Two heavily footnoted sections are careful to describe the catechetical ministry of a bishop:
222. The Second Vatican Council gave much importance to the proclamation and transmission of the Gospel in the episcopal ministry. “Among the principal duties of Bishops, that of preaching the Gospel excels”. (Lumen Gentium 25; cf. Christus Dominus 12a; Evangelii Nuntiandi 68c) In carrying out this task, Bishops are, above all, “heralds of the faith”, (Lumen Gentium 25) seeking new disciples for Jesus Christ, and “authentic teachers”, (Lumen Gentium 25) transmitting the faith to be professed and lived to those entrusted to their care. Missionary proclamation and catechesis are two closely united aspects of the prophetic ministry of Bishops. To perform this duty Bishops receive “the charism of truth”. (Dei Verbum 8) The Bishops are “beyond all others the ones primarily responsible for catechesis and catechists par excellence”. (Catechesi Tradendae 63b) In the Church’s history the preponderant role of great and saintly Bishops is evident. Their writings and initiatives mark the richest period of the catechumenate. They regarded catechesis as one of the most fundamental tasks of their ministry. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 12a)
223. This concern for catechetical activity will lead the Bishop to assume “the overall direction of catechesis” (Catechesi Tradendae 63c) in the particular Church, which implies among other things:
– that he ensure effective priority for an active and fruitful catechesis in his Church “putting into operation the necessary personnel, means and equipment, and also financial resources”; (Catechesi Tradendae 63c; canon law 775 § 1)
– that he exercise solicitude for catechesis by direct intervention in the transmission of the Gospel to the faithful, and that he be vigilant with regard to the authencity of the faith as well as with regard to the quality of texts and instruments being used in catechesis; (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 63c; canon law 823 § 1)
– “that he bring about and maintain… a real passion for catechesis, a passion embodied in a pertinent and effective organization”, (Catechesi Tradendae 63c) out of a profound conviction of the importance of catechesis for the Christian life of the diocese;
– that he ensure “that catechists are adequately prepared for their task, being well instructed in the doctrine of the Church and possessing both a practical and theoretical knowledge of the laws of psychology and educational method”; (Christus Dominus 14b; canon law 780)
– that he establish an articulated, coherent and global programme in the Diocese in order to respond to the true needs of the faithful: it should be integrated into the diocesan pastoral plan and co-ordinated with the programmes of the Episcopal Conference.
A few things stand out for me:
- This teaching role is a responsibility of the office, not a right achieved by their selection.
- The GDC continues to hammer away at the evangelical quality of catechesis, and bishops are seen to be on the front lines of this evangelical ministry. How that takes shape in a modern diocese may well be a challenge. Are we looking at the example of, say, a Fulton Sheen, who inspired a few high-profile celebrities to switch to Catholicism. We know he also inspired countless others through his radio and television ministries, too. Does it require a television magnetism or even a sense of friendly joviality? Does the ordinary bishop have a prayer? (A clue?)
- That five point program in GDC 223 should be a benchmark for catechetical activity in a diocese. This being a universal document, do you suppose bishops and their catechetical offices use it?