Action Alert!

Quick Hits: Exhortations to bishops—and by bishops

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 09, 2018

Jayd Henricks, who once served as a senior staffer for the US bishops’ conference, hits a number of nails on the head in a blunt but respectful open letter to the American bishops as they head into their November meeting. He fully recognizes, and names, the powerful forces that might inhibit the bishops from taking effective action in a time of crisis. A few samples:

Far too often, fear appears to govern what is done or not done by you as a body. There is the fear of disunity, fear of conflict, fear of disrupting a superficial collegiality, and today, more than ever, fear of Rome. …the bottom line is that it sometimes appears that many of you are governed by fear of each other and of the institutional order more than by the fear of God.

And:

It has also been my observation that your work as an association of bishops leads many of you to value the appearance of unity over adherence to principle.

But those are only a few samples; this piece is chock-full of good sense. Read the whole thing—especially if you’re a bishop.


And if you are a bishop, what should you say to your brother bishops when they fall short of their duties? When I’m interviewed about my book Smoke of Satan, I’m frequently asked whether I really expect bishops to denounce each other. I don’t; the public denunciation of a colleague is—and should be—the last thing a responsible bishop will contemplate. (Notice, however, that doesn’t mean it would never happen. If all else fails to produce reform, one might be forced to consider the “last thing” on the list of possible steps.)

So how should a bishop administer fraternal correction to an erring colleague? Privately. But, when necessary, forcefully. Back in 2005, our pseudonymous analyst Diogenes provided a model: the letter he would have written, if he were a bishop, to Bishop William Skylstad, who at the time was the president of the US bishops’ conference.

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.

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