Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It is not orthodoxy but goodness we need

I am really pleased about the appointment of the new Bishop of Portsmouth, pray for him, his clergy and people.

I have a friend staying with me lately he is involved in seminary formation, in a seminary distant from the English speaking world. We have been speaking about the qualities needed in bishops, priests and seminarians.
I suspect first and foremost most readers of this blog would say being orthodox was the first quality that should be sought. Though it is important it, I would suggest it is not as important as pretty basic qualities, such as honesty, transparency, truthfulness, personal integrity, kindness; the lack of some of these qualities in some bishops, for example  in Ireland, seems to have been disastrous for the Church.
Being a good person seems pretty basic but I can't really remember that it was much sought, or encouraged or developed in my time in the seminary, it was certainly welcomed when it was found but not actively sought nor actively encouraged, indeed many of those who formed seminarians seemed not to be themselves actually "good". They might have a whole lot of other skills such as administrative or academic ability or even affability but not first and foremost "goodness".

This is important because "goodness" is the beginning of sanctity, its absence suggests that the Holy Spirit is absent in someone's life. Orthodoxy isn't meant to be an arid negation of belief but a but a positive affirmation of truth that is a manifestation of God's Glory. God's Glory has a moral dimension which is revealed in simple human goodness, a goodness that speaks and reflects with evangelical clarity of God's goodness.

I am sure things are different now, from my seminary days. I was talking to a priest who spent time with a recently with a bishop who had spent time with the Pope, I was so pleased when he said that what delighted him wasn't so much his cleverness but simply that he was evidently good.

Whatever other qualities Mgr Egan has, I pray that chief among them is simple "goodness". It is that quality that should distinguish Christians from others and be the basis of the "New Evangelism", it should be the first and most notable characteristic of a Bishop.


Lynda said...

There can be no holiness in a member of the Catholic Church, particularly priests, without orthodoxy - but orthodoxy is just a basic requirement.

shadowlands said...

When I am praying my rosary regularly, I notice the greatest changes in my attitudes and behaviour. It is no longer a struggle to choose what is best, it becomes straightforward.

I suppose it allows Mary to help form Jesus in our beings.

Hail Mary, FULL of Grace.

Fr Tim Finigan said...

Phil is a good man. (He's orthodox too!)

Mark said...

So simple but so true. It is often overlooked and must be the primary quality in all good Catholics!

parepidemos said...

Lynda, Whilst orthodoxy is important, without being accompanied by goodness it breeds rigidity, deceptiveness and even cruelty; this was tragically apparent in Ireland. Father Blake is correct in what he has written.

TRAD DAD said...

Perhaps a man must be a good man before he can become a good priest .
Pax et bonum .
From Our Lady`s Land of the Southern Cross .

epsilon said...

Ireland will be OK now that we have a priest whose sole purpose in being in Ireland is for the re-sanctification of priests - he is the essence of kindness - this wonderful, holy priest is Dom Mark Daniel Kirby. May God bless him and all the wonderful people around him building up the priory at Silverstream!

Charles G said...

Perhaps we can do the Catholic "both...and..." thing here? I would hate to do without either goodness or orthodoxy, particularly since there have been so many bishops whose willingness to stand up and teach orthodoxy against the cultural currents is somewhat feeble...

Anonymous said...


It's evident that you have not understood Lynda's post. Orthodoxy is an absolutely necessary, but of itself insufficient, requirement. That's what she was saying.

+ Wolsey

Fr Mark said...

Well said Fr. ! The problem is that quite a lot of people who esteem themselves paragons of orthodoxy are just plain nasty!

John Kearney said...

Orthodoxy does not necessarily lead on to goodnes, but goodness should lead us to orthodoxy. The good man is careful in his judgement, sound in his love of others, and always is directed by truth.

Supertradmum said...

We laity do not need merely good priests, we need holy priests. We do not need merely nice priests, we need priest seeking perfection. God bless this good new Bishop.

Dr Andrew Beards said...

Dear Fr Blake,

Bishop-elect Mgr Egan is both orthodox and pretty good as well!
I would say that being orthodox is part of being good, while it is true that some theologians hold that the devils know many truths denied by some liberals!
Mgr Phil has been a close friend for over twenty years. We have done the Lonergan conference circuit together in Germany and the US. About 50 per cent of the time together we spend laughing! (No, make that 75 per cent!) Those of our friends who were able to come to our 25th wedding anniversary two years ago would remember (then) Fr Philip and Fr Gerald with Fr Elkin for our lovely Mass at St Mary’s Barnard Castle. Fr Phil preached and even managed to get Lonergan in there!
I can't speak highly enough of him and I think William Oddie's comments are right, although I even think they are an understatement! On earth, Bishop Mark Davies and the new Nuncio are the agents here. And this does confirm all kinds of good things we have been hearing about our new Nuncio from different sources. In heaven I know Mgr Phil (who kindly made the time to email me and Tina yesterday) sees one of the key players as St John Vianney, whose heart he had been praying before and on whose feast day he was ordained.
People are picking up on all kinds of things about Bishop-elect Egan, including his talk saying Humanae vitae is infallible – no disagreement there!
I would like to add a couple of things here, from among the many I could add (I am sure I am not saying anything here that would go beyond what one should). Firstly, Bishop-elect Egan shares completely the Holy Father’s vision of the liturgical reform of the reform. Like many of us he humbly accepts certain liturgical permissions which the Church has allowed in the last couple of decades but would not be at all sad to see these changed back to what they were, should Mother Church decide.
He is a very good Latinist having studied classics at London University before seminary. When head of studies at Oscott he was one of the priests there who, before Summorum Pontificum, worked to get novus ordo Latin Masses in the seminary and with some success. We used to meet up regularly at Oscott in a period of about five years when we were both in Birmingham, and we would start our time together with Mgr Phil saying a private Mass: novus ordo Latin, eastward facing (latterly). When Summorum Pontificum came along Mgr Phil wanted to conform his mind, as normal, to that of the Holy Father. I know he is very positive about it and all that happened at New Brighton, for instance. He just has been too busy of late to take things further personally. But when I say him not so long ago he was asking me about courses to train up altar servers in the EF, with the thought he could send some of his on one.
The second point: Mgr Phil will be the most highly qualified theologian among the Bishops. He has a Ph.D. in Theology and, as far as I know, while other Bishops have honorary doctorates none have one of these! Also he has a book and serious academic publications and conference papers. I know the other Bishops know this. For better or worse, since Vatican II there has been great deference paid to qualified theologians – often for worse. I don’t want to get into negative waters here, but suffice it to say this is why the last Holy Father and this Holy Father have been promoting Bishops who are also theologians. That Mgr Philip is such among the Bishops will mean a great deal – and, in addition, Rome keeps on looking at such Bishops for further needs it has!

Dr. Andrew Beards

Ray said...

A venerable bishop name of Sheen used to say the most important characteristic for any priest, bishop etc. was OBEDIENCE. That would be toward your bishop, Pope and Church.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought that Orthodoxy includes goodness, Can one be truly orthodox without goodness?

Something about practising what one believes and teaches come to mind. Hence the strong connection between Moral theology and Dogmatic Theology.
Too often, imho, some prefer to believe in accordance with their behaviour, rather than behaving in accordance with their beliefs.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Dr Beard,
Thank you so much for this personal testament, it echoes what so many people have said,
The people of Portsmouth are going to be truly blessed by Mgr Egan's ministry - I pray he will blessed by being in Portsmouth, and here in the south.

Ma Tucker said...

Jesus tells us that only God is good and I'm sure, being God He knows himself rightly (i.e is orthodox). For this reason I'd be disinclined to separate orthodoxy and goodness.

JARay said...

I would add that those above have spoken truly.
Goodness and holiness are not separate virtues.
I can only be glad at this appointment.

John Fisher said...

"Being a good person seems pretty basic". I am bothered by this as one can be "good" withour being orthodox. Yet without being orthodox one does not know what good is? The modern gospel of niceness is really all about the nice being nice while not living virtuous or moral lives. The being or apperaing good is like honey luring others to error.
I would argue many of the bishops in Ireland are neither orthodox or good. They avoid and certainly do nothing that costs them...there are mnay clergy like that. We live in times where authority is simple authority and it does not really care about what is good or orthodox...but only power.

StevieD said...

I was surprised to be told by a Baptist colleague years ago that the 'Imitation of Christ' was required reading for British candidates studying for the Baptist ministry. Do our seminarians read it?

KimHatton said...

Orthodoxy seems to be getting unequivocally yoked to the extraordinary form here and while myself and my wife would prefer mass in the tridentine rite it is not easy to find nearby. We've recently had a change of priest in our parish and the 'children's liturgy' has been introduced, from which we held ours back. On John The Baptist's Memorial the children were asked whose birthday it was by our new priest. JESUS! was the answer shouted out with gusto. I doubt that you will publish me citing such the Anglican liberal as Rev Harry Williams but he noted that minors at school's and Sunday Schools were apt to aswer any religious question with 'The Body and Blood of Christ. Our children do not nor ever would but we are are a very norvus ordo family.

KimHatton said...

"I would have thought that Orthodoxy includes goodness"

Fr Ray, forgive me if I was wrong but I rather thought your post was, challengingly, saying more than this?

george said...

And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

Joe Potillor said...

Having seen the effects of the church of nice or the church of good intentions here in America...A Bishop should be

b. Orthodox
c. Obedient to the Holy Father