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Fire the bishops?
Posted By Eric Sammons On March 11, 2009 @ 1:50 pm In Pro-life,The Church | Comments Disabled
According to this story , Operation Rescue founder and Catholic convert Randall Terry has gone to the Vatican to ask them to remove American bishops who, in his opinion, have not done enough to stop the scourge of abortion in this country. He specifically singles out Archbishop Wuerl of DC (my bishop) and Bishop Loverde of Arlington due to the high number of politicians residing in their dioceses.
Although I am sympathetic to many of Terry’s complaints in regard to the lack of action by many bishops in fighting legalized abortion, I think his methods here are fundamentally flawed and reflect a poor ecclesiology.
The Catholic Church is not set up as a corporation, with the Pope as the CEO and the bishops as his lieutenants. The pope’s job is not to simply hire and fire bishops whenever one of them doesn’t toe the party line. A bishop is a true successor to the apostles, and as such, has almost complete authority over his diocese. Yes, a pope can remove a bishop if necessary, but it would set a bad precedent if he began to remove bishops as frequently as Terry desires. It would send a message that a bishop is nothing but the pope’s flunky and has no real authority on his own.
And what happens when we have a “bad” pope? History has shown that the charism of infallibility does not protect against incompetent or even evil pontiffs. If the precedent is set that the bishops are simply middle managers who have no real authority, what happens when a pope is elected who is corrupt or otherwise a poor shepherd? Do we want him to apply this precedent by removing orthodox bishops on a whim?
Another problem with this suggestion is that it would basically destroy any ecumenical progress with the Eastern Orthodox. If the pope began to purge the episcopal ranks of those who do not meet his standard of acceptability, then it would confirm the worst suspicions of the Orthodox. It would show that the Catholic Church has no respect for the office of the bishop – an office, I might add, highly revered in the early Church.
Again, I am sympathetic to many of Terry’s complaints. I find it scandalous that many bishops have not spoken in stronger defense of the unborn – although I was very pleased with how many did speak strongly in the last election cycle. It pains me deeply that many bishops don’t recognize the absolute evil that legalized abortion is. But the solution is not to fire bishops until we find ones who are to our liking. I would propose that the solution is much more fundamental, closer to home, and appropriate to the Lenten season:
When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”
And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”
And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The demonic scourge of abortion will not leave our land when we get good bishops, although that will help. It will only leave when we have committed ourselves as a Church to prayer and fasting to end abortion. Through prayer and fasting, mountains can be moved and souls can be converted – even the souls of bishops.
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