Sunday, December 13, 2009

On the Accountability of Bishops #2

In the previous post I should have asked for what and to who are bishops accountable.

For what?

Traditionally, and according to the Vatican Council bishops are responsible for teaching, for sanctifying and for governing their dioceses together with their co-workers the priests. The toleration of such serious sin, cover up and therefore complicity in the sin would indicate the Irish bishops failed miserably in all three of these areas, as well as in simple morality. In both England and Ireland, and maybe the rest of Europe, maintenance seems to have a higher priority than mission, yet without a sense of mission there is nothing to maintain and there is no purpose in the Church therefore its structures are fossilized and meaningless, preserved and defended like ancient monuments. I suspect this lack of purpose is responsible for the paucity of vocations, for a loss of morale, of spirituality, of hope in so many clergy.
To who?

The obvious answer is to Christ, the traditional model was that bishops were accountable to their diocese, to their people and their clergy, who were defenders of their people's, or at least their parish’s, rights and to Rome which ensured their obedience to the Faith and the Law of the Church.

Since the rise of the Episcopal Conference bishops see themselves as accountable, above all, to their brother bishop and to the faceless and multifarious committees of the Conference. This accountability far from being about fraternal correction and developing a sense of zeal seems to be about loyalty to the conference and developing a culture of committees and mediocrity, hiding behind collective structures.

The National Conference of Priests in England and Wales decided to close down, in part, because of the frustration of getting any response from the bishops, because every decision has to be made by the Conference, a process which in practice took years. Of course the NCP was formed as a priestly response to the Bishop’s Conference.

Bishop O’Donoghue when he dared to break ranks with the Conference by issuing “Fit for Mission?” was shunned by the Conference.

The Bishops Conferences, certainly in England, and probably in Ireland, removes bishops from a sense of direct responsibility to the diocese.


Kate said...

Hence Bishops can and do say things such as " Pro-life? I don't do that, it's Archbishop Smith you want."

Anonymous said...

Archbishop Couve de Mourville was also shunned. He was told "he was rocking the boat" over "Here I am" and other "catechetical" programmes.

fidelisjoff said...

Bishops conferences are not part of the Divine constitution of the Church and therefore their statements only require obedience in so far as they conform to the magisterium. Historically they have been next to useless in standing up against error e.g. Nazi Germany or the day for life in England and Wales which is more likely to stand up for the life of woodlice than for the unborn child.

gemoftheocean said...

I'd say the same of the USCCB. In a "committee" they can all hide and just "kick it." That's not leadership. That's not accountability. It's glorified paper pushing. Being a bishop should be about more than getting to ride their dupas around in a fancy car, wearing a ring and having a special hat.

In the US we call that "all 10 gallon hat and no cattle."

In the Obama-Notre Shame scandal this last year, it was most instructive to see not only which bishops condemed Notre Shame's actions, but moreover WHO COULDN'T stand up for right.

I wouldn't trust some of them to lead me safety to the corner, much less show the way to the pearly gates.


How about we just tie them to the car and drag them?[*]

(*apologies to American Graffitti.)

sedevacantist priest said...


I agree some of the contributor. Unfotunately not many so called Bishop are true Bishop. They are more interested in conference instead leading the people under their care. Fancy car and big houses. If they look closely around them they will see how far apart from reality of life.
Bishop are servant of the people and answerable to God and second to Rome. They lost the very basic idealogy of a Bishop. I hope one day God deliverance will produce the real Bishops.

Innocent said...

I think that ideally the accountability of Bishops and Clergy should also be a mutual one. It is the bishop's duty to reprove and if neccesary to discipline his priests if their lives or teachng are at fault.
But it is also desirable that we understand priestly obedience as something that means we will tell our bishops if we think they are wrong. Of course once they have made up their minds on a course of action priests are duty bound to support it so long as it is not unlawful, but before that decision is made I would think that obedience requires the priest to tell the Bishop his concerns.
If priests fail in this; if we treat our bishops as monarchs, we cannot be surprised if they act like monarchs. Perhaps we should take the role of the slave in the Roman triumphs - 'remember that you are mortal!' - and seek to show our support through charity, understanding and a firm and honest statement of views.

Jacobi said...

I have long believed that the
responsibility for the post-Vatican 11 liturgical and doctrinal confusion, chaos, and loss of way, lies primarily with the Hierarchies.
They collectively failed to rise to the occasion, to grasp the opportunities, to undersand the dangers, within and without the Church, to think for themselves, to stand up to the extreme reformists and experts, and above all, to shoulder their responsibilities as successors of the Apostles charged with spreading, in continuity, the Word of Christ.
Thank God we had our Popes to hold the line.

Things are now changing - slowly!

Victoria said...

Here is what Cardinal Ratzinger thought of bishops' conferences: "The cecisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences tha are ever more organised, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures...the cpiscopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not bleong to the structure of the Church...that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function." He speaks of the commissions which prepare draft documents and that the efforts at mediation "often yield flattened documents in which decisive positions...are weakened." He speaks of individual bishops yeielding their powers of shepherd and teacher to the conference and lapsing into anonymity themselves.

If this was all realised by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985 why were the conferences permitted to continue and 24 years later the problem is that much worse?
The Ratzinger Report

It was The Ratzinger Report which told me to my great surprise that all the ills of the Church which I was seeing and reading about were well known by those in power in Rome in 1985 and yet nothing was done; the problems outlined in The Ratzinger Report have had 25 years to become the fabric of the Church and thus difficult/impossible to fix.

Peter said...

Thank you Father, a useful debate.
It does seem that a bishop has to be extraordinarily bad before he is removed from post.

jack said...

Bishops have fallen a long way since St Gisuippe Sarto (better known as St Pius X) wondered the streets of his dicocese seeking the lost and teaching catechism in to children in the streets.

The priests I know are just glad that his exellency doesn't notice the fact that they are sneaking tradition in through the back door.

Disband the conferences and don't shove the Holy Days to the next sunday, the SSPX parishinors manage it so why can't we?

Ma Tucker said...

I really fail to see why some of our Irish Bishops are not subjected to derrogation. You think UK Catechisis is bad. You should have a look at the Alive O programme(known among parents as the A lie Ho programme) here in Ireland. Nothing short of diabolical. Trinity = reincarnation , environmental commandments, female looking priestesses, magic bread mixed by a witch (that's the Eucharist by the way may God have mercy). I kid you not! Thousands of parents complained to Rome. Cardinal Ratzinger told them to base the Catechises on the Cathechism. The negligent wolf Bishops returned to Ireland and announced that they would change nothing. So, Irish children are being taught from a programme written by two lesbian ex- Nuns who now live with a whacko ex priest who has started his own little cult in Canada. These same ex-sisters (now hitched) returned to Ireland about 2yrs ago I think demanding that their "union" be recognised by the Irish state. Grim, Grim, Grim.

shane said...

Ma Tucker is quite correct about the state of catechesis. Alive-O is, I believe, also used in Scotland. The more I read it the more I realize the historical impropriety of ever abolishing the inquisition.

The Episcopacy of Ireland must be the most incompetent corporation in the country. They remind me of Hillaire Belloc’s assessment of the Catholic Church as “an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight”.

They even make a car crash of their logo:

As a nation we have a fantastic Catholic heritage. Why not our round towers, our illumanated manucripts or our Celtic Crosses? Instead, they settle for gay and bland crap which only shows their lack of imagination and cultural bankruptcy.

It took them TWO WEEKS to respond the Dublin Report. Already several bishops have said they will not resign even though they were implicated in the Report. They are putting their own stature and reputation above the welfare of children.

They are too busy writings pastorals on climate change:

One of the problems with the Irish bishops is that they surround themselves with a vast bureaucracy under the specious pretext of 'involving the laity' which only distances them further from the faithful. Invariably these institutions are dominated by bourgeois liberals, and exclusively reflect their trendy PC values. For a number of years the Irish bishops have give over their 'Day for Life' solely to the issue of suicide prevention, and consciously avoid the more 'controversial' topic of abortion.

Here at University College Dublin (founded by Cardinal Newman!!!) I have never met a single practicing Catholic. The Catholic Church in Ireland will be next to non-existent in a few years. To quote the Archbishop of Dublin’s recent comments: “We have 46 priests over 80 and only two less than 35 years of age. In a very short time we will just have the bare number of priests required to have one active priest for each of our 199 parishes.” The diocese of Tuam’s roll of active priests will also decline by a third in only four years time with much of the rest being over 70. More extremely, the diocese of Ossory hasn’t had a priest ordained in 16 years!!!

Bryan said...


A sign of hope in Ossory perhaps?

Sung Christmas Midnight Mass – Ad Primam Missam in Nativitate Domini
12am – St. Fiachra’s Church, Bohernatounish Rd., Loughboy, Kilkenny (Diocese of Ossory)

Celebrant: Rev. A. Komorowski FSSP.
With kind permission of Very Rev. Dan Carroll PP.

St Oliver Plunkett: Pray for us & Ireland!

JARay said...

As someone who grew up in Yorkshire I was accustomed to hearing Thou, Thee, Thy, Thine in everyday speech. I suspect that these know...Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative and Ablative have finally disappeared from the English language.
And yet, there is still a tiny remnant.
I refer to I, Me, My....We,Us, and Our.There are many who do not know when to say "You and I" or when to say "You and Me".
"You and I" are nominative case.
"You and me" are accusative case.
To make the right choice try saying "WE' and "Us"
eg "You and I are going to the theatre". "Us are going to the theatre"??? No..We are going to the theatre. So, "You and I" are correct
"The Queen spoke to you and I"???
"The Queen spoke to WE???
NO. No!
"The Queen spoke to US". Correct! So
"The Queen spoke to You and ME"
In the matter of "WHO" and "WHOM" there is still that relic of case.
"Ask not for WHO the bell tolls...etc"
"Ask not for WHOM the bell tolls..."
Dative case!
I rest my case.

shane said...

No, it won't even be a drop in the ocean. Unless you have priests from Ireland saying the Old Mass in their parishes, one may as well not bother. Unfortunately the Tridentine Mass has been dying out in Ireland with priestly retirements, the Latin Mass Society of Ireland was actually formed to preserve the Latin Mass, and can do little in the way of promoting it (not entirely their fault). At the SSPX chapel in Dublin, they used to boast about 600 every Sunday in the 1980s, now they only have about 60 at most. Amazingly they send their Irish priests abroad and import priests here.

shane said...

I dread the Eucharistic Congress, which is to be held in 2011 in Dublin. In light of all the scandals (and more to come), would it not be prudent to cancel it or at least transfer it to some other city? There will so many protests.

The Eucharistic Congress of 1932 was a major keystone in the Nation's life. See some photos here:

about the congress:

laicus said...


Never mind the "who" and "whom", dear. You're right of course, but that's much, much less important than this -

"Bishop O'Donoghue when he dared to break ranks with the Conference by issuing 'Fit for Mission?' was shunned by the Conference.

"The Bishops Conference, certainly in England ... removes bishops from a sense of direct responsibility to the diocese."

Absolutely bang on!!

Oh for more individual bishops who show by their words and actions that they have the sense of responsibility and the courage of a PO'D!

Bryan said...

From the Vatican's official biography of Blessed Pavol Godjic, Greek Catholic Bishop (Eparch) of Presov - died 1960, a white martyr.

"After his episcopal ordination he visited the basilica of St Peter in Rome, where he prayed on the tomb of the Apostle. On March 29th 1927, together with Bishop Nyaradi, he was received in a private audience by the Holy Father Pius XI. The pope gave Bishop Pavol a gold cross saying: „This cross is only a faint symbol of the heavy crosses that God will send you, my son, in your work as bishop“."

Perhaps the Irish Bishops are now feeling the heaviness of the cross of episcopal office: Cardinal Heenan's "Crown of Thorns".

Let's remember to pray for them!

JARay said...

Thanks Iaicus,
I was leaving the rest of the argument to folks like your own good self!
I just couldn't hold back any longer. I'm not very good at biting my tongue (mea culpa!)
I just couldn't stand "To WHO" any longer. It really grates on my ears and to my eyes!

JARay said...

Alas, I've mucked up also!
I should have written that it grates to mine eyes!
Dative case again!

laicus said...

"... the sense of *direct* responsibility" - that's the point.

Crux Fidelis said...

Fr Ray: You point the finger at the Irish bishops for toleration, cover up and complicity but didn't the same thing happen in your own diocese?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, in one case, which was discovered after our then bishop was translated to Westminster.

It was shameful!

Though perhaps we were more ignorant ten years ago, and the "experts" had advised the priest, Michael Hill, could continue in "active ministry".
The damage done really sapped the morale of the diocese.

Crux Fidelis said...

Fr Ray: And didn't the Irish cases mostly happen ten or more years ago?

JARay said...

Crux Fidelis,
I most certainly did not point the finger at the Irish Bishops.
How, on earth could you come to that conclusion?
My diocese is the Archdiocese of Perth, Western Australia.
We have never, ever, had any case of any untoward activity of a sexual nature with our priests.
On the other hand, sadly, in the case of the Christian Brothers, there is a number of recorded incidents of sexual abuse at Bindoon and, a statue of the brother involved has been removed. I remember seeing his statue and I have seen that his statue is no longer there. Bindoon is clearly heading for closure. In my opinion this is a tragedy. Bindoon was an agricultural college and trained boys in land management. That seems set to go!
Bindoon was not perfect but it still could offer something very positive. The Stations of the Cross on the drive down to the College are still there. I wonder how long they will remain?!


laicus said...

You are in no way wrong, JARay.

The purest of Latin and English declensions can be heard on Ilkley Moor.

Society of St. Oliver Plunkett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr Ray Blake said...


Yes, and the first academic study into repeat offending was only done in the late 70s (1979?).

Some of the Irish cases amounted to dozens of repeat offences, indicating deliberate "cover-up" rather than simple naivety.

Society of St. Oliver Plunkett said...

(Had to remove the previous post to correct an error.)


I certainly agree with your assessment, but every now and again there is a little hope too. People have to DO something! It is not only the clergy but us as well. We cannot just sit and complain - not that I am saying you are.

I can only speak of the current situation in our Diocese of Ossory (Kilkenny).

We do have a local diocesan priest who says the Mass in the 'usus antiquior' every Sunday. There is interest from other clergy in the diocese. We have a good working relationship with the PP, where we have the Mass, and the Bishop has been supportive. We cannot ask for more right now. It takes time, a lot of time, to teach and organise. We have to educate, how else will people know, both laity and clergy?

The reason for inviting a priest from outside Ireland, to say Mass at Christmas, has a lot to do with personal contacts and finding someone who is not busy with their own parish duties. What must be noted by an event like this is that we have not been pushed to some out of the way church, or being treated like some fringe group, but are in a parish in the heart of Kilkenny, in a residential area.

We have been impressed with, and very grateful for, the willingness to assist us. The main concern from the PP and the Bishop is that what we do is of ' a pastoral benefit'; a concern which both are quite right to have.

We can but pray that what we do is the will of Our Lord and that Our Lady will stand by us as we work. Ultimately it is God who must 'save the Church'. All, I think, we can do is offer Him our abilities and skills to do with them as He may.

Crux Fidelis said...

JARay: I was not referring to you and I'm mystified as to how you could possibly think that. My comments were addressed to Fr Ray Blake the owner of this blog.

Monica said...

Fr Ray - I will be quite happy if you choose not to publish this comment, but in charity I would ask you to consider amending your comment regarding the timing of the issue of infamous case in A and B.

It is not true to state that that event was "discovered after our then bishop was translated to Westminster". The bishop's translation took place in March 2000, whereas the events leading to the prosecution of the priest in question took place in May 1997, when the bishop was in place.

I'm sure you did not intend it to sound otherwise, but your comment as it stands could imply the events took place after the bishop was moved.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I firmly believe daylight is the best antiseptic, it was not my intention to mislead, thank you for clarifying for me.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I firmly believe daylight is the best antiseptic, it was not my intention to mislead, thank you for clarifying for me.

shane said...

Father Blake, have you seen this documentary?

(6 parts)

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...