Is Off The Record too hard on the bishops?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 16, 2003

In the England of Henry VIII, every Catholic bishop except one abandoned the Faith and became Protestant. Would Catholics who accused these bishops of sloth, cowardice, and heterodoxy -- in the months preceding the apostasy that proved them right -- be guilty of scandal-mongering? If it is always wrong to raise one's hand against the Lord's anointed, is it always wrong also to raise one's voice against him? Let's do a little stock-taking.

*A U.S. bishop pulls rank to bypass protocol and ordain his Costa Rican catamite to the priesthood, and fits him out with a beeper in order to summon him at all hours for sexual services.

*A U.S. bishop pays $450,000 of diocesan funds as hush money to a gay lover.

*A U.S. bishop throttles a male prostitute while the man is in the act of performing fellatio on him in his hotel room, this during a Knights of Columbus convention.

Note: the above incidents are not mere allegations but facts, admitted in each case by the bishop involved. There is no reason -- absolutely zero evidence -- to suggest that their brother bishops would have moved to depose them had not the scandals become glaringly public (in the last case, the bishop died before the story broke). In spite of this, some will console themselves by pretending that

a) steps are being taken "behind the scenes" to clean the stables.

b) the above-mentioned cases are flukes and, by a happy coincidence, all the rogues and heretics have been eliminated.

c) public agitation against the bad guys was malicious and unnecessary because the normal oversight and discipline would have bagged them anyway.

As Christ's spotless bride, the Church is holy. She was holy in 1535, in spite of her rotten episcopacy. She is holy today, in spite of some of her ministers' lies, depravity, cover-ups, gutlessness. It would be great, of course, if the bishops helped us see and love her holiness by moving to rid themselves of villains in their midst before the first whisper of scandal reached the ears of the faithful. Either they can't, or they won't. So how do the rest of us respond?

Many half-Catholics gloat over the Church's humiliation because they reject her teachings and hate the notion of ecclesial authority full-stop. But many real Catholics -- and this is true frequently in the Church's history -- value the meaning of the bishop's office more than do the bishops who hold it; in remonstrating with episcopal frauds and time-servers they are defending the nobility of the calling of bishop, not spitting on it.

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