Oh, that sort of misconduct

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 29, 2014

Bishop Kieran Conry has resigned, admitting to personal misconduct. Although he has not been specific, it seems likely that he’s referring to some form of sexual misconduct. Fair enough. We don’t need to know the details.

But there are some things that we do know about Bishop Conry’s conduct during his years as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. We know that he made a point of declining to defend Church teaching on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. We know that he admitted to reservations about Church teaching on contraception, and scoffed at the notion that the Church should speak to young people about salvation.

Bishop Conry has now admitted that he had been “unfaithful to my promises as a Catholic priest.” Insofar as a Catholic priest—and especially a bishop—promises to hold and teach the Catholic faith, we already knew that.

Update

And now we learn that, sure enough, the bishop’s problem was an affair with a woman (or perhaps more than one) which had been brought to light by a British tabloid. Admitting his failing, Bishop Conry nevertheless maintained: “I don’t think people would say I have been a bad bishop.” Perhaps that’s true. People are very forgiving, and have sadly grown accustomed to hearing about clerics’ indiscretions.

The bishop also defended himself against charges of hypocrisy: “I have been very careful not to make sexual morality a priority,” he said. “I don’t think it got in the way of my job.”

Let’s pass lightly over the fact that the bishop referred to his ministry as a “job.” We all sometimes choose the wrong word, particularly when we’re under stress. Let’s look instead at the logic of the bishop’s claim.

Suppose Bishop Conry had worded that sentence a bit differently: “Since I was a party to adultery, I never preached against adultery.” The message would be essentially the same, would it not? Yet that more candid wording would make it clear that the bishop was definitely not doing his “job” as a moral leader.

If, through your own moral failings, you make it impossible to preach effectively, then, yes, you are a bad bishop.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Sep. 30, 2014 8:23 PM ET USA

    Hm. Given the motive, I suppose he didn't have a choice. I withdraw my praise.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Sep. 30, 2014 7:56 AM ET USA

    Does explain things. I must say, however, that even not knowing what he resigned for, he showed great dignity in his resignation.