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Why a failure of leadership in the Church, on both sides of the Atlantic? Bishops’ conferences?
Catholic Herald ^ | December 11, 2012 | WILLIAM ODDIE

Posted on 12/11/2012 4:08:07 PM PST by NYer

US bishops look over documents at a meeting in Baltimore (Photo: CNS)

US bishops look over documents at a meeting in Baltimore (Photo: CNS)

Since the presidential election, I haven’t been watching the American news channels much, I haven’t had the heart. The US appears to be about to go over something they are calling the fiscal cliff because of Obama’s triumphalistic behaviour: he won, so he’s not compromising with congressional Republicans who want much-needed public spending cuts, and he’ll blame them if they do all go over this cliff (there are, I understand, other analyses of what is happening, but I like this one best). This cliff may not seem like our business, but it is: if they do go over it, it will have a very severe effect on the American economy and therefore on everyone else’s, including ours.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about: watching, for old time’s sake, the wondrous Megyn Kelly on Fox News the other day (she comes on at the most convenient time for English observers) I came across an interview with a Fox anchor called Bill O’Reilly, who seemed like a good egg, so I had a look at his own more primetime show, The O’Reilly Factor. This, according to Wikipedia, is “the most watched cable news television program on American television”. I found, interestingly, that he is not only currently running a campaign in defence of Christmas against the atheists who want any mention of it banned in all public places and institutions, but also one more broadly in defence of Christianity itself, against the increasingly aggressive secularism more and more endemic in American culture. Inter alia, he protested last week at having to lead such a campaign himself because of the total failure of leadership in all the mainline churches. He didn’t say so, but he sounded like a Catholic to me (Wikipedia confirms this). This is what he said: “There’s a lack of will and a lack of leadership in the Christian communities generally speaking. I have to lead this campaign. The biggest sinner in the world is leading this campaign. What God’s saying is, is there anyone else who can lead this campaign? Anybody except O’Reilly? Anybody? I have to lead this campaign. We don’t get, what we’re not getting, is organised leadership from any of the churches. They just don’t engage.”

Sound familiar, dear English readers? The day after I saw that (you can watch the whole discussion here) I read this, on Fr Ray Blake’s admirable website.

I have rarely seen Fr Blake more passionate: “I cannot help but feel very angry,” he says, “that since the letter from the Archbishops of the four Provinces of England and Wales we have heard nothing officially from the Bishops or the Bishops’ Conference on ‘gay-marriage’. In the last few days I have received communications from several individual priests urging me to write to my MP or to the Prime Minister, I have also received emails from a few non-Catholic Ministers of Religion and a local rabbi, and as it is Brighton from a group of gay Christians who recognise the redefinition of marriage as an attack on the stability of the family but from the hierarchy there is only continuous silence.”

What’s interesting here is Fr Blake’s analysis of exactly why this is so, which is one I have more than once argued myself: it’s the existence of the bishops’ conference as a bureaucratic entity (rather than as a spiritual body). It’s the bureaucratisation of our hierarchy — so that only the official episcopal spokesman in a particular area, as chairman of some board or other run from Eccleston Square, with its own lay secretary (probably an ex-priest or laicised nun), or on the other hand the archbishops speaking collectively (an extreme rarity) — may speak for the other bishops: this means that individual bishops have their own prophetic voice if not silenced then severely weakened.

As Fr Blake interestingly says: “A Curial Bishop once told me that a few Episcopal Conferences in the world give leadership but most frustrate it. In our case the bishops’ conference certainly frustrates the accountability of individual bishops to their presbyterates and their people, an accountability which was in the vision of Vatican II, in its strengthening of the bond between a bishop and his diocese.” Fr Blake goes on to quote the present Pope, who over two decades ago said: “The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organised, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function.” (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

The fact is, however, that since episcopal conferences have no theological basis, individual bishops could still say exactly what they want to say at any time, whether the conference bureaucrats like it or not: and one or two have actually started to do just that. There was, you will remember, the great Bishop Patrick O’Donohue of Lancaster, now alas retired; and more recently and repeatedly, there has been (guess who) Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury. On the subject currently exercising Fr Blake, he says this:

Bishop Davies said [the Telegraph reported in June]: “The Deputy Prime Minister was recently reported as saying he could not understand why Christians and other people of faith saw a legal redefinition of marriage as a matter of conscience: it would not, he claimed, impinge on religious freedoms.

“Experience, of course, might make us cautious of such assurances, even those given by a Deputy Prime Minister, that this agenda will not threaten religious freedom.”

He said that concerns were not solely about religious freedoms but also the attack on marriage as the foundation of family life.

“Today we see a government, without mandate, disposing of any credible consultation, seeking to impose one of the greatest acts of ‘social engineering’ in our history in uprooting the legal definition of marriage. Marriage lies at the very foundation of the family.

“For all generations to come one generation of politicians sets out to demolish in the name of an ‘equality agenda’ the understanding of marriage that has served as the timeless foundation for the family.

“The Government is seeking to do this at the very moment when marriage as an institution has been more weakened than ever before. Yet it asks: why are people of faith concerned?”

Bishop Davies added: “So far from weakening and confusing the foundation of the family we invite our political leaders to give back to the institution of marriage and the family the recognition and confidence it deserves.”

So, it’s not entirely true that there is no leadership from our hierarchy. There is, we see reported here, at least one voice speaking out in words not vetted and emasculated by Eccleston Square. But it’s not enough: we need them all to speak out, we need an episcopal cacophony. So, anyone else? Well yes: again, guess who: “The Rt Rev Philip Egan, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth”, reports the Bicester Advertiser, “has said the plans to extend the right to marry would have catastrophic consequences… Such a change is of immense significance. By this change, [the Prime Minister] is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.”

That’s what we need now: bishops who will speak out, in and to their dioceses and therefore directly to the wider world; and we need many more of them.

Archbishop Mennini, please note.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Politics

1 posted on 12/11/2012 4:08:10 PM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 12/11/2012 4:09:13 PM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer
On several occasions I've had people ask me who the Hell I was to take a stand on something. My reply was always, I do't see anyone in line behind me. I'm no fan of O'Reilly, but if he's willing to take a stand, more power to him. The bishops sure haven't acted as shepherds. Nor sheepdogs.
3 posted on 12/11/2012 4:25:09 PM PST by JoeFromSidney ( New book: RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY. Buy from Amazon.)
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To: JoeFromSidney
I always tell my RCIA students that there's a big difference between an Apostolic Hierarchy and a clerical bureaucracy.

USCCB Delenda Est.

4 posted on 12/11/2012 4:42:05 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o ("The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." - St. John Chrysostom, Bishop)
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To: NYer

Yes! The national bishops’ conferences have dragged down and silenced the good bishops and promoted everything from mediocrity to heresy (not to mention the “culture of silence” regarding clerical crimes) since their inception. They were promoted heavily post-Vatican II because it was obviously the way to crush those individual bishops who disagreed with the zeitgeist.

The bishop is the teacher of his diocese, but the national conferences deprived him of all his authority and instead of letting him be responsible for his teaching, sent out garbage from their headquarters (dealing with nuclear war, say, instead of birth control).

They have lost some of their power, but not much. My bishop gave some really good anti-Obama, anti-Dem talks (not saying the words, of course, but we all knew who we were not supposed to vote for because of their anti-life, anti-Church policies) and then the USCCB sent out a video to “instruct” the parishes throughout the country which made it sound as if voting for the baby-killer was fine if you decided his “social justice” (i.e., leftwing distributionist) policies were better. So in other words, they just cut the legs out from individual bishops who had taken a considerable risk.

5 posted on 12/11/2012 5:21:33 PM PST by livius
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To: livius

Bishop humanists know all they have to do is get socialism in place and then their problems with social conservatives and all their “hangups” about sin and the God they beleive in within the church is “out of their hands” and solved by Marxists to their secret liking. When they support humanist socialism, this is what they are doing. It has worked to kill Christianity in Europe. They want to do it here.

6 posted on 12/11/2012 5:50:47 PM PST by SaraJohnson
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To: Mrs. Don-o

Dante would have had a place in Hell for the USCCB had it existed in his time.

7 posted on 12/11/2012 7:00:29 PM PST by dominic flandry
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To: dominic flandry

From what I saw the Catholic church was the most outspoken against Obamacare, Obama’s lies, and Obama’s reelection. That was despite the threats the church recieved, and despite the media black out. I even had non Catholic friends comment about the veracity of the church’s anti abortion stance. There are numerous lawsuits taking place right now from the Catholic church vs. Obamacare. Obviously nobody did a great job fighting Obama. Regardless the church has done so much good, they don’t deserve to be treated like Muslim terrorists. If the Catholic church failed, where does that leave the thousands of other non-Catholic churches? Blaming is for losers.

8 posted on 12/12/2012 4:46:28 AM PST by mgist
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To: mgist

It’s true that many individual bishops have spoken out, and as the composition of the USCCB changes (and as its power decreases, because the Pope is known not to be a fan of powerful national bishops’ conferences) it is moving closer to orthodoxy. Some of the really bad ones have aged out or died, and the elderly Vatican II “pour blood on Army facilities” crowd has lost their stranglehold.

Still, the fact that so many Catholics voted for Obama shows that while the bishops’ conference may now have awakened to the institutional threat presented by Obama, they are paying the price for their years of leftist drivel and irrelevant Dem cheer-leading by having lost their moral authority among the faithful. 45 years of bad catechesis - under canon law, the bishop is the teacher for his diocese, btw - and frivolous, timid to borderline heretical bishops have left a population of the faithful that is confused and will need another 45 years of good teaching to be restored to what it was.

In fact, so many people have simply been lost - that is, they may self-identify as Catholics for polling purposes, but they haven’t darkened the door of a church for at least 30 years - that the bishops don’t really have much of a flock to lead. I guess that’s why the Pope is calling for a “New Evangelization.” The need has gone beyond merely reasserting true moral teachings and doctrine for a confused faithful, and is now a matter of starting from the ground up to build the Church again.

Certainly, we have some great, outspoken bishops and the Church (accompanied by some Evangelical groups) is the only force that is going to fight back against the religion of the State that Obama is trying to impose. But this is made much more difficult by the confusion introduced over the last 40+ years by the national bishops’ conferences.

9 posted on 12/12/2012 5:28:09 AM PST by livius
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To: SaraJohnson

Yes, there are some really bad bishops still out there, but I think their numbers are decreasing. The problem also exists with the older clergy, however, so sometimes even when you get a good conservative bishop, the older clergy resist him to the point that he really can’t accomplish much.

10 posted on 12/12/2012 5:33:15 AM PST by livius
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To: livius

The church is made up of us. What have you done to help the church in the fight? Leave the Catholic bashing to Soros’ gargoyles, and spread the good news. We have our real King who is in control and knows what He’s doing. We have to keep our focus on God and what He needs each of us to do. We know who wins this war.

11 posted on 12/12/2012 5:37:38 AM PST by mgist
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To: mgist

I do a lot, thank you! But our role (assuming you’re a layperson) is different from that of the bishops, and the reason we are facing the crisis that is before us is that the bishops have failed in their teaching duties, either wilfully or out of timidity, ever since Vatican II. This was reinforced by the national bishops’ councils, which were nothing but a device used by the liberals behind the kidnapping of Vatican II to enforce their agenda all over a national area.

The only bishops in the US who ran successful, spiritual dioceses were the ones who refused to go along with the USCCB, even though it made them outcasts. But that’s the price of being a shepherd.

This thread is about the national bishops’ conferences, and I think the author’s thesis is correct.

12 posted on 12/12/2012 9:09:47 AM PST by livius
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To: livius

One thing is to say we could do more, and another thing is to condemn and judge men who have given up wives, children, and family to dedicate themselves to God, in a world that treats them like suspect criminals because of the atrocities of a few. Nobody is perfect, and even the worst priest is a better person than me. God has a plan, and He knows what He is doing.

13 posted on 12/12/2012 4:22:49 PM PST by mgist
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