Jimmy Mac sent me this link to The Tablet with a legal defense for a British diocese:
The diocese of Portsmouth this week insisted that a priest accused of abusing a child was employed “in the service” of God, not by the diocese.
As it was a preliminary hearing on the case, the court was not tasked with judging the truth of the woman’s allegations, but ruled instead on the question of whether the relationship between a priest and bishop was akin to that between an employer and an employee.
I wonder how often the prosecutors bring up the Church’s own teaching. Christus Dominus 16 is sure to be an eye-opener for the legal world, not to mention a few bishops:
Let (bishops) be true fathers who excel in the spirit of love and solicitude for all and to whose divinely conferred authority all gratefully submit themselves. Let them so gather and mold the whole family of their flock that everyone, conscious of his own duties, may live and work in the communion of love.
Bishops should always embrace priests with a special love since the latter to the best of their ability assume the bishops’ anxieties and carry them on day by day so zealously. They should regard the priests as sons and friends (Cf. John 15:15) and be ready to listen to them. Through their trusting familiarity with their priests they should strive to promote the whole pastoral work of the entire diocese.
They should be solicitous for the spiritual, intellectual and material welfare of the priests so that the latter can live holy and pious lives and fulfill their ministry faithfully and fruitfully.
With active mercy bishops should pursue priests who are involved in any danger or who have failed in certain respects.
Here’s what I see in the bishop:
- They are tasked with being “fathers” in a “family” of members that “live and work in (a) communion.”
- Their relationship with priests is described as a mutuality not only in ministry, but of cares, of listening, and of respect.
- They share with the clergy “the whole pastoral work of the entire diocese.”
- Their concern is wide-ranging and goes beyond the work their priests do.
- A troubled priest is a target of “active” concern–even pursuit.
Is a bishop responsible? Darn right he is. It goes with the job, and it certainly is intimiately entangled with the nature of the episcopal ministry as the Catholic church teaches and understands it. Is the bishop an employer? That and much, much more. Bishop Hollis should know this.