“In order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread.”

[I]t is true that the Church may never simply align itself with the “Zeitgeist” [spirit of the times]. The Church must address the vices and perils of the time; she must appeal to the consciences of the powerful and of the intellectuals, not to mention of those who want to live narrow-minded, comfortable lives while ignoring the needs of the time, and so forth. As a bishop [of Munich] I felt obliged to face this task. Moreover, the deficits were too obvious: exhaustion of the faith, decline in vocations, lowering of moral standards even among men of the Church, an increasing tendency towards violence, and much else. The words of the Bible and of the Church Fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium. An interview with Peter Seewald. (Ignatius Press, 1996, pp. 82-83)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Cathy says:

    ….but Bishops are just really pastors and teachers, not fighters, right? With the exceptions of St. Nicholas, who was a pass-a-fist!

  2. rob_piccoli says:

    This is the plain truth, without “ifs” and “buts.” As simply, clearly, and briefly stated in the Gospel (if I may take the liberty of quoting from Matthew and Luke):

    “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law: and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
    He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
    And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me.
    [Matthew 10:34-38]

    I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what do I desire, if it is already kindled?
    But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
    Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
    They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law.
    [Luke 12:49-53]

  3. GW says:

    I could not agree more with his sentiments. Father Z, what would you like to see his holiness do? I recall that two days before the HHS released their decision, the Pope sent a letter to our nation’s Bishops, decrying the war on religion being conducted by the socialist left in this country. [If you are going to tell people about this, you will want to get the details right. Look HERE.] Obviously, Obama and many on the Catholic left did not seem troubled by that. So if you could influence the Pope’s next acts, what would you recommend to him? [Have a hands on role in the appointment of new bishops. Pope’s can’t micro-manage.]

  4. swilson18 says:

    Since we are quoting the Holy Father, here is the February 15th meditation from “Co-workers of the Truth” that I believe is apropos:

    “When the murder of innocent life is called a right, then injustice has become justice. When the law can no longer protect human life, it is suspect as law. Saying this does not mean wanting to impose specifically Christian morality on all members of a pluralistic society. What is in question here is human nature, the humanity of a person who cannot make the trampling on a created being a means of self-liberation without profoundly deceiving himself. The vehemence of the dispute over this question is due to the profundity of the question that is being discussed. Do we become free only when we have cut ourselves loose from creation and have cast it off as an enslavement? Or have we, precisely in so doing, betrayed ourselves? In the last analysis, the battle being waged is about man as such, and from that we Christians cannot dispense ourselves. But another aspect of the question arises here that is significant for the situation of mankind today. In the anxious attempt to obstruct the path of new human life as silently and as surely as possible, can we not detect a deep anxiety about the future? Two answers seem to suggest themselves here. On the one hand, this anxiety emanates, no doubt, from the fact that the free gift of life does not seem meaningful to us because we have lost the free gift of its meaning; there is evident a despair about one’s own life that makes us unwilling to impose on others the dark way of humanity. On the other hand, we see exemplified here clearly and simply a fear of competition, a fear of the curtailment the other may invariably be for me. The other, he who is to come, becomes a threat. True love is death, an obliteration of oneself before and for the other. But we have no desire for death. We want only to be ourselves and to lead lives as free as possible from sharing and disturbance. We do not realize and we do not want to realize that, by our avidity for life, we are actually destroying our own future, that we risk having our own lives fall into the hands of death.”
    From: Der Gott Jesu Christi, pp. 38ff.

    Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth, 60-61 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992).

  5. NoraLee9 says:

    Wow! This was powerful! It brought tears to my eyes.

  6. albizzi says:

    …”the Church may never simply align itself with the “Zeitgeist” [spirit of the times]”…
    Didn’t the John XXIII’s “aggiornamento” actually look like aligning the Church with the spirit of the times?

  7. CJD89 says:

    Great quote Father! I must now read the whole book! We need fighters out there!

  8. Supertradmum says:

    Great interview, which I have used several times. I think it is in the book that the great man also said that the Church would be small communities separated by a sea of unbelief. I have not seen this book, but other sources of the interview.

    Thank you for reminding us how prophetic this Pope is and has been.

  9. Mrs. O says:

    Yes. That is/was a problem. I realized this first hand when the reason why the local Catholic paper ran Fr. McBrien’s column was not because they found it helpful, sound theologically but because some liked it and they wanted to appease them. Instead of challenging their way of thinking, we were feed relativism.

  10. TravelerWithChrist says:

    …they are more concerned about losing $$$ than losing souls.

    I’m glad to see this coming from Papa, I pray he has the strength to fight with us the battle to change the attitude in our Church.

  11. tcreek says:

    “… shepherds who are like mute dogs; … they let the poison spread. …”

    Could there be a better definition of the American bishops of the last 50 years?

    The first indication of a bishop’s change of heart would be to fire those on his staff who outwardly support pro-abortion politicians. In my archdiocese they are legion and very easy to spot. But the bishops will not because …“Peace is [their] … first civic duty and [their] …only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible…”

  12. tealady24 says:

    So, to put it quite bluntly, why doesn’t he put his money where his mouth is?
    Start cleaning house, and start with the U.S.
    Benedict has the POWER to remove bishops who are less than bishops, and so-called sisters.
    There needs to be a real cleansing from within, if we are ever to get this Catholic house in order!

  13. NoTambourines says:

    God has really given us the right man for the job at the right time. I pray for his intentions, and also for his good health and happiness.

  14. tcreek says:

    I believe our Faith would be in far better shape, today, if Joseph Ratzinger had not been elected pope in 2005. 1978 would have been better.

  15. irishgirl says:

    Wow, these are ‘fightin’ words’ from our future Papa!
    Another quote I like is by Archbishop Sheen: ‘Be not administrators-be shepherds of souls!’

  16. Glen M says:

    As our shepherds, if the bishops aren’t protecting the flock from wolves and looking for lost sheep, then what are they doing? In many examinations of conscience I’ve read, causing someone to leave the faith is a mortal sin. There’s a case to be made that the recent trend of acquiescence and silence has done such a thing.

    Here’s my humbly submitted action plan:

    1. Instruct all priests to follow Church teachings in practice and homilies or leave.
    2. Send all Catholic politicians a personal letter reminding them of their responsibilities on social & sexual issues. If a politician publicly supports and votes for abortion, homosexual unions, etc, then exercise Canon 915 and/or excommunicate.
    3. Send all Catholic publications a similar personal letter. If they continue to promote dissent then instruct all parishes to discontinue subscriptions and put them on the banned books list. Canon 915 would apply to the editors and writers as well.
    4. Instruct all pastors to schedule weekly Adoration, Rosary, and celebrate the church patron’s feast day (if they aren’t doing so already). Make Confession more available. Carry out Summorum Pontificum. Give the faithful more opportunities to practice being Catholic outside of one hour per week or the social justice committee.
    5. Humbly accept the documents of Vatican II were misinterpreted, that we’re in a profound crisis, and that doing the same as before – not changing strategy – is by definition insane.

    Why does this seem so easy?

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    More fightin’ words needed!
    I think this passivity is part and parcel of the feminization of the Church. The Church needs men to be men, which involves active and stern defense of Her teachings. There’s too much sicky-sweet, cartoonish thinking going on, and too much desire ‘not to offend’ . . . .
    Anybody who’s ever dealt with a real shepherd recognizes that he looks less like this and more like this.

  18. Joe Magarac says:

    Here’s a question: to the extent that a bishop or pope is aware of a position which is counter to the Catholic faith, should he: a) speak out against it; b) fire, transfer, and/or excommunicate people who hold the position; or c) both?

    Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both done a) but not b). Many American bishops have also done a) but not b). This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are weak or spineless or what-have-you; it may mean that they are disinterested in administration or that they believe that firing, transferring, and/or excommunicating people would do more harm than good.

  19. PA mom says:

    Since last Ash Wednesday, I have been praying the Angelus every day for holiness in our priests and bishops. Reading Archbishop Chaput’s response on the matter certainly gave me the feeling that it is helping someone. Maybe the others will see that he still receives support and will be encouraged by it.

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  21. Kathleen10 says:

    To identify a problem is to begin to solve it. In a similar vein this is how I felt a few years ago about the media, then Bernard Goldberg (journalist) broke the topic wide open on media bias. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so, the same applies here. Having our Holy Father speak on the topic is a good start. We seem to now realize from where the problem is stemming, but, we have to figure out, now what.
    I think the Holy Spirit is giving us the Holy Father at the time we need him. So our dear Holy Father is where he needs to be, when he needs to be, if we are worthy of helping. I hope there is indeed one righteous man or woman.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    To have it pointed out to you by force is also a powerful motivator, Kathleen10. I think that’s just happened to Catholics. Now what will we do about it??

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  24. John Nolan says:

    It’s all very well expecting bishops to be prophetic witnesses, but historically their role has been administrative and as representatives of the First Estate, legislative; “Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, and by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in Parliament assembled …” Louis XVI’s last Controller-General of Finances before the Revolution (in effect the king’s chief minister) was Lomenie de Brienne, Archbishop of Toulouse. Although their administrative responsibilities are now diocesan, they are still political animals.

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