ASK FATHER: “Do you know a time with blessed bishops?”

From a reader…


YOU: “reasonable or not, charitable or not, moral or not.” [I wrote that HERE]

Write more about that during history.  I doubt this was different in the past…  pre CV2…  Generally, bishops were ever crooks.  Machiavelians before Machiavel was even born!  Why?  Explain this mystery of evil.  It’s hard to my soul notice that this was ever like that during History.  Do you know a time with blessed bishops?…  Good bishops, when existed?

Explain “this mystery of evil”?  It is the mystery of evil.

Our first parents were unfaithful to God and, through them, terrible wounds were inflicted in our souls.  The “prince of this word”, as Christ called the Devil, the Enemy of our soul, now has a certain dominance over material creation.  The Enemy is very good at being an enemy and we poor fallen mortals have wounds that make it hard to resist temptations.

Was there a time with “blessed bishops”?

Yes and No.

Yes, in every time since the Lord consecrated His Twelve Apostles at

the Last Supper there have been “blessed bishops”.

No, in every time since the Lord consecrated His Twelve Apostles at the Last Supper there have NOT been “blessed bishops”.

Consider that the very first collegial act of the entire Body of Bishops was to abandon the Lord.  There were only Twelve, but they all abandoned Him.  Even John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, ran from the Garden of Gethsemane, though He did return to the Cross.   Peter, the Head of the Body of Bishops, who loved Jesus more than the others, denied even knowing the Lord, though he repented and was reconciled and, years later, was martyred in Rome.  One 12th of all the Bishops in the world (at the time) sold the Lord for 30 pieces of silver.

That’s not a great foundation and history has shown time and again that bishops can be and often are rotten to the core.  It has ever been so, it is now, and shall be until the Lord returns.

And before someone jumps into the combox with the old chestnut that St John

Chrysostom said that the floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops … NO!  St. John Chrysostom did not say that.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.  It just means that he did not say that.

The fact is that bishops are men.  The Enemy hates them as men, and hates them even more as bishops.  The Enemy is relentless and smart.  He knows that if a bishop can be turned to a life of vice, or even perhaps possessed, great harm can result to the Church and to the faith of many simple people.  If bad men can be maneuvered into those big chairs, more souls can be twisted away from God.  So the Enemy strikes high. Actually, I don’t believe that many bishops are actively wicked.  Most of the bad one are simply cowards who crumble under pressure of the three perennial forces that we all face: the world, the flesh and the Devil.  That includes, of course, “human respect”.

At the same time, all these Apostle bishops and all their successors are “blessed”.  They are blessed in that the Lord has chosen them.  Mind you always: God does not choose men who are worthy; He chooses those whom it pleases Him to chose.   Consider:

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,  so that no one might boast in the presence of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Bishops are a blessing, even when they are bad at being bishops.   They, like wicked priests, remind us that God is in charge, that God is the true author of holiness of the sacraments and their true administrator.   They, like wicked priests, are a mirror held up to our own responsibilities and failures in the Church.  , in his work The Priest: His Dignity and Obligations, wrote about bad priests, which is doubly, triply applicable about bishops…

The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clerics who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. Instead of nourishing those committed to their care, they rend and devour them brutally. Instead of leading their people to God, they drag Christian souls into hell in their train. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they are its innocuous poison and its murky darkness. St. Gregory the Great says that priests and pastors will stand condemned before God as the murderers of any souls lost through neglect or silence….

When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, “Return, 0 ye revolting children . . . and I will give you pastors according to my own heart” (Jer. 3, 14-15). Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge visited upon the people in consequence of sin.

Turn the sock inside out.   If we see bad bishops and priests at work, venal or cowards or heterodox, then we have to examine our own consciences.   If we get the bishops we deserve, then but looking carefully at those bishops and their deficiencies, we begin to see where we need to apply the remedies.  Gnothi seauton as the ancients said, know thyself.  Bishops and priests are our mirror.

What does that mean when priests – who preach the truth – are being cancelled by bishops far and wide?

Fulton Sheen wrote prophetically in 1948:

“He [Satan] will set up a counter-Church which will be the ape of the Church because, he the devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the anti-Christ that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ. In desperate need for God, whom he nevertheless refuses to adore, modern man in his loneliness and frustration will hunger more and more for membership in a community that will give him enlargement of purpose, but at the cost of losing himself in some vague collectivity.

“Who’s going to save our Church? It’s not our bishops, it’s not our priests and it is not the religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that the priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and the religious act like religious.”

That phrase, “hunger more and more for membership in a community” reminds me of the research that has revealed the terrible downturn in belief in what the Church teaches (officially at least) about the Eucharist.   These days, for many Communion is that moment when someone puts the white thing in your hand and then you sing a song (usually about yourself).  “Don’t tell me I can’t have it!  I belong!”

It is a “church” that looks like the Church in a lot of respects.

So, yes, bishops are blessed and, no, bishops aren’t blessed.  They are not blessings for us in one sense, but in another they are.

We have to pray earnestly for our bishops.   The Devil really hates them.  They are men susceptible to the frailties of men, and yet they carry also this great responsibility.  I think it must be very difficult for a bishop to get to heaven.  Great graces are needed, and some of that comes through Holy Orders.   But the prayers of the faithful are needed.  There is a reason why the name of the local bishop is mentioned in the Roman Canon and he is prayed for, by name, at every Mass.

My advice is, if there is some particular bishop who really annoys you or who has hurt you or someone you love or respect, then pray for that bishop.  Fast for him and pray.   Practically speaking, for your own good, it is hard to hate or remain angry at someone for whom you are praying and fasting.  We must strive against the worst elements of ourselves and not fall into hatred of others, much less those chosen by God for consecrated service to the Church such as bishops, priests and religious.  That verges towards sacrilege, the opposite of the virtue of Religion which we should all cultivate.

We must not tolerate bad bishops.  We still have to respect them, even as Christ admonished His disciples about wicked or weak faith leaders:

Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”

Another practical thing.    If perhaps we bitch about bad bishops, and even let them know about it, it is concomitantly right and just to praise them when they do something good.

One might object: “We shouldn’t have to praise someone just for doing their job and no bishop should ever expect praise!”

Both of those propositions are true.  However, we are dealing with frail human beings in tough times.  Think in terms of the long run.  Bolster bishops when they are on track.  Send a note of thanks.  It’ll take a moment to write, but it could make a big difference to a beleaguered bishop who might be on the verge of turning into a trembling little gerbil because he is being pressured by those whom he would rather not side with.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Longinus says:

    “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their sign posts.”  St. John Chrysostom

    [Chrysostom did NOT say that.]

  2. JakeMC says:

    I think we would all do well to remember what Boomers were taught in Catechism class back in the early 1960s: Holy Orders does not confer immunity to sin on a priest, bishop, cardinal, or pope. They are men just like the rest of us. They sin. That does not make the teachings of the Church any less true…though some sinners may throw those teachings into shadow for a while. I have to wonder how many Catholics are doing things contrary to Church teaching because they simply don’t know any better? (Of course, that opens the whole can of worms about vincible/invincible ignorance, an issue I’m aware of but far from qualified to address! ;D)

  3. ArthurH says:

    Ah, the late and great Fulton Sheen, whom every Catholic kid and his family I knew (and many non-Catholics) watched in the early 50’s.

    Sheen became the then most watched TV program (30 minutes) on Tuesday nights, attracting away half of Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theater” audience, the previous top show (60 minutes in length).

    Berle, to hnis credit, said if he had to lose the top spot, it was a good it was to Sheen.

    That was the America in which I grew up. Ask me what I think about CRT today !

  4. chantgirl says:

    In some sense, though, doesn’t life flow down the chain from fatherhood, which is at the top? If priests are holy, isn’t it more likely that the people will be holy? How can the children generate something in the fathers which the fathers are supposed to have in themselves? It seems so backward, and yet, we are in a situation where some of us are going to have to radically sacrifice for our own spiritual fathers’ salvation. Perhaps more priests need to sacrifice for their brother priests?

  5. albinus1 says:

    “Berle, to hnis credit, said if he had to lose the top spot, it was a good it was to Sheen.”

    And supposedly Abp. Sheen good-naturedly remarked to Milton Berle, “My writers are four nice Jewish boys: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!”

  6. bigtex says:

    It’s clear from that photo, Bishop Sheen is telling us that we need to take the red-pill.

  7. Fr. Kelly says:

    Longinus, in your haste to post, it appears that you didn’t read all that Fr. Z wrote:

    “And before someone jumps into the combox with the old chestnut that St John

    Chrysostom said that the floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops … NO! St. John Chrysostom did not say that. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. It just means that he did not say that.”

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