Bishops’ boots

Cardinal König wrote (Tablet, 27 March 1999): “In fact however, de facto and not de jure, intentionally or unintentionally, the curial authorities working in conjunction with the Pope have appropriated the tasks of the episcopal college.  It is they who carry out almost all of them.” This statement can perhaps stand for a view held by many that the Curia has got too big for its boots.

But what boots do the bishops wear? We need to be clear about this if we, as the faithful under our own bishops, are to know what our expectations should be, and by what standards we should judge them.

The ruling document here is The Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium from Vatican II. This is of course easily available on the internet, so here I confine myself to what I think to be the major points. After looking at the Church as a whole, it turns its attention, in Chapter III, to the Hierarchy, and thus, to the bishops.

It is significant that it does not start with the pope but with the bishops themselves. These are to be the pastors who inherit the rôle of the Apostles. They preside in place of God over their flock, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing. It is only in this context that the pope is introduced as the visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion. The bishops are the shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ. And they receive the special graces required for their office, just as the Apostles did. And this grace is inherited through their ordination.

Like the pope they receive the authority of binding and loosing but – and here the balancing comes in – they do so only within the college of the bishops, joined with their head. However, each bishop is the visible foundation of unity within his own church, which, in turn, represents the whole Church.
Their teaching of faith and morals requires the religious assent of the faithful, and, although they are not infallible, they can teach infallibly, in communion with their fellows and the Pope, on matters which are to be held definitively.

They are the prime ministers of faith, the sacraments and the liturgy, and so have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the liturgy. Nevertheless the emphasis here remains on the Good Shepherd which the bishop is sent by God to be. So his office is to serve, rather than to be served. And, as the Good Shepherd, he must be ready to lay down his life for his sheep, he must not refuse to listen to them and he must be compassionate to the ignorant and erring.

(A more detailed picture of a bishop’s office may be gained by reading Canon Law. I see that the word, bishop, occurs here 794 times – the majority of which I have not examined. But the section on schools – pertinent to our recent discussion – provides a good example.)

To bring us up to date, I glance at a recent address by Pope Francis to those who put forward possible candidates for the Episcopate.

“Be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people, fathers and brothers; that they are gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life; that they do not have the psychology of princes.”

He warned them against the criterion of the “brilliant” bishop – who might give better service in, say, a university . And “we don’t want those who want to become bishops.” Nor should bishops move from see to see in pursuit of promotion, they should prefer to be spouse of one church – their own.

“Shepherds need to be in front of their flocks to indicate the path, in the midst of the flock to keep them united, behind the flock to make sure none is left behind.” (report, Tablet, 29 June 2013).

So how do our own bishops match up to the responsibilities which the Church requires of them? If you don’t know, perhaps that is, in itself, a reason for criticism. What has been your experience of bishops? In what ways can we help them? In our discussion, we must speak generally, and certainly avoid direct criticism of an identifiable bishop .The normal legal rules for statements in the public forum apply.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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115 Responses to Bishops’ boots

  1. ionzone says:

    To be honest, I think the post of bishop is one of the most visible but least known about positions in the church. People know that bishops are there and that they lead the churches in their area, but they don’t really know much more than that.

  2. Singalong says:

    “Their teaching of faith and morals requires the religious assent of the faithful.”

    I am not sure what this means, and have not found any real enlightenment so far in the CCC. How do we as the faithful show our assent? Do we vote with our feet? If enough of the faithful disregard a teaching does that really mean it should not stand?

  3. Vincent says:

    I think that the questions asked here are very important. Unless we feel that the Church is hunky-dory in all respects, we need to think about the bishops so that we can contribute to the debate. After all, we often complain that the Church doesn’t listen to us – so we’d better start talking!

    I fear that I am one of those people who doesn’t often meet a bishop, and, when I do, it’s one of those semi-official occasions when polite clichés substitute for conversation. So my picture of a bishop is a man who has been selected primarily because he is not likely to diverge from the party line. I see him attending ceremonies of one kind or another – too formal to do much good. The rest of his time is mainly to do with administration, which includes dealing with a lot of complaints. He must keep his nose clean, and he knows he’ll be pretty safe if he doesn’t get out of line with the Bishops’ Conference.

    Now that may be a caricature, based on absence of evidence. Are they really like that? Does anyone know?

    But if there is any truth in my description, the typical bishop is far from the humble and holy leader which Pope Francis describes. It’s also a long way from Quentin’s Vatican II notes – if I think about what sort of person would be needed to fulfil the ministry recorded there.

    Are they listening to their priests – and making sure their priests are listening to the laity? And leading them into pastoral activity?

    Are they looking at the Catholic schools, and assessing the job they do? And finding remedies if they are not satisfied?

    Are they happy with the laity’s use of Confession? What are they doing about it?

    Do they have a compassionate ministry to those remarried outside the Church?

    Do they have a compassionate ministry to unmarried mothers, and to those who have had abortions?

    Do they, perhaps through the ministry of the laity, ensure real response to those who are suffering financially in these difficult times? Do all their Members of Parliament, and the Leaders of local Councils know clearly their views on the application of Catholic social teaching?

    Do they have the fire of the Spirit in their bellies?

    I could go on – but if they do all of this and more they won’t have time to attend the Bishops’ Conference at all. And it’s quite clear that their direct duties come before any shared duties with their fellows. They are first of all the alter Christus in their diocese.

    • Quentin says:

      Now that’s talking!

      By the way, Iona has written to say that she has had to obtain a new router and so won’t be able to contribute at the moment.

  4. John Nolan says:

    At the time of the Second Vatican Council there were around 2,500 bishops in communion with Rome. By 2008 the figure had passed 5,000, which has led some commentators to doubt whether another such council could ever be a practical proposition. Collegiality is all very well in theory, but no one seems to have a clue how it might work in practice.

    Secondly, if individual bishops feel disempowered it is not because of the Curia. The problem is national Bishops’ Conferences. A bishop finds that every important aspect of his episcopal responsibility has been taken up by some committee in London which knows better than he does. This problem was highlighted by Bishop O’Donoghue (formerly of Lancaster) who issued another caveat: “We must guard against the Catholic Church degenerating into local Churches who consider themselves almost autonomous in some respects from the See of Rome.”

    This cannot be simply dismissed as ultramontanism. Anthony Howard’s acclaimed biography of George Basil Hume is very revealing in this regard.

  5. John Candido says:

    That was excellent, Vincent. I would like to add other attributes. Are Bishops independent thinkers; do they place an absolute value on objectivity and logicality? Can they lead, can they make critical decisions, are they theologically and philosophically literate, and are they cognisant of all manner of contemporary theological issues? Can they balance objectivity and rationality, with humanness? Are they willing to place their own flock, and the wider church, in front of and before, their own career? Will they offer their resignation in principle of an important matter? Are they absolute advocates of the law, and the criminal and civil justice system, will they place the law, innocent men, women and children, above every other consideration, including the Catholic Church?

    Will they die for their flock, if need be? Will they be advocates of the constant teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, on the inviolacy, privacy, freedom and autonomy of the human conscience, even over persons and institutions of authority, and especially over, the Catholic Church itself? Do they advocate working with others as in a team with a common goal? Can they delegate responsibility to other professionals, whether lay or clerical? Are they enthusiastic advocates of science, academia, and public education for all? Are they really humble and self-forgetful? Are they truly mature men who see women as their equals? Do they possess an open mind? Are they cultured, within the broadest sense of the word?

    Do they have the intellect, diplomatic skills, and sensitivity required, in a multi-plural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious community? Can they take advice? Are they advocates of democracy, do they see that issues, such as unemployment, inflation, and the political economy are of overwhelming importance to the average man or woman in the street? Do they support all of the social encyclicals of the Popes, from Rerum Novarum onwards?

    Are they advocates of not only legal justice, but social justice as well? Are they advocates of a country’s Social Security system, and its further promotion. Are they advocates of the human rights of minorities, and by extension, the universal human rights of everyone? Do they preach by the example of their lives? Do they see that papal infallibility is an historical anomaly or quaint remnant, which needs to be expunged from the contemporary Catholic Church? We could go on, couldn’t we?

    ‘He (Francis) warned them against the criterion of the “brilliant” bishop – who might give better service in, say, a university.’ This is literally absurd. Tact covers a multitude of sins. Cabinet solidarity, diplomacy and privacy are de rigueur. Not dumbness or an inappropriate forum! As the secular community does not want a dumbed down fourth estate, likewise, the Church should not aspire to a dumbed down episcopacy.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      That is a very quality filled post, but is there anyone on earth with all those qualities..
      Maybe if Jesus came back again-then of course I wonder what He would say to you!

      • John Candido says:

        If Jesus came back to Earth, he might find himself condemned by the Vatican St.Joseph!

    • Vincent says:

      Yet, we have to be careful here. We cannot expect our bishops to be supermen. Perhaps all that we can ask is that they understand what the Church asks of its bishops, and that they are working hard to match up to this.
      One contribution we can certainly make is to pray for them,

  6. John Nolan says:

    JC, you seem to be implying that it would be a positive attribute to give the law of the state (civil or criminal) precedence over natural and Divine law (as taught by the Church). This would be problematical in many parts of the world today, and is becoming increasingly so in western ‘democracies’. St Thomas More (the greatest lawyer in England) went to he scaffold rather than accept this.

    Do you also consider it a positive attitude to derogate from Church teaching if you happen to disagree with it? You mention papal infallibility, but there is also the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium.

    If a bishop were to say “Look, you can believe whatever you want, say whatever you want, and teach whatever you want (subject of course to the laws of the land), and still be a good Catholic”, would you regard this as a positive attribute?

    Your clarification of these points would be appreciated.

    • John Candido says:

      ‘JC, you seem to be implying that it would be a positive attribute to give the law of the state (civil or criminal) precedence over natural and Divine law (as taught by the Church).’ (John Nolan)

      I am not implying that at all. My comment is to be taken as being a proper response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

      ‘Do you also consider it a positive attitude to derogate from Church teaching if you happen to disagree with it?’ (John Nolan)

      Please reread my 11 point summary of my position on the human conscience at the bottom of, ‘Death thou shalt die’, which was posted on the 30th August 2012.

      https://secondsightblog.net/2012/08/30/death-thou-shalt-die/#comments

      ‘You mention papal infallibility, but there is also the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium.’ (John Nolan)

      I recognise, but do not agree with the doctrine of papal infallibility. There is not to my mind anything of the sort called, ‘the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium’. The latter is an example of creeping infallibility.

  7. John Candido says:

    John Nolan. If the Duchess of Cambridge were to have twins and one of them was a boy, and the other child was a girl, who would have first priority to succeed their father, the Duke of Cambridge Prince William, to the Crown? The boy or the girl? Would it depend on who would be born first? Does anybody know?

    • John Nolan says:

      Whichever was born first. In the case of a Caesarian section, the surgeon would have to decide which was taken out of the womb first, and would therefore determine the succession on his own authority.

      The infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium is part of Catholic doctrine, reaffirmed by Vatican II. I suggest you check it out, if it hasn’t appeared on your mental radar yet.

      You tend to put your thoughts into print without thinking enough about their implications. For a start, you tend to argue from the particular to the general. There was clerical sexual abuse, and it seems to have peaked in the 1970s. Most of it was homosexual, involving adolescent boys and young men. Yet you are always banging on about ‘gay rights’ and priests needing to have sexual relations. Has it ever occurred to you that your position is illogical and contradictory?

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      You say- ‘If Jesus came back to Earth he might find himself condemned by the Vatican’.

      You said’ might’ does that mean you are not too sure!

  8. Daphne McLeod says:

    I am interested in your remarks about the responsibilities of Diocesan Bishops and I would like to point out that no Bishop has to work within the ‘framework of collegiality’ as you seem to suggest although this is a common mistake. When we saw H.E. Cardinal Stickler in Rome in1997, he stressed that since the Council, Collegiality has been misinterpreted.. The truth is that each diocesan Bishop ihas, and always has had, the solemn duty of ensuring the Religious Instruction of the Catholic children in his diocesan schools.is absolutely sound and fully comprehensive..No Diocesan Bishop can .escape this responsibility.
    Cardinal Stickler was an amiable and gentle person, but I rememebr that on this important issue he felt so strongly that he banged the table to emphasise his point.
    So if Catholic children in any diocese are leaving their Catholic schools with the “widespread religious ignorance” Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI ) so deplored, it is the Diocesan Bishop who will have to answer for it.

    • Vincent says:

      Daphne, I associate your name with the advocacy of Catholic education. How would you rate the bishops on this score. And, if you think they could improve — in what ways?

  9. Geordie says:

    I asked before “Do bishops read the Catholic Papers?” I should also like to know if they read blogs like this one. I don’t think they do. If the laity wish to have a serious exchange of views with their bishops, how do they do it? If you write to a bishop, which I have done in the past, they either ignore you or treat you like a crank. I remember that the good woman, Victoria Gillick, was described as “a loose canon” by our then bishops. How do we get through to them?

  10. Gail Mills says:

    How would you rate the bishops on this score. And, if you think they could improve — in what ways?
    Vincent, that made me laugh so much,
    The reply would surely be ” how much time to you have?”
    Answering letters that have enclosed SAE for a start.

  11. Michael Horsnall says:

    Sometimes, well quite often actually, I rather despair of this blog. What is wrong with you all? Has it not occurred to you that these people are human beings like yourselves? I’ve met and talked things over with two or three bishops over the past year or so. They seem neither hero’s nor villains. None of the ones I spoke to had on black masks or wore their underpants outside their trousers. If I were a bishop I might manage a line or two of this blog before switching off the laptop and heading for the pub, probably a good job then that I’m not. The Monsignor who spent this weekend with us on retreat spent time talking about the church and about what a poor and contracted view of the church was the one which regarded it simply as a political organisation-I must say I heartily agreed with the humble little man before me who, at over eighty and with failed hips, was learning Portugese in order to better help the local immigrants in his area with their difficulties. ….Ahhh well… time for a holiday I guess.

    PS how about praying for your bishop every day for the next month?

    • John Nolan says:

      Wouldn’t it make better sense for the Portuguese immigrants to learn English? In some US seminaries students are forbidden to learn Latin until they have mastered Spanish, since the so-called Hispanics are too lazy to learn the language of their adopted country. I read recently that in England summonses for jury service go out in multiple languages, which strikes me as absurd.

  12. St.Joseph says:

    Mike Horsnall.
    Obviously you have not had the opportunity to defend your Fatih or else you would not defend the Bishops for not doing their duties.
    It might be a good idea if you take a look in Daphne McLeod’s ‘Express an opinion’ and spend some time reading the Peep’s ‘ Flock’.! Go back through all the Archives. and enlighten yourself as to why so many are disillusioned by the lack of our Bishops support in co-operating with the laity in defending the ‘Faith of Our Fathers’.
    You may despair, then also you may understand a little as to why we do, and discover what is wrong with us! .
    ,

    • Michael Horsnall says:

      ST Joseph
      I’ve read it and struggled my way through the archives on more than one occasion-I’ve been on this blog about 3 years now and so am well aware of the nature of your complaints. As to defend my faith I spend quite a lot of time talking about the catholic faith to friends, students, patients and strangers in the pub when the occasion arises…not one of them so far ever mentioned a bishop.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Perhaps then Mike you could pass on our worries to your Bishop and he can bring up the subject at the next Bishops Conference.as you know all our problems now after 3 years on the blog and reading PEEP Archives. Also you will obviously been helped by it to answer the all the questions people ask.!!.

  13. Michael Horsnall says:

    St Joseph,

    Yes I do find this blog helpful for gleaning bits and pieces. Also for sharpening my own wits in battle occasionally, so I stick with it though not without incredulity at times. Because my training demands it I try, genuinely and honestly, to form relationships with parishioners. I can also say, genuinely and honestly that nowhere else but this blog have I found such harsh and pessimistic criticism of our church-even amongst non believers!. Haven’t read PEEP archives, don’t know what they are and don’t know how to find them, directions please?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike. You will find at the top of this page in Express an Opinion. Daphne McLeod.who has just posted it in the last few days-not her comment..
      Could you please tell me how the subject come up in the pub with you and strangers,also students an others. I am very interested to know..
      Of course the parish is NOT the place to discuss the Bishops.
      Also I have been to meeting where we discuss the faith -and there are not many willing to defend it-only the liberals shouting one down.
      That is why I support PEEP since they started-also my late husband and my son. It might do the Bishops good to read this blog-they might not go to the pub as you say-but it might enlighten them ..

      • St.Joseph says:

        Mike it has no gone past the recent comments that showed Daphne McLeods Express an Opinion. I don’t know how you will find it only by logging into her web site.

      • Michael Horsnall says:

        ST Joseph,
        The subject of Christian faith comes up in many of the discussions I have simply because I raise it whenever there is opportunity. So if asked what I did at the weekend or my view on anything the subject will come up. When the church is in the news it comes up more often. In my osteopathic practice the subject comes up partly through conversation and partly because of the icons I have on my shelf!…it comes up often at college because of the nature of the subject I teach. Osteopathy has a Christian root and so talk on the subject -of what ‘spirit’ is or what ‘vitality’ means etc etc is common. I am not a cradle catholic as you know so aspects of it fascinate me. For example I’m chewing over with an agnostic colleague of mine online the theology of ‘man and God’ just because I want to talk about it and its interesting to get the views of agnostics. I sometimes post questions about God on my facebook page and get all my mates going!! Most of my own preoccupations are to do with how to get this fat lazy old frame of mine to live more, love more, pray more care for others more and find God more in everything….perhaps one day I will graduate to worrying about Bishops more!

    • Singalong says:

      St. Joseph and Mike, without prejudice as they say, PEEP is Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, and a quick entry of Daphne MacLeod on Google brings up http://www.proecclesia.com/page_pro%20ecclesia%20shop.htm
      I hope the link works for you., if not, you could find it directly.

  14. John Nolan says:

    Going back to Daphne’s point, Bishop O’Donoghue said that when he published “Fit for Mission? – Schools” there were raised eyebrows, as if he were straying into an area that was not his concern. No doubt there were other bishops who were concerned about the CESEW under its then director Oona Stannard, but they didn’t want to be seen to rock the boat. It is ironic that the very people who criticize Papal and Curial ‘centralism’ are often staunch defenders of the bureaucratic centralism of Eccleston Square. They call for reform of the Roman Curia, but when Bishop Egan of Portsmouth took an axe to the bloated, expensive and largely useless curia he inherited from his predecessor, they were up in arms.

    Imagine the following scenario. A good and holy bishop is concerned at the general lack of reverence shown to the Blessed Sacrament in his diocese. He therefore decides to stop Communion in the hand, and insists that the Body if Christ be handled only by a priest or deacon. He is, of course, perfectly entitled to do this. He is putting the principle of subsidiarity into practice. He explains in a pastoral letter his reasons for doing it. You can just hear some of the reactions: “Insensitive! Unpastoral! Dictatorial! Clerical! Disempowering the laity! Going against the spirit of Vatican Two! Lefebvrist! Holocaust denier! Paedophile!” and, worst of all, “cappa magna wearer!”

  15. Vincent says:

    I find myself going back to Gail Mills’s comment that bishops don’t answer, even with an SAE enclosed. This may seem trivial but it’s not. I am reminded of Robert Townsend’s classic book, called Up the Organization. (Townsend was the man who made Avis Rentacar so successful.) He advised getting rid of the PR consultants and spending the money on the people who answer your telephones. This is the interface between the organisation and the public.
    As long as bishops (and PPs too) fail to answer legitimate letters, they give the impression that they don’t give a hoot about the people. That impression may be entirely wrong – but that’s what comes across. Do you think that bishops might benefit by having courses in the leadership of organisations? Or do you think that bishops who pay full attention to the laity have got their priorities wrong?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Vincent,
      I sometimes wonder if the Bishops Secretaries are the ones who vet the letters first.
      I have reason to believe that of my Bishop who told me he had not received the continued letters I wrote, even though his secretary told me me he had, and had written so many times. He has now left.
      The late Bishop Mervyn Alexander always answered letters,not always what one wanted to hear but at least he had good manners to do so.
      I wrote to every Bishop asking them the facilities they had in their Diocese, for teaching fertility awareness in Marriage Care all polite but only 18 replies I was not suggesting that married couples used the infertile time but they did need educating within the teachings of Humanae Vitae..
      Since Vatican 2 it was I believe freedom of speech for the laity,the thinking behind it all was to make us more ‘involved’!!!
      Your question in the last few line, II don’t think that Bishops who pay full attention to the laity have got their priorities wrong, they are listening to the wrong laity maybe.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Mike Horsnall.
        In your comment above you said you had struggled through the archives- I thought you were referring to Pro-Ecclesia et Pontificat so therefore I assumed you knew who I was speaking about’!

  16. Singalong says:

    After taking part in this year`s Martyrs` Walk from Newgate to Tyburn, I have been reading up about Bishop Challoner, who was Bishop of London from 1758 until his death in 1781 at the age of 90.

    Joanna Bogle included a very interesting account of his activities in the Ship Tavern, Holborn, near Lincolns Inn Fields, which he frequented to meet his poor flock, and instruct them in the Faith. He was apparently given a large tankard of beer/ale on these occasions, but his custom was to leave it for someone more needy.

    Times were rather different then. Penal laws were still in existence, not so often enforced, but clergy were still apprehended and imprisoned for teaching and ministering, and rewards given for exposing them. The chapels of foreign embassies, particularly that of Sardinia, conveniently situated in Holborn, could be used for the celebration of Mass, and a blind eye was usually turned to the congregation which attended. Bishop Challoner celebrated Mass there, where one of my forbears, from a family which must have kept their faith, was the organist for some years.

    He seems to have combined many of the qualities that contributors have mentioned. He was a man of prayer and devotion, he lived simply and shared the poverty of most of his people. It is said that he confirmed 10,000 people during his episcopate. He was responsible for a new production of the Douai Bible, and wrote a number of books, including a revised Catechism, as well as the once very popular prayer book, The Garden of the Soul. He was a great support to his priests, and very involved in providing education, especially for the poor.

    Near the end of his long life, he very narrowly escaped being taken in the terrifying Gordon Riots, associated with the Catholic Relief Act, when fierce anti-Catholic feeling flared up, and many attacks on Catholics took place, with loss of life, serious injury and much damage.

    This link to Edwin Burton`s Life and Times of Bishop Challoner, 1909, seems to work rather erratically, but it is worth googling if you are interested. The whole book is available, to read, or in audio, with a comprehensive index which highlights every page of a search.

    http://archive.org/stream/thelifeandtimeso02burtuoft#page/n7/mode/2up

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Singalong thank you for that.
    Perhaps we need another reformation so that we can defend our faith.
    Now a days we are able to practice our Worship and not die for it. However now we are defending our Faith in our Catholic Church..We are losing it with the secular society,but we ought not to hide our light under a bushel,even though it seems as though we are squabbling amongst ourselves..
    Jesus said He did not come to bring peace in the world,we would be brother against brother ,mother against daughter, etc or words to that effect. We must not let the wool be pulled over our eyes for the sake of a false peace..

  18. John Nolan says:

    Challoner was also a good administrator. No doubt that would have earned him the thumbs-down from Papa Bergoglio.

    • Singalong says:

      John, are you seriously saying that Pope Francis disapproves of bishops who are good administrators, as well as having many other virtues and qualities?

      • John Nolan says:

        Not necessarily, but a bishop is pastor and prince, and if he is to do his job properly the second attribute must be there. The good shepherd went out to find the lost lamb, but any first-century listener would have known he would break or dislocate a leg of the said lamb to stop its straying again. By the time it had healed, it would have learned to stay with the flock.

        To aspire to do one’s job properly and so gain preferment may be ambitious, but what is the point in giving someone a job he does not want? To suggest that Bergoglio was wholly surprised at his election is disingenuous – he was, after all, the runner-up in the previous conclave. Is it a Jesuit thing to delight in being more powerful than you seem? I really don’t know, I’m only asking. But Englishmen and -women know what a humbug is, and I’m afraid Pope Francis is in danger of falling into that category.

      • Vincent says:

        Gosh! I’m glad John Nolan won’t be deciding fates on the Last Day. I might as well give up now! Do give us your reasons for this somewhat premature judgement.

  19. Singalong says:

    I suppose the relevance of your first point is that a good administrator has to be firm, and exercise “tough love” sometimes, as I expect Pope Francis can do when necessary.

    Your second point, throwing doubt on his integrity, is not the impression I get at all, as a 50/50 English/Irish woman. What good do you think is achieved by these suggestions?

  20. John Nolan says:

    Well, going around Vatican parking lots and looking at what people drive is humbug. Going to Lampedusa and welcoming illegal Moslem immigrants (accompanied by an excruciatingly bad liturgy) is humbug. Not mentioning persecuted Christians (including a priest shot and beheaded by Islamist rebels in Syria) is worse than humbug. Dressing down to make a point (cf Cameron, Clegg, Obama and any number of scoundrel politicians) is humbug. Carefully keeping quiet on important moral issues is worse than humbug.

    Is he trying to emulate the greatest humbug of the 20th century, Mohandas Ghandi? By the way, those whose impressions of Ghandi are taken from the dishonest and unhistorical Richard Attenborough film might care to read “The Myth of the Mahatma” (1986) by Michael Edwardes.

    I notice that Pope Francis doesn’t want clever bishops, thinking they should stay in universities. Hardly flattering to his (still living) predecessor. Having lived through the most disastrous pontificate of modern times (that of Paul VI) I hope for the best, but forgive me for not being ecstatic over this latest appointment.

    • Singalong says:

      I think an opposite case can be made to everything you mention, but you will not want to hear it. I will just say that desperate illegal Moslem immigrants, often left to drown in their attempts, are people, human beings with souls and eternal destinies, and that very academic and non pastoral clergy, which does not apply to Pope Emeritus Benedict, are probably better suited to universities than to dioceses.

      • John Nolan says:

        Whether I want to hear it is neither here nor there; I hear it all the time. I just don’t find it convincing, and it becomes more intellectually threadbare and platitudinous on every repetition. Since when did academic excellence preclude pastoral concern? Think John Henry Newman. What people nowadays understand by ‘pastoral’ (a buzz-word almost emptied of meaning) is another matter, but don’t get me started on that.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      Thank you for your reply,as to how the subject arise’ about the Catholic Church. I appreciate what you say, and it is a very perfect Christian attitude to have towards others.
      But what do you say to Catholics when they ask you ‘what our faith teaches on controversial issues. Abortion-Divorce- Contraception- Abortifacants-Euthanasia- Latin Mass-Anglican Orders-Purgatory- same sex relationships women priests etc and many more..
      I will be happy when Pope Francis tackles these subjects -he will have to get his feet wet sometime, and then will people say ‘he is a breath of fresh air’.

      • Michael Horsnall says:

        I generally explain them as best I can as they arise. But since I’m generally interested in evangelism these subjects -though they may be pressing issues-are not in themselves the first thing on my mind. But its not that difficult to put the Church’s perspectives because they all come from the same wellspring-the dignity of life in the image of God. I don’t tend to argue with non believers about these things or tell them what to do -just explain where the church stands and why.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    Mike,
    Yes we need to know why Holy Mother Church teaches what She does..
    I consider that Evangelizing., there is no need to argue., We can not argue about our faith,it is the unbelievers who argue with us. We can instruct,but we can not give others faith that comes as a Gift from the Holy Spirit through Grace,

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall, You may not have noticed but I specifically mentioned ‘Catholics) when they ask you questions.Because they need to know the Churches teaching on Doctrines to accept and fight for it..It is good for one to not only evangelize but to encourage Catholics to do so too. It is our responsibility and not to sit on the fence..
      How can we do it if we don’t know-only our own opinions.
      This will be more so your duty when you are an ordained Deacon.Like St Paul when he spoke to the Churches! We need to get out of our comfy zone!.

  22. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph, the issues you mention are clear-cut in terms of doctrine, and really don’t need papal pronouncements. What worries me about some of Pope Francis’s reported statements (often delivered extempore) is that he is willing to categorize (using entirely subjective terms of reference) whole swathes of his co-religionists and attach heretical labels – gnostic, Pelagian – to them (something Benedict would never have done). At the same time he is silent when secular governments (eg France) attack core Christian values and attempt to stifle protest by force, or when Christians are persecuted and even martyred by Moslem extremists.

    When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires I would have been sublimely indifferent to anything he might have said, but now he is Pope it is a different matter.

  23. John Candido says:

    You know that something is right in the Vatican when John Nolan expresses his discontent on an issue or two.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      I think that deserves an apology as it it is not only hitting at John Nolan but all Catholics who think as he does who have not the guts to say or neither have the ability or Grace to say so…

      • Singalong says:

        Sadly, rather a lot of people do seem to be saying these things

        Pope Francis was only elected 4 months ago, very premature judgements are being made.

        I think we should all take heed of St. Paul`s First letter to the Corinthians which I mentioned last week. We should not be saying, I am for Benedict, I am for Francis, we are all for Christ.

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, does this mean you might be rejoining the Church? Or are you waiting for Pope Francis to ordain women and allow same-sex marriage (which will coincide with Hell becoming a skating rink)?

  24. John Candido says:

    You amaze me St.Joseph. What you are pointing to is a feather duster against a laughing John Nolan. What about the ad hominem attacks that I have endured from not only John Nolan during past episodes, but more recently by Mike Horsnall in the post called ‘Follow my Leader’? It would have been far more productive if I got a rebuttal from anyone about the important points that former priest, author and psychotherapist A. W. Richard Sipe made in his book called, ‘A Secret World, Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy’, published by Brunner/Mazel, New York, 1990.

    Mike Horsnall’s reply, which is faithfully quoted below, is doubly useless, because it is a barely concealed ad hominem attack, as well as completely ignoring the substantive points in my original post from Richard Sipe, with a decent rebuttal.

    ‘Oh come come (sic) now, next thing you will be writing for the Catholic Reporter. This really is nonsense. Tell you what, come over to the Midlands, read this paragraph out to the parishioners and see what they say-be prepared for gales of laughter. Then bring it to the Diocese seminary, read it out there-they could do with cheering up a bit. Last time you tried this I think it was Quentin who published a study which showed that the offending rate among Australian males was greater in the general community than among priests which led him to conclude that due to the danger of paedophilia all adult male Australians should be castrated!!!’ (Mike Horsnall)

    Gosh! What a devastatingly intellectual reply! It is so good, I am utterly speechless.

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, is this the same Richard Sipe who claimed that “several hundred” popes had been murdered? (NB There have been only 263 popes since St Peter). Perhaps if you relied more on your own intellect rather than on “academics” with an axe to grind, who make facts fit their theories rather than the other way round, people on this blog might take you more seriously.

      Please don’t come back to me with Sipe’s CV and academic qualifications. I’m as capable of using Google as anyone else.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      John Candido

      “Gosh! What a devastatingly intellectual reply! It is so good, I am utterly speechless..”

      Hey John thanks for the great reference! I’m just in the throes of applying for a Masters in Education so it will come in vey handy, no copyright I take it?

  25. John Candido says:

    I have seen the quote in an American network interview on their ‘ABC’. I have sent a message to Richard Sipe’s Facebook page for a please explain. When I have his reply, I will reply to you. Thank you.

  26. mike Horsnall says:

    ST Joseph,

    Thanks for your points. As I was saying we were all on retreat last weekend talking to this aged Monsignor who clearly had lived the life and known the heat of the day. The thing he said that stuck with me most was that he regretted the tendency of the church to confuse evangelism with information when what was needed was witness and evidence of love. I agree with this strongly. By now I’m about caught up on the doctrine front but In my experience doctrine doesn’t win souls. Each to their own however and I admire your passionate commitment to those things that have clearly stirred your heart. I particularly admire the actions you have taken in helping teenage pregnant mothers.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      Thank you for your reply.
      If you see a bunch of teenagers or young people or anyone really, and see how they love each other, we can become slightly overtaken by their attitude and friendlyness to each other and some will be confused and think this to be Christian Love instead of something they may have in common with each other.
      As Jesus said when asked the question-see how they love each other he replied’ Even the Heathens do do that’! Some can be confused with the definition of love.
      Plenty of people kill others out of love of God ,in the name of religion.as you will know.
      What ever you do You-do it for Me !Like the Good Samarrten , that is how we behave out of love for our neighbour as if they are Christ. But when it comes to their soul-they need educating! I hope I have not confused you with this.

  27. mike Horsnall says:

    No, just misinterpreted the word ‘love’ that’s all. I meant the same agape as you had in mind with your reply. Of course the soul needs to be educated and the conscience formed, but this is a more sensitive process than we often think-Jesus disciple those close to him and he taught those around us. It has seemed to me for a long time now that we tend to focus on something we call ‘teaching’ but is in fact information giving. This is a complex subject and we wont answer it on this blog I fear. Also my own personal experience of faith is that of an adult convert converted through experience of the heart AND THEN taught. The two go together….I was never ‘schooled’ in faith so probably value it less than you and I think ,as the song goes. it is grace that teaches our heart to fear and grace our fears relieves. Don’t worry by the way about confusing me unless you lapse into too much religious terminology in which case I wont get a word you say even though I am a catechist!!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      I was never taught at a catholic School, the short time I went there had to lear the Irish Catechism off by heart at 9 to make my Confirmation,the Bishop ssked us a question, but of course I did not understand it.
      I have said this before that when my children wer born and I realised as much as I loved God and my neighbour I was ignorant to what he Church taught,but knew what was wrong but did not know why, in my early 20’s. so I studied Fr McCabes Catechism donkeys years old,because I realised most Catholics could not enter into a discussion only by not giving a reason. Question and answer in other words. So I learned.and so did my children.
      I defend the rights of parents for their children to be taught proper education in Catholic Schools and to why we believe-and as you said about my helping pregnant girls that is only a small part of my faith-I enter into all teh reasons of why.
      I am not as educated as John Nolan in his historical and theological knowledge, so therefore I respect him for that and for speaking his mind as I do an matters that I understand. We all have our gifts.
      WE all love that is our nature as Catholics.We don’t shoot heathens just because they don’t agree with us..

  28. Iona says:

    Just testing… (having problems posting)

  29. Iona says:

    Ah! – success!
    (I might have known that if I posted something utterly irrelevant and uninformative, the system would work)

  30. Iona says:

    Quentin, what Mike Horsnall has just said (“doctrine doesn’t win souls”) might be an interesting subject for a blog post: if it is not being taught, or being given information, that leads us to convert, then what is it?
    Some sort of “conversion of the heart”, following which we may start seeking information, perhaps.
    And if so, how does this relate to the common observation that 95% of pupils who attend Catholic schools lapse? – The statistic is often attributed to their having been inadequately taught the faith in school, but if teaching doesn’t make converts, this is presumably a false attribution and we need to look elsewhere for the causes of the lapsation rate.

    • Quentin says:

      This is an interesting issue, Iona. I will certainly look into the possibilities. Even as I write half an idea has come into my head. But I must let that develop, and do some research. I also want to discuss it with my wife. She is an adult convert (threequarter of the way there before we met, but my father was her sponsor), while I am the cradlest of cradle Catholics.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Iona
      Thanks for that. As a catechist it is screamingly obvious to me that banging stuff into kids heads when they aren’t ready for it will simply produce rebellion-its just ‘school’ at the end of the day isn’t it. Yet the basis at least must be given. Its really interesting being lead altar server I find. some Children have a profound ability to meet with God if given opportunity and when their attention is directed to the fact that ‘meeting’ is what is happening at the time.

  31. mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin…please do! it must be the most compelling and interesting of subjects after all. You could go at it from all sorts of directions-the science of faith is as interesting as genetics any old day!!

    • St.Joseph says:

      It would be very enlightening if Daphne McLeod made a few comments.

      Mike Horsnall.
      No it is not school at the end of the day!. It is Faith and Morals,and how to live as a Catholic.In season and out of Season.
      The local Catholic schools in my locality (Primary) 3 of them are having end of term Mass in the schools and then in the Church, inviting parents and all parishioners to attend.This is what our faith is about ‘living it’- proud of it-and loving it.
      Also the content is very important!!! That it keeps to the Magisterium.and teachers not doing their own thing!!
      ..

      • mike Horsnall says:

        St Joseph,

        Sorry, yet another misunderstanding:

        “School at the end of the day” referred to how the children can feel -another subject -RE boring- surely by now you must have encountered this response from the many adolescent or adult lapsed you have met-how disconnected they feel or felt from the process?? I won’t pursue this much further because we do seem to talk with a different lingo!!! Of course you personally may feel as I do when perusing the catechism or contemplating the awesome truth and wisdom of the Living God, of course faith and morality is in need of teaching- but it easily comes across as just another subject-
        ” school”. and that’s all.

  32. St.Joseph says:

    Mike we could talk on this subject all day,however-if the faith is not taught properly,it will be not boring, I was never bored when my grandmother talked about Our Blessed Mother the Saints, Jesus all those things that primary schools ought to be teacing Devotions as well as lessons, then when they go to Secondary school plenty of living their faith projects. My eldest Grandson was in the Lourdes Teams an various other activities, along with learning about his faith-then he had a mother ,my daughter that took it seriously as my son does too-even though married to non-catholics’ They also have Academic qualifications so it can be mixed with religion
    If you are a Catechist-perhaps Daphne McLeods books I mentiomed will be a help if you need it. Then you will understand what I am getting at.
    I took Bishops O Donohue’s Fit for Mission- Fit for Schools to many Catholic Schools hoping they would be considered -. It does need parent co-operation.
    How did we get on to this subject!! Anyway..

  33. Michael Horsnall says:

    ST Joseph
    I don’t know but its a very interesting subject. I’m going to try and do my 3rd year placement in schools and prisons this coming year-I get a bit impatient if I’m locked up in church wearing a frock all the time!!

  34. John Nolan says:

    Children in Catholic schools don’t “lapse”; their parents have already done so, and their Catholic practice is merely because it is part of the school curriculum, like compulsory games. Can we please discard the rose-coloured spectacles and ditch the pious platitudes, and look at the world as it is?

  35. Michael Horsnall says:

    John Nolan,

    True to a degree John and that part of it is understandable. But surely you must have met several catholic parents who practice their faith earnestly yet their children do not. Once I listened to a man who came to speak to us as a group of teachers working in NW china, he was a tubby little chap with a slipped disc and he spoke of the New testament as a love letter. One of the things he said was that there were many who believed themselves to be Christians but were in fact practising Jews. I sometimes think that we tie the catechism to our foreheads like a phylactery but then find ourselves preoccupied with sin and the fear of damnation- because, of course, we find ourselves unable to keep the ‘law’ Its 20 years since he spoke those few lines but I still think he was on to something there.

    • John Nolan says:

      Indeed. The Faith can be eradicated in two generations. The parents practise, their children lapse and marry outside the Church, and their children in turn are not even baptised, to the anguish of their grandparents. I attended Mass every Sunday until my second year at university; the reason I stopped going was that I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile my intellectual and historical understanding of Catholicism with the subjective and dumbed-down liturgy that was on offer (this was 1970). It sounds pompous and arrogant, I know, but many of my Catholic friends felt the same.

      • Quentin says:

        Sadly, and ironically, the same is happening today for those who see the new translation as a mock-Latin confusion. De gustibus non disputandum.

      • Singalong says:

        In many ways, it was even worse for children growing up in the 70`s as four of ours did, it was all so confused, and they had no experience of a previous standard to refer to. It is a great grace that their faith has survived at all.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        John Nolan,
        No I don’t think it sounds pompous and arrogant. There is that in a man which wants things to be ‘straight’ somehow so that he can see the logic and the clarity. Without that he turns away-particularly at the age you mention. I have the same problem today with bringing people to our services-they come once or twice but not again. Either the head or the heart (preferably both!) must become engaged …otherwise why on earth waste time going there.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘It sounds pompous and arrogant’. How interesting! As the saying goes, taste cannot be disputed.

    • Quentin says:

      Michael, a related problem for some older folk is that, although they now fully understand that love has replaced the Law in the new dispensation, the focus on sin drummed into them in their earliest years is difficult to eradicate. It remains a learned response.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, that comment begs so many questions I wouldn’t know where to start. There may be different assumptions, but I was not aware that there was a new dispensation. As for the new translation, it may not be the English of the street and the red-top press, but it is no more mock-Latin than anything you, I, or any reasonably educated person writes as a matter of course. You read learned scientific treatises that I would probably find difficult to digest, but they need to be written in such a way as to convey the meaning accurately.

      • Quentin says:

        John, here is a little poem I wrote many moons ago.

        I doubt if King James wrote it But the man who did Knew the force of short brute words And did not, if there were no clear need, Write polysyllabically.

        verb.sap.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin
        .How would you describe .sin being drummed into us in our earliest years?.
        I must have been missing something!
        One silly thing I remember my grandmother telling me that if little girls whistled, Our Lady cried.My brothers could whilstle and I could never master it maybe she said that to make me feel better because I was not able to We were always taught to have a conscience if we did something wrong..and we would have to answer to God for it.That is what I call bringing up our children in the love and service of the Lord. respecting Him for Who He is.My father did not enter into the picture much at all
        Just a passing thought. perhaps the faith in Ireland was preserved more so because there were no mixed marriages! .
        .

  36. St.Joseph says:

    Sorry for the Test, as I lost my connection with Word Press fixed now thankfully from my grandson!!

  37. Iona says:

    St Joseph – you didn’t lose your faith, growing up; – but you didn’t get it from school (you already told us you didn’t attend Catholic schools), you got it from your grandmother who was clearly a thoroughly committed believer. And that helps to demonstrate Mike Horsnall’s point, namely that if the Catholic faith is taught as one school subject among many, children will not pick it up as a “faith” but as just another school subject which has to be studied but doesn’t affect them deeply.

    • Singalong says:

      This is why I do not think a lot of Catholic schools are very effective. Only those which can provide a whole life education and experience achieve their purpose, and they seem to be very few.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Iona.
        My grandmother and my mother are what I would call and this might sound sentimental trash, however they loved the Lord, and Our Blessed Mother, in devotions, Legion of Mary and Child of Mary-stay close to Her and you will not lose sight of Her Son or the Blessed Sacrament. I was brought up on that’ food’
        I don’t have to say the Rosary every day although I do wish I could I lose track after a few decades It can please them both by my going to Mass when I can
        These things to me are more important than the Liturgy,obviously I prefer where I go is more comfortable to each their own..
        I did not need a Catholic School-perhaps if I had gone I would have lost it as to me it was not how I saw the Church, I would have contradicted my mother and my grandmothers devotions and taught a load of rubbish. (Maybe) Neither did my 2 children go to Catholic schools.
        Maybe the vocations we have today are coming from home schooling! And Summer Schools..
        .
        .

  38. mike Horsnall says:

    John Nolan

    Ok you stopped going in your 20’s….what brought you back?

    • John Nolan says:

      I stopped going to that particular church, and without a car (my student grant did run to champagne and port, quite a lot of it as I remember, but not to motor transport) I couldn’t venture further afield. What brought me back? The realization that Fr Trendy’s ‘spirit of V2’ liturgy wasn’t the last word – had it been, I would have become a believing but non-practising Catholic.

      From a very early age I loved the Mass and couldn’t get enough of it. I’m not devout, and most popular devotions leave me cold. Nor am I ‘EF only’ – although I prefer the classic Roman Rite I also attend the Novus Ordo (usually, though not exclusively, in Latin).

      • St.Joseph says:

        John I believe that devotions are mostly a female thing, that is why the Church is full of females instead of males.!
        Perhaps if it were maybe that is where the vocations to the priesthood lie.! Our Blessed Mother touches their hearts.
        I do have that feeling with Mike Horsnall hence his vocation to the priestdhood..
        Sorry Mike not saying you are feminine but the part of you that is. Like us females have a part of male in us.
        They make they more sensitive priests. In my opinion! Which I am sure you will.
        be.We mothers have a second sight.
        Don’t mind me getting at you sometimes!!!!!
        I believe if my late husband had not died under circumstance of a hospital bug-he would have decided to become a deacon.That was the direction he was moving towards..

  39. St.Joseph says:

    PS.
    John Nolan would have been a perfect Bishop!!

  40. Michael Horsnall says:

    John Nolan,
    Now that St Joseph has divined my interest in frocks perhaps you might like to tell us if you’ve always fancied being seen around the place in a mitre….!! (Sorry St Joseph, couldn’t resist it!)

    • John Nolan says:

      I notice that when our bishops attend Anglican services they wear choir dress (rochet and mozzetta). I would go one better and process down the nave of Canterbury cathedral in galero and cappa magna (with a train 25 feet long) accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets.

      Actually, I’d make a terrible bishop; within a year I’d probably have excommunicated half the diocese.

      • John Candido says:

        God! How true!

      • Michael Horsnall says:

        John Nolan:

        Ha ha ha ! the long train Brings Elton John to mind You would be fine as a bishop John as long as you only muttered to yourself about excommunicating everybody and didn’t actually do it! We have a ‘line manager’ at seminary and he’s a bit of a stickler whereas I am so fiercely idiosyncratic that I simply have to be self employed and haven’t worked for anyone else for more than 30 years…as you can imagine there are sparks but its the old ‘iron striking iron’ thing – good for a laugh and a bit of mutual sharpening .

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan,Then you would be ‘made to retire’!!!! Or ‘perhaps be accusde of child abuse!! They would get rid of you somehow!.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike that’s all right . I do have a sense of humour., However, I don,t think it is just the frock that interests you.
      You will find that Blessed Pope John Paul 2nd and Pope Benedict, had a special devotion to Our Blessed Mother. I expect most Popes did.
      I led the Rosary Circle of’ ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ for many years at my parish once a week and it was all women.The Parish priest joined us but he walked up and down he said it was the only way he could say it..He died suddenly with his Rosary in in hands.which were given to me and I have treasured them ever since for their memories
      Also I have noticed many a time that it will be 10 to 1 women at Holy Mass daily.
      so I do understand why they want to be.ordained…. Not understanding the reason why they are not able to. I do believe if it was possible, the Church would be full of vocations of females. AND I am not a femenist!! …

  41. Michael Horsnall says:

    ST Joseph,
    Actually I think you are right by the way!

    • Singalong says:

      Miichael Horsnall, I thought the mention of your frock needed a little ditty, so here is one which I hope you don`t think is too flippant, or childish,
      Who could mock Mike in his frock taking stock with his flock?
      Seriously, we have two very good deacons here, a real godsend to the parishioners and to the parish priest, and it sounds as if you will be the same.

  42. Claret says:

    Test for Claret

  43. Claret says:

    Test for Claret using Internet Explorer

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