Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sons and Brothers


Several people have asked me about the silencing of 'Protect the Pope'. I have no inside knowledge and I must confess that I haven't kept up with all Deacon Nick's posts of late.

However, what does concern me greatly is that an issue between a deacon and his bishop is placed in the public forum. Again, I don't know who is to blame for this, but it seems unfortunate and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. The relationship between any cleric and his bishop should be that of father and son, it is certainly not one of employer and employee or master and servant, and what goes on in that relationship should not appear in the gossip columns of the Tablet which appears to have inside information.

All relationships within the Church are based on charity, it is the bond that holds the Church together, it is the bond that unites the bishop and his clergy under Christ. Pope Francis has spoken of a priest smelling of his sheep, well a bishop should positively reek of his priests and deacons.

This year I hope Pope Francis rather than being photographed washing the feet of those 'on the peripheries' gets down on his hands and knees to wash the feet of the priests and deacons of the diocese of Rome who should be at the very centre of his pastoral concern. It is an important sign for the world's bishops, it is sign not of a renaissance prince, who were much given to public footwashing, replete with rosewater and nosegays, but of a servant-father.

The Bishop is above all the 'Father in God' of his clergy, it is a great scandal if he cannot find time to spend visiting and caring for them, not just because he has a function to perform in the parish but because he actually has a deep love for his priests and deacons. It is obviously a scandal if he does not show love for the elderly, the tired, the mad and the plain bad or even the irritating. If they are sick or dying, or in trouble, yes even in prison, above all clergy in trouble, even those who make trouble for their bishop, should be his chief pastoral concern.

I really do welcome Pope Francis' demand that bishops should above all be Pastors. The Pope is an excellent example of a caring Pastor, who as Archbishop took into his apartment an elderly priest to cook for, care for and eventually nurse, apparently he would do the same in parishes of his diocese for other sick priests. The Vatican Council reminds us of the Bishop's role as the exemplary pastor, and no-one needs more pastoring than the 'co-workers' of the Bishop, his priests and deacons.

I am sure that one of the fall outs of the clerical abuse scandals is that Bishops started to see their clergy, not as sons, but as liabilities, who can cost their dioceses a great deal of money and do their own reputations a great deal of damage. It is easy for a bishop to retreat from them, to put a wall between them and himself but the model we are confronted with is the easy relationship of Jesus and his apostles.


When a bishop complains publicly about members of his clergy, especially in the religious or even secular media, he is behaving in a way that would be unacceptable amongst secular employers, their employees have legislation, unions and tribunals to look after them, the clergy do not. There are many things which clergy endure that would be unacceptable 'in the world' but seem quite acceptable in the Church. The feudal relationship between a Bishop and his clergy means that a priest is entirely in the Bishop's hands, if he is petty enough  he can send a young priest to a curate-breaker or move an older priest away from a place where he has put down roots and is surrounded by friends, if he likes a priest he can appoint him to a wealthy comfortable parish or if he dislikes him or disagrees with him he can do the opposite, or else he can brief against him or deal harshly and cruelly with him or just ignore him.

There is a story about Archbishop Amigo, the legendary Archbishop of Southwark, sending a troublesome priest off to be a military chaplain during one of the World Wars, with the words, '... and I hope you get shot', but then I have heard stories from Liverpool priests of being visited by the dying Archbishop Worlock, too weak even to get out of the back of his car but concerned enough to visit his sons. In a age when priests often complain their letters go unanswered by their bishops, I remember being told at the beginning of his ministry in Westminster that Cardinal Hume told his clergy they were his principle concern and giving his personal telephone out to them, telling them to ring him night or day if the needed to talk. When he was my Bishop, I was always touched by Corrmac Murphy O'Connor's kindness, he always found time for his sick and dying clergy. When, with his agreement, I went off to try my vocation as a monk he simply came to make a retreat and spend time with me, it was a deeply appreciated gesture by a concerned father, who in the diocese of Arundel and Brighton was a kind and caring pastor.

Pray for Bishops who find fatherhood difficult.

13 comments:

vetusta ecclesia said...

+Cormac was very kind to my family and to my priest brother at the time of the latter's illness and death. I fear that he was , as so often happens in all walks of life, promoted above his natural place. It underlines Pope Francis's viw that a bishop should stick with his diocese rather than seek, or accept, translation to "higher things".

Doodler said...

Perhaps we also need to pray for priests and deacons who find respect and obedience difficult.

Catholic Mission said...

March 19, 2014

Diocese of Lancaster website makes no mention of exclusive salvation in the Catholic Church

The Diocese of Lancaster,England on its official website in the section The Catholic Faith makes no mention of the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation and the need for all people to enter the Church with 'faith and baptism' (AG 7) to go to Heaven and avoid Hell.

The ordinary way of salvation is 'faith and baptism'(AG 7) and we do not known any exceptions in 2014 saved in invincible ignorance (LG 16), seeds of the Word (AG 11), imperefect communion with the Church (UR 3) etc.

-Lionel Andrades

http://www.lancasterdiocese.org.uk/Articles/240445/The_Diocese_of/The_Catholic_Faith/What_we_Believe/Further_Links.aspx

Ginge White said...

Time have changed, Father. Priests have more value than they did in the past. If a bishop is foolish enough to be too harsh with one of his priests there's always a welcome waiting for him from another bishop in another diocese.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Doodler,
True, true but we need then to ask what is meant by 'respect and obedience' and ensure that it is aimed at the proclamation of the Gospel rather than whim or something at odds with the faith itself.

'Respect and obedience to me and my successors' is with the ancient gesture of fealty about a promise to the institution rather than servile submission, it is a Gospel based promise.

Catholic Mission said...

Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales assumes non Catholics saved with 'seeds of the Word' etc are known to us in 2014

http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.it/2014/03/catholic-bishops-conference-of-england.html#links

Lynda said...

Obedience is only to that which does not conflict with the deposit of Faith and morals. Bishops have no authority to act outside the moral law, against natural justice or reason; nor do they have the authority to silence one who has been working in accordance with the deposit of Faith and morals, working to save souls from grave scandals in the Church. Robert de Mattei, in his February letter to Fr Fanzaga of Radio Maria, sets out very clearly and instructively the rights and duties of faithful Catholics to object to grave errors against the Deposit of Faith or morals, and soul-endangering scandals by Popes, bishops. See No. 2 in documents listed: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.ie/2014/02/dictatorship-of-tolerance-at-radio.html?m=1

Sadie Vacantist said...

Intellectually, the blog was pretty awful if truth be told. What was impressive however, was its outreach. It just proves that if the truth is stated clearly, no matter how inanely, it will attract numbers. This is a policy the Church has long since abandoned. What the bishops are now saying to me is that they will only the preach truths unless they accord with society. Keith O’Brien embodied this ecclesiology but like many of us, he has the sins of the flesh to bring him to his knees whilst the majority are not blessed with this humiliating cross. What I find ghastly about the failures of the last fifty years is not the failures themselves but the unwillingness to admit to them. In that sense, O’Brien is truly blessed with a wonderful opportunity before death.

gemoftheocean said...

wonderful post Fr. Blake

M. Prodigal said...

Our former Archbishop was very approachable and would answer even the emails of lay people which is extremely rare. Our present archbishop is not approachable and I have had probably 4 priests tell me that they cannot get an appointment or that their appointments are cancelled. I actually did get a meeting with the Archbishop after 3 or so cancellations as regards a certain apostolate. I am told he is often not in the diocese and thus the many cancellations. But the priests are not happy when they cannot see their bishop! Thankfully the Archbishop is of the conservative stripe. At least we have that.

Lynda said...

Protect the Pope was not about high intellectual discussion but simply about saving souls by speaking the truth about the deposit of Faith and morals and trying to prevent souls from being misled by grave scandals within the Church. Deacon Donnelly ought to be widely commended for his selfless service to the Church and souls. We need more people, clerics and lay, of his moral calibre who are prepared to sacrifice for the truth and to save souls.

Catholic Mission said...


Always in the interpretation of Vatican Council II we have to be aware of the Cushing-Jesuit Factual Error
http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.it/2014/03/always-in-interpretation-of-vatican.html#links

Joe Potillor said...

great post Father