Those Blasted Bishops | Carrie Gress| CWR blog
Like Family, They May Not Be Perfect, But They Are Our Imperfections
While disgruntled criticisms of Catholic bishops are nothing new, there seems to be an increase of late, especially since the start of Pope Francis’s pontificate. There is clearly no denying that there are problems within the Church, but Catholic moral teaching makes it clear that murmuring against our bishops shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cheap chatter, intellectual pride, and unchecked emotions can often make it difficult to discern who is in the right and make such murmurs justifiable.
There are, however, six—at least—critical things to consider before engaging in public criticism of any bishop (including the Bishop of Rome):
1) The Necessity of Bishops
Throughout the Church’s twenty-century history, the primacy and necessity of the bishop has always been emphasized as the glue uniting the people of God to the Church of Christ. St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his letters from prison before being eaten by lions in Rome’s Coliseum, emphasizes over and over again the importance of being in accord with the bishop: “Defer to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ did to the Father in the days of his flesh, and as the apostles did to Christ, to the Father, and to the Spirit. In that way we shall achieve complete unity.” (Letters of Ignatius: Magnesians, 97) And later, “Flee from schism as the source of mischief. You should all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father.” (Letters of Ignatius: Smyrnaeans, 115). Ignatius, like others after him, refers to the essential familial relationship of disciples to the bishops like Christ to his Father.
Like a crack in the windshield, the first break with bishops will only lead to further cracks, as we have ample evidence from the Protestant Reformation. (Although there is no concrete number available because of all the overlap, a quick Internet search says that there are over 41,000 different Christian denominations. Talk about splintering.)
“Surely Ignatius never saw bishops this bad,” one might protest. A brief survey of history will confirm that, yes, bishops have been this bad before. Worse even.
2) The Pope Isn’t a CEO