When A Bishop Can No Longer Be A Bishop

Grant Gallicho at Commonweal keeps Archbishop Nienstedt in the news. The commentary there is interesting. It illustrates how administrative mismanagement tears at the fabric of unity in the Church. It also smears us in the mainstream media: a thousand miles away, another organ picks up the story.

The archbishop has his defenders, such as this blogger:

Archbishop Nienstedt may be guilty, but I doubt it. I don’t think Bishop Finn was really guilty, either.  I am 99.5% certain that these allegations are nothing more than an attempt to destroy a bishop that greatly annoys the Minnesota left.  I do not get the sense that Nienstedt is a sodomite.

I perceive that many people operate with their heroes, ideologies, and such as wishful thinkers.

Bishop Robert Finn admitted to committing a civil crime. In the eyes of the law, and by personal admission, he was guilty. His situation might have been written off as administrative inexperience. But not non-guilt.

I am sure that people sincerely do not want their heroes to have holes. Spouses make all kinds of excuses and even blame themselves for an addict partner’s behaviors. People don’t want to believe the bad. Even when it confronts them in the face.

I remember when a conservative Catholic friend was almost gleeful over the allegations against Cardinal Bernardin. And never brought up the man in conversation after this development.

There are danger zones for us believers. One is that we indulge the impulse for anti-heroes, to make demons of people with whom we disagree or whom we dislike. Another is blind hero worship, that anyone to whom we have attached ourselves can do no wrong. Neither of these practices supports unity in the Body. Aside from misplaced adulation or hatred, it tends to enhance smaller subsets: Catholics a little more pure, a little more “in,” and a little more informed than anyone else. That latter aspect can really flirt with Gnosticism, that my group and I have some special knowledge only we were able to discern.

What’s going to happen in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis? Suppose the archbishop resigns. Then what? If he is not found guilty of a crime, would he be able to serve as a parish pastor? Thomas Gumbleton did that as a bishop for decades, and he’s one of the few prelates to emerge from the last part of the last century with his credibility intact.

Would you want John Nienstedt teaching your diocese’s seminarians? What would a non-criminal do if he were to resign from the episcopacy? Who would have him? Some small parish that otherwise would shutter its doors?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to When A Bishop Can No Longer Be A Bishop

  1. I don’t know much about the case in Minneapolis St. Paul, so I don’t really have an opinion on his guilt or innocence. Nonetheless, I do wince when I see some devout Catholics rush to his defense and speak as though they are purely victims of an anti-Catholic culture/media.

  2. Jim McCrea says:

    A resigned bishop taking over responsibility for a parish just hanging on might be the best thing … for this resigned bishop. A little touch of reality after so many years of rarified existence might be the salvation of his soul.

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