Passionately. Others will be highly pleased with the same decision. In the end that decision he makes is one of hundreds that might step on the toes of any particular individual. Maybe yours. Making a decision is like throwing a grenade. No matter how carefully something is thought out, consulted about, researched, prayed over, in the end it is like pulling the pin, throwing the thing out into the public and seeing who starts screaming.

An old spiritual director of mine would always state emphatically, “Don’t speak ill of your bishop!” He was an all or nothing kind of guy and I respect him for it though I do not think that I agree wholly. There are times to call someone in authority on the carpet. We do not want our beloved Church on the front page for scandal again. But that truly is an exceptional case so I suppose that gives his declaration some merit. Then where is the fine line of where we say, “This is holy obedience and this is where we are holy speaking up”?

Fr. Hilkert (of happy memory) my first pastor as a priest once introduced me to a room full of people by saying, “Living in a rectory is a lot like marriage. They throw you into a house to live together and hope you get along.” There is an air of truth to that even between the Church and our bishop. We are family and the bishop is a father figure. He is the spiritual father of the diocese. You may think you have a great biological Dad or you might think that yours could use with a lot of help in the nurturing department. Either way the fourth commandment still counts for you, you cannot opt out unless there is something seriously wrong with the man. We always treat our Dads with respect even when disagreeing with them and in those rare cases when we must correct them. Should it be any different with our bishop?
I have been in a number of discussion with peope recently all debating whether or not they like or approve of a bishop. Every apsect of the man is torn apart and disected. Some points have merit, others are just a matter of taste. Almost none of it is helpful. The best question (assuming nothing untoward is being done) is how can I be a good Catholic under this bishop? To do otherwise is to be a cause of division and make life more difficult for everyone. Like him or not he is your bishop. We may debate issues and decisions but in the end we will not get into heaven for being more clever but for acting with due respect.


Anonymous said...

I like your explanation on the bishops as Father figures, which of course they are. You just put it into a different type of context.

We have two great bishops (one is coadjutor and will be on his own soon as the other retires). The first was constantly ripped, and even recently in a half-page ad taken out, making demands and accusations, even while the group refused to name themselves directly. Tasteless and all of us are pretty much condemning the act. While the bishop hasn't been perfect, this diocese is a darned sight better than it was when he took over! Our other bishop, about to take over, was pretty much crucified from the moment his name was announced. And yet when people meet him, they are finding themselves disarmed...yet still go on to complain about what they think he's going to do. * sigh * They can't win. (And for the record, I LOVE this new bishop of ours, although I've never met him in person. )

Anonymous said...

OK, real timely post today. I just received an email, press release. Arch. Flynn officially retires today, his 75th birthday, meaning that Archb. Niensteadt is officially our Archbishop as of today. And we welcome him and continue to pray for them both!

Adrienne said...

I've found the best course of action is to avoid my Bishop whenever possible. When you live in North Idaho that's pretty easy.