For the second time this month, I see a bishop has gone away for personal care and healing. Earlier this year, my archbishop was granted a request for early retirement. He would make three. That I know of. Who knows how many other bishops struggle with health and we don’t know about it. It’s not a good thing at all, and reveals how flawed the current system of responsibility and service is. I’d start with the notion we haven’t taken Vatican II seriously. Our intransigence comes home to roost.
A friend on the inside of the Joliet diocese related that after a year of delegating confirmation to parish pastors, the bishop returned to the circuit because of parental complaints. A hell of a way, literally, to make diocesan policy.
Long-time readers here know I haven’t spared bishops or the institutional church from criticism–individually and collectively. I don’t think I do that from a sense of malice. But I have been accused of being uppity, not knowing my place, and being a buzzkill for “faithful” Catholics. So be it. What is posted here is largely opinionated. Most people feel free to take it or leave it.
I’ve known bishops who have been deeply spiritual, who connected well with lay people and clergy, and were much loved. I’ve also known guys who moved credibly accused offenders into assignments with vulnerable persons at risk–that’s about the worst of it. As somewhat of an “insider,” I see a lot more bad behavior than many Catholics. Criticism is one of the things that keeps me tethered to being a Catholic and holding on to respect for the office of bishop, and for the individuals who serve in that way.
I don’t think the Church is well-served by many aspects of the current situation:
- More priests decline assignments as bishops than accept them
- Many dioceses are too large for a single bishop to lead with effectiveness
- Bishops don’t seem to have a fruitful support system.
- Pastors are vulnerable enough to grooming and sycophants–I imagine bishops spend a lot of energy dodging situations.
I wonder if the USCCB would be well-served to take a serious inventory of their ministry. Share good ideas for good health that work. Shore up relationships amongst themselves. Work with good lay people on skills like preaching, discipleship, voice training (for speaking and singing), and other areas of expected expertise.
Every Mass, people pray for their bishop. We pray for him by his Christian name. Some clergy I know pile on other intercessions during the Eucharistic Prayer for priests, religious, and lay people. I don’t agree with that initiative. I think it’s important to pray for the bishops, and for one’s own bishop. I don’t begrudge an intercession when it’s needed and when it’s not me or my tribe.
Three bishops down, but hopefully not out this year. Three too many. Time to pray.