Robert Royal to U.S. Bishops: Be men. Be gentlemen. Be kind. Stop being nice!

From The Catholic Thing:

Quo Vadis – O, Bishops?
By Robert Royal

I am not a big fan of taking the long view. It may sometimes be wise, even necessary, in human terms. But I’m far more attracted by what is probably the most neglected of Jesus’ sayings: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk. 12:49)

The U. S. bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week for their annual get-together. The scuttlebutt is that they will be mostly discussing matters internal to the Church in America. If they were asking my advice – for some reason, they seem to have forgotten to call – I would strongly urge that they begin with a collective session of lectio divina about kindling fires.

I’d also suggest a few other things. To start with, forget about being nice. It doesn’t work. Be gentlemen. Be kind. But forget nice. As learned Latinists, [HA HA HA HA HA HA!] you no doubt know that the word comes from nescius, which means ignorant. It came, early in modern languages, to mean foolish. Today, an idiomatic translation might be: clueless.

Kindness, of course, is a different matter entirely. Our Lord was kind – kind enough to tell people the truth. His combination of hard and soft is always what we need. Nietzsche, who was brought up among fussing women in a wishy-washy Protestant pastor’s home, emphasized the need to be hard. Like all heretics, he had a point, but rode it a bit too hard to the neglect of other truths.

Christianity, as Nietzsche noted, has been becoming overly feminized, as has the developed world. Mary is the model Christian and the people who have been pushing the Communio theology are right: our first orientation has to be passive, to receive what God is telling us as the Virgin received the Word into her womb.

Women are quite capable at times of some of the masculine virtues, of course. But forget the politically correct notion that there are no specifically male and female virtues. In the normal course of things, when the refrigerator needs to be moved, it’s father and son, not mother and daughter, who should do the heavy lifting.

And in the middle of the night, if there’s a noise downstairs that sounds like a burglar, you don’t nudge your wife and say, “Your turn. I went down to check last time.” Be men. Think big. Act big, too. Play big-league ball.

The LCWR, the media, and other softballers will continue to try to thwart you with talk of patriarchy and the old boys’ club. Be true gentlemen. Listen to all sincerely, but listen to God more.

Beware of the two great distortions, bordering on heresies, in our time:

“Judge not.” Yes, that’s in the Bible, but Christ had no difficulty also stating the difference between right and wrong. In fact, you may have noticed that there’s more than a little holy anger in the Gospels and dire prophetic warnings to individuals and whole groups. Christ is the model. Are you going to follow Him or take the easy way, the one that only seems compassionate? (See “nice” above.)

“But Jesus welcomed everyone.” Yes, he did, but on His terms, not theirs. If Christianity means just accepting everybody as they already are, indeed as they demand to be accepted – evil capitalists and mean orthodox Christians excepted, of course – why have a Church at all? The politicians are already quite prepared to tell everyone (with the same exceptions just noted) how wonderful, unless it’s “amazing,” they all are. Leave that sort of thing to the snake-oil salesmen.
Be clear about this. The person who invented the phrase, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” was no real Christian. Jesus does both, and Catholics are practitioners of the both/and, not the either/or.


Read the rest there.

Royal hit the nail on the head, or as the Latinist bishops would say, rem acu tetigit.



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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    More good stuff, Pater.

    Another phrase that gets trotted out a lot has bishops being “good listeners”. Umm, well, listening is fine, up to a point, I guess, but bottom line, the Apostles did not get martyred for being “good listeners”; they got martyred for being relentless proclaimers, in season and out, despite their sins, and regardless of whether folks wanted to listen to them.

  2. frjim4321 says:

    At first I was quite skeptical of Royal’s comments, but in retrospect would agree that the bishops probably do have to do something dramatic to win back the moral authority that has been devastated by the sexual abuse crisis, imposition of the Vox Clara 2010 product and more. Perhaps a few imprisonments would make an impression; but it probably would have been sufficient if B. Law and a couple other prelates had received just reprisals.

  3. Crucesignata says:

    Hahahahaha! This is awesome! :) Yeah, I have to stop using that word for every other thing… a hard habit to break. I looked it up in the SOED (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary), and it comes up with all sorts of terrible meanings! Lol, not ANYTHING like how most people use it today….

  4. EXCHIEF says:

    All Bishops have to do to “win back the moral majority” is be the Bishops they should have been all long….but in their zeal to be friends with everyone and not alienate anyone they haven’t and, unfortunately IMO,with rare exception won’t. The Church in the USA in order to re-build must shed the baggage. And, the baggage are all the little c catholics particularly the ones who hold public office. The small number of orthodix Bishops and Priests along with tradition based Catholics (at least the ones not martyred by the Marxist and his successors) will form the foundation for the re-build which is absolutely essential. This has happened before in history and will happen again.

  5. Dave N. says:

    I’d like to see how the bishops would do on a first-year Latin exam.

  6. Del says:

    It would be suitable if Cardinal Law and Father Jim received the justice that is due to them. [?!? frjim isn’t exactly the most traditional priest around here, but your implication is OVER THE TOP.] Nobody appreciates mercy, when other persons are receiving it. (There’s a parable or two in the Bible about this, btw.)

    But neither harsh justice nor gentle mercy from the bishops matters — the bishops’ moral authority is weakened because the world does not want to hear the truths that they must speak. The world says, “We will listen when you change your message.”

    The world wants married priests and lady-priests and gay-marriage and gay-married-lady-priests…. and above all, free birth control and abortion.

    And if our bishops want to get to heaven and see Our Lord, they need to say, “NO.” Kindly and firmly.

  7. ljc says:

    I thought Bishop Tobin hit the nail on the head last night during debate on the economic letter. Essentially he said, “great letter, but do we really need another letter? Another letter that almost no one will read? Why don’t we go back to our Dioceses and DO something about the problems instead of writing endless letters.” OK thats paraphrasing according to memory, but that was the message I got from what he said.

  8. AnnAsher says:

    “We all *basically* believe the same thing” is my submission for addition to the list of modern heresies.

  9. frjim4321 says:

    Del says:
    14 November 2012 at 8:35 pm

    It would be suitable if Cardinal Law and Father Jim received the justice that is due to them.

    Right, next time I enable child rape I’ll let you know so you can make sure I’m duly punished.

    You have no idea how much harm was done to the church by rewarding Law with a cush job safe from extradition. We’re living with it now, and most likely the primary reason why just about nobody takes the bishops seriously when they talk about life and social justice.

  10. Bea says:

    You can’t beat.

    Tough Love

    That’s True Love

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    Many Catholics are wondering if the bishops are going to crumble when the HHS mandate really hits next year. This is a serious matter. Their behavior this week has not been very encouraging. They’re off in some toney hotel discussing social justice whatever and reminiscing over Dorothy Day, of all people. They’d better get with it and figure out what’s going to happen on their end…..

  12. Pingback: Bishop Geoffrey Robinson Confessional Seal Scandal Fr Bryan Hehir | Big Pulpit

  13. RJHighland says:

    It is rather simple really, most of these Bishops we have in the US have never even attempted to remove the log from thier eye so how can they tell others to remove the log from their eye. I think the confessions and public penance should be lead by our Bishops and priests. 50% of “catholics” voted pretty much for the continuation of Roe V. Wade and gay marriage for the next couple generations. In God’s eye we are the new Sodom. It is not a case of wolves in sheeps clothing anymore it is a case of wolves carrying the shepherd’s staff and leading the flock to slaughter. I fear we as a country have separated ourselves from God and our Bishops led the way in what they have done and what they have failed to do. Ahh the fruits of the spirit of Vatican II abound and their fruits have been harvested by President Obama and the progressive leftists in this country. “Social justice” is the rule of the land and acts of intrinsic evil be damned.

  14. Southern Catholic says:

    Right, next time I enable child rape I’ll let you know so you can make sure I’m duly punished.

    You enable abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia by your support of those positions, and each are just as grave as child abuse. How exactly are you any different?

  15. StWinefride says:

    It is not a case of wolves in sheeps clothing anymore it is a case of wolves carrying the shepherd’s staff and leading the flock to slaughter.

    When I read that, the photo of President Obama and Cardinal Dolan guffawing with laughter came into my mind.

    The hierarchy of Holy Mother Church need to behave in a more circumspect manner around politicians who they know espouse anti-Catholic views. I wonder how many Catholics voted for Obama because of that photo? Sounds a shallow things to say, but I’ve heard it all when it comes to people justifying their voting choice. Actions speak louder than words.

    I also believe bloggers should be more circumspect when praising the actions of a particular Bishop or Cardinal. Yes, from time to time, they do something very good, but at others their silence is deafening.

    One is either for God or one is against Him. More than ever, it’s time to choose sides.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us
    St Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

  16. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    At first I was quite skeptical of Royal’s comments, but in retrospect would agree that the bishops probably do have to do something dramatic to win back the moral authority that has been devastated by the sexual abuse crisis, imposition of the Vox Clara 2010 product and more.

    Agree about the sexual scandals, but it’s silly and stupid to include liturgical changes in that category just because your liberal clique objects to them.

    Perhaps a few imprisonments would make an impression; but it probably would have been sufficient if B. Law and a couple other prelates had received just reprisals.

    Of course, the scandals went beyond illegalities. Weakland using diocesan funds to pay hush money paid to his former boyfriend wasn’t illegal. And from what I heard in Rome, there was also hush money paid by a Midwestern Cardinal to his accuser, both of whom are now dead.

  17. Scott W. says:

    Indeed it has long ago become clear that the usual suspects only care about child abuse as far as its usefulness in promoting a leftist version of Shock Doctrine.

  18. LisaP. says:

    I’m all for the be men thing, and hate nice — but I do think while he’s being cutesy he kind of goes wonky on the male / female virtues thing. Yes, my husband is the one to go check out the noise in the dark, but it’s because he’s taking point while I get the shotgun (metaphorically, of course ;) ). I don’t sit with the covers over my head waiting for him to come back or not.

    I mention it only because, yes, the bishops need to man up. And the priests. And the laymen. And the women need to woman up. The problem is not that Catholic men are too womanish, that implies that a real woman would tolerate the debasement of our faith, the lies about our Church, the death and abuse of innocents, in the name of “niceness”. Mary was at the foot of the cross, not swooning on the couch at home with the vapours. A *real* woman is not “nice”, either! Take the greatest example, the tolerance of abortion. A man protects his babies with all the strength in him. A woman throws herself between her baby and the fire. Same end, same intensity, different usual action.

    I take his point with good humour, but I really think he needs to be more clear. The problem is not that the bishops have been women. The problem is that too many Catholics have been bureaucrats, managing problems instead of condemning sin and glorifying God. Don’t slander my sex by ascribing the worst mincing of the bishops to it — that is not ours. But also don’t let my sex off the hook, if we mince, fault us also!

  19. padre11 says:

    My spiritual director had a warning for this sort of clerical syndrome: “in the seminary, too often, boys exchange the vices of young men for the vices of old women.” The art of priestly manhood has suffered much but is not lost.

  20. wmeyer says:

    Right, next time I enable child rape I’ll let you know so you can make sure I’m duly punished.

    I saw no implication in Del’s post that you and the Cardinal shared the same sins.

  21. wmeyer says:

    We have some exemplary bishops, men who stand tall and speak clearly what the faith teaches, and its application to life. The names are often mentioned in these pages, as all of us are likely to realize. We need more of our bishops to lead in this way, being the shepherds their flocks need. We may not always like the lessons, but we know full well they are needful.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Fr Jim — He’s an on-topic commenter (usually) who provides a window into what some priests are thinking. And he’s not nearly as nuts as “Spirit of Vatican II” and certain other commenters over the years. Let the man have his say.

    Re: Cardinal Law, I still don’t know why exile is regarded as cushy, especially perpetual exile in a cavernous ancient church that’s not open most of the time and perpetually needs repairs, and especially when it’s one with huge pictures of Jesus, Mary, and St. John Bosco looking down at you in perpetual disapproval. “My sins are always before me” is a pretty nasty punishment for bad shepherding.

    There’s a quirk in American psychology that thinks that since foreign travel is expensive, living in a foreign country must be luxury. And yet, most rich Americans don’t choose to live overseas most of the time, so we know it can’t be all that great. If it wasn’t something you chose, living in the Ritz would be nasty; so I’m sure that a penal exile to Rome isn’t much fun.

  23. acardnal says:

    Robert Royal will be a guest on EWTN’s “World Over with Raymond Arroyo” tonight, at 8 PM EST/7 CST and will discuss the recent USCCB Convention.

  24. aragonjohn7 says:

    Jesus Christ like a boss.
    Is the example many people forget to emulate unfortunately.

    Thank you Father for providing this insight

    God bless

  25. Kathleen10 says:

    How inextricably linked are faith and politics. There is no point acting as if they are separate, they are almost one!
    Today both are harmed by the avoidance of hard truths by those in charge. I can do nothing about how our political “leaders” decide to run a campaign, who they promote, candidates that are selected, platforms they formulate.
    Same thing with the Bishops. I can do nothing about what our Bishops decide on critical issues, what they promote, ideologies that are supported or not, truth that is buried, ignored, suppressed, or, discarded.
    Today I feel the same sense of frustration with both. We see our culture and our country declining, ever declining. There is no point in painting our faces with a big smile and pretending. We are in trouble here. What’s to be done!

    I don’t know. All I do know is, that we ARE in trouble, that hypocrisy breeds public resentment, that our culture would prefer we just be silent on abortion, contraception coverage, gay “marriage” and the longer we are silent, the more intrenched it gets. Clearly. We know that 50% of our “Catholic” brethren voted for Obama! I admit I would love to know how our Bishops voted in this incredibly important election.
    Regarding this article, I agree with Mr. Royal’s critique, and agree that it has traditionally been the expectation for women to be “nice”. The feminization of our culture cannot be disputed! Yes there are women who can be brave and forthright, but that does not change the fact that our culture has adopted an odd preference for all things polite and nice. This has worked sweetly to stifle real debate and honest dialogue! Why? Why would “niceness” be a sudden value in our American culture? Always ask what purpose it serves the Left, and you will usually be able to connect those dots.
    It STIFLES meaningful dissent. When one is busy being “polite” and “nice” and avoiding “personal attacks” and “criticism” one can say almost nothing! We as a culture care much more about superficial, outward appearances than we do TRUTH. And TRUTH is messy, sometimes abrasive, sometimes assertive, sometimes, well, I do hate to quote a liberal but, inconvenient.
    We have our own inconvenient truths to work on, but as long as we are more focused on being “nice” than those truths will have to wait. Rome burns while somebody fiddles.
    In addition to speaking the hard truths, which require actual conviction, the other factor is that there be sufficient NUMBERS to support the saying of hard truths. It is darned near impossible today to operate as Saint John the Baptist did, and be a voice crying out in the wilderness.
    Can we GET many leaders of political parties or faiths to say the hard truths pointedly, directly, unequivocally, with spirit and courage, humor and determination?
    Or, are we going to see more watering down, caving in, avoiding what nobody wants to hear, and so on. I think the answer to this question is the one that actually determines where we go from here in both politics, American culture, and our Catholic faith.

  26. netokor says:

    Our Lady will help us stand our ground in the coming persecution. The abortionist, feminist and homosexual agendas will use all of their energy and resources to try to wipe out the Church. We must trust absolutely in the Lord, that we may share in His victory.

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