Do we pity Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst? Forever he will be known not as a disciple of Jesus Christ, nor even merely as a prince of the church–but as the “bishop of bling.” Now we find that five months after the fact, his resignation was accepted.
PrayTell also notes that the bishop was deposed despite friends in high places (the tops of the CDF heap and the papal household):
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller … saw the Limburg bishop as victim of a media campaign, and said at a Mass in Rome in October that the accusations against the bishop were the “invention of journalists.” … “The bishop of Limburg will remain.”
Archbishop Georg Gänswein (said) that the German bishops’ conference had no formal right to call for the bishop’s removal. “Seen more profoundly, it is a question of faith and the direction [of the church]. Will Tebartz-van Elst lead his diocese as a Catholic bishop, or will the diocese go down its own path?”
A few things come to mind. How important it is to have an accurate diagnosis of a situation. Are liberals really out to get traditionalists? Or are some hardliners with an eye on the past really just like everybody else: with sins and failings, occasionally very serious ones? Sometimes bishops shouldn’t be bishops because they lack the abilities and/or skills, even if the prerequisites and high-level support is already in place.
Bishop Tebartz-van Elst had problems with finances. Eight-figure problems if we’re following the euros. The hierarchy may dither about children accusing clergy of abuse, but it’s hard to deny the facts when the creditors come knocking. Sex sometimes gets caught up with money. But when money is the clear problem, the Church sees some movement from the top.
“Impedes a fruitful exercise of the episcopal office” is the translated standard of Rome. Archbishop Gänswein is on the right track in one sense. At some point the people can and may very well insist. Confirmations may be picketed, boycotted, or otherwise made difficult. Donations and dinner invitations may dry up. Bloggers could get mad. Is that a sign that people are going down their own path? Or could it be that some bishops have already lost their “catholicity” and the dissent is just a response to sinful behavior?
Abuse survivors and allies will now ask, “What about our concerns?” Anybody at the top, like in the Chair of Peter, have an answer to that?