All of us have, from time to time, thought that we would do a better job at role “X” in the Church. “If I were Pope… if I were bishop… if I were pastor… if I were sacristan… youth group leader… usher… choir director…”.
That said, sometimes people really do have good suggestions, acute insights, which when offered with respect form part of what we are supposed to do as members of Holy Church. We have the right to offer our observations, so long as we do so with the proper decorum… and I might add thought. Not everyone thinks before hitting the send button.
My friend Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture did think before hitting the send button. He has a tour de force for bishops today.
Here is how he leads off.
The first reading at today’s Mass, in which St. Paul offers his advice on the selection of bishops, reminded me of a conversation with friends several years ago. As the Church was still reeling from the effects of scandal, we asked each other: What advice would you give to a newly appointed bishop? Herewith the results of that conversation.
[Premise:] The new bishop is young and energetic, fully orthodox, and filled with apostolic zeal. He is taking control of an average American diocese. [Not sure what “average” is… but let’s let that pass.] What assumptions should he make? What should he expect? What should he do?
Mr. Lawler, a long-time observer of and lover of and member of the Church, offers bullet-points. Lots of bullet-points. They are in these categories:
- Settling in: new ideas
- Building community in the new-look chancery
- Collaborating with the laity
- Thinking in new paradigms
- Consultation and dialog
- Networking and team ministry
- Ongoing processes
Each categories has bullet-points beneath. A lot of thought went into these lists. And some of them are pretty funny, while remaining serious. A few examples (from various categories and in no special order):
- Having informed him of your wishes on the matter, dock the diocesan paper editor a day’s pay every time your photo appears. The diocese is not about YOU.
- Catechesis is in bad shape, suffering from all the usual problems. Religious-education directors have been recruited through the National Catholic Reporter.
- Upon arrival, get rid of all paper shredders at the chancery and insist that no work be taken home in briefcases. Make friends with the maintenance man and the wash lady.
- Get to know some state troopers. Buy them a round of beer. Tell them that you want to hear about trouble from them, not from the press. Tell them it is a moral obligation to arrest wrong-doers. Ask them to pass the word.
- Cultivate a reputation for enjoying candor. When people give you a “nice” answer to your questions, press them: “You don’t really think that, do you?”
- Put the religious orders on notice. Maybe throw out one of the smaller ones just as a warning shot.
- Like Archbishop Pell of Sydney, Australia, get a secretary who’s married with several children. Break the daisy-chain.
- Skip a meeting of the USCCB and delay paying the annual assessment, just for the hell of it.
Some are serious… well, more obviously serious. Against from various categories and in no special order:
- About 20-30% of the priests are leftist ideologues, outright heretics, historically encouraged by previous bishops who either feared them or sympathized with them. The most corrupt and liberal priests are the most likely to try to cozy up to the new bishop with flattery. The conservatives are either too busy in their parishes or find such flattery repugnant.
- Let every person know, whether he (or she) wishes you well or ill, that you shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to ensure the survival and success of the confessional. In other words, expunge general absolution, ensure confessionals are screened, and see to a climate of orthodox confessional practice. Make it clear that you’ll be watching and act swiftly when someone brings you bad news.
- Open your own mail. You can farm out the projects later.
- Spend a lot of time at the seminary. Arrive unannounced frequently.
- Having found a few priests you can trust absolutely, spend some long late evenings going over personnel files with them.
There is a great deal more.
Enjoy them over there!
That said… I am sooooo glad I will never never never ever ever be a bishop. I don’t envy these men. They carry terrible burdens. Imagine how complicated it it to be a bishop these days.
Pray for bishops. The devil hates bishops.