We Don’t Need Bishops

So the debate about the attitude of the bishops concerning the American President and his prohibition to receive the Eucharist continues. (find a lengthy link to the elements of this below) And I don’t care because the important question for me is whether I believe abortion in itself to be a terrible sin, or not. On my Day of Judgment (perhaps not long off) the Almighty will be measuring my own judgments, and practices, of good and evil — that is loving God and loving my neightbour — nothing else.


The question of abortion is a question of created human nature. Do I believe that that neither I, or anyone else, has the right to kill an innocent human being? My answer to that is that I do not believe that I have such a right. But that leads to a second question: is a baby in the womb a human being?


The basic facts are clear. There is no human being before the male and female elements are joined, through conception, into one element — the ultimate genes are unique in their pattern. At that moment you and I have our own patterns, and our own identities. Over the days, months and years, the characteristics of our genetic elements develop through time and experience. This process continues after birth, and right through our lives. For example, we assume a capacity for broad reason about 7 years old, and a capacity for adult decisions at 18 or 21. At no point could we claim that we suddenly become human beings — because we are human beings ab initio.


https://www.vox.com/2021/6/19/22541270/biden-abortion-communion-catholic-bishops

About Quentin

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31 Responses to We Don’t Need Bishops

  1. David Smith says:

    I think the American bishops are right to pay particular attention to this president’s views on abortion because he’s been so blatantly open about his advocacy of it and because at the same time he promotes himself as a “good Catholic”. His actions, therefore, are little short of daring the Church to call him out. They should. If they don’t, they’re colluding publicly in a statement that Catholicism means whatever a baptized Catholic says it does.

  2. pnyikos says:

    What I find really aggravating is the way the mainstream media routinely call Biden “a devout Catholic.” They are using a minimalist definition that was adopted in the infamous Kinsey Report: a Catholic who attends Sunday Mass regularly.

    The media also make much about how Biden carries a rosary around, but seldom mention the un-Christian way he talked about it back about it in 2005, when he was contemplating running for President:
    “If I’m the nominee, Republicans will be sorry,” he said. “The next Republican that tells me I’m not religious I’m going to shove my rosary beads down their throat.”
    “I am so sick and tired of this pontificating about us not being the party of faith,” said Biden, a Roman Catholic who has served in the Senate since the Nixon administration.
    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/strung-beads/

  3. pnyikos says:

    Quentin, I understand where you are coming from with the title, “We Don’t Need Bishops” [to tell us whether abortion is moral or immoral], but we do need them to tell us whether it is laudable for a priest to deny communion to Catholics who work to make us fund abortion with our tax money, and who push for laws that allow abortion for any reason or no reason no matter how fully developed the unborn baby is. (This includes, e.g., a baby overdue at 40 weeks and weighing 5 or more kilos.)

    The Conference of US bishops is not going to make a formal policy on this. It is left up to the individual bishop to either praise a priest who denies the communion to a Catholic fitting the above description (including Biden, Pelosi, and Andrew Cuomo) or, at the opposite extreme, to punish him.

  4. David Smith says:

    I just had a look at the article Quentin’s URL points to. Just a few paragraphs in, I stopped reading. The author seems to be neither Catholic nor more than superficially informed about the Church.

    Do we need bishops? Yes, I think so. The institutional Church is what Catholicism is all about, and the bishops are there to teach, to correct, and to lead and govern at the diocesan level. They’re human, so they may falter and fail, but they have a legitimate claim on our respect.

  5. ignatius says:

    Yes, they do.

  6. Geordie says:

    I admire atheists who are against abortion because they believe the unborn child is a human being. They don’t need a bishop to tell them what is obvious. However bishops have an obligation to teach the doctrine of the Catholic Church but many of them are frightened to put their heads above the parapet. They like to be included in the in-set of society and so keep quiet about unpopular doctrines; so it is best for Catholics to be careful about following bishops. Many of them are poor leaders and just enjoy the kudos which comes with the position.

  7. Hock says:

    Tony Blair received Holy Communion in his local church before he was received into the Catholic Church. Evidently this was a scandal that parishioners were upset about but not the clergy who administered Communion in that Church. I don’t know the views of his Bishop but I understand that it was the parishioners who ‘forced’ a change and Tony Blair opted out of receiving communion until he was formally welcomed into the Church, as a convert, by the Archbishop. He could then receive communion ( and become a Catholic,) whilst it was common knowledge that throughout his political career he supported easier and easier abortion, and in effect campaigned for it and voted for it.
    Make of that what you will but it is obvious that there would be no support by our UK bishops for such a move.

  8. David Smith says:

    Hock wrote: ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64038 ) :

    // Make of that what you will but it is obvious that there would be no support by our UK bishops for such a move. //

    A quick web search comes up with the fact that there are six million Catholics in Britain and seventy million in the US. In Britain there are about thirty bishops versus nearly two hundred here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_the_United_States#Demographics
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_the_United_Kingdom#Statistics
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_dioceses_in_Great_Britain
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_dioceses_in_the_United_States

    Numbers of laity alone do not necessarily make a case for greater diversity here, but perhaps numbers of bishops do, since even if the Pope wanted to appoint two hundred abortion-friendly bishops here, he might have a harder time finding them and replacing them within the space of what looks to be a fairly short pontificate.

    Also, my sense is that Britain overall inclines more to the political and social left than does the United States, and it’s been the left who have been pushing aggressively for “abortion rights”.

  9. David Smith says:

    Hock wrote: ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64038 ) :

    // Make of that what you will but it is obvious that there would be no support by our UK bishops for such a move. //

    A quick web search comes up with the fact that there are six million Catholics in Britain and seventy million in the US. In Britain there are about thirty bishops versus nearly two hundred here.

    Numbers of laity alone do not necessarily make a case for greater diversity, but perhaps numbers of bishops do, since even if the Pope wanted to appoint two hundred abortion-friendly bishops here, he might have a harder time finding them and replacing them within the space of what looks to be a fairly short pontificate.

    Also, my sense is that Britain overall inclines more to the political and social left than does the United States, and it’s been the left who have been pushing aggressively for “abortion rights”.

    • Alasdair says:

      “it’s been the left who have been pushing aggressively for “abortion rights”.
      Clearly that is the case in the US, but that model may not be correct in the UK.

  10. ignatius says:

    “Also, my sense is that Britain overall inclines more to the political and social left than does the United States, and it’s been the left who have been pushing aggressively for “abortion rights”.”
    I agree. Personally I think the British sentiment is something along the lines of what was once termed ‘Christian Socialist’ in its political orientation, we like the underdog here.

    Bishops, ‘poor leaders’ or not are there to administrate, encourage and keep some form of discipline in the ranks of the clergy. They are also there to give doctrinal guidance. We are here then to make up our minds, according to our own informed consciences as to what shall we do and how shall we react.

  11. David Smith says:

    Interesting squabble about this issue in the news here recently. I’m not clear enough on details to do more than remark and run, but it’s fascinating. A story was released to the effect that the Biden people tried to arrange for the Pope to be seen giving Biden communion while the President was in Europe recently. The source was said to be in the Vatican and reliable. The event didn’t happen, and the story was that Francis thought it would have been inappropriate in light of the current American Catholic bishops’ ongoing talks about whether or not to sanction denying communion to this rather woke president – whom some or all of the secular liberal media here seem to be given to referring to as a “devout Catholic” – because of his open and consistent support of “abortion rights”. That’s the Catholic conservative story. The Catholic liberal story seems to be that the conservatives made it all up.

  12. John Nolan says:

    It was Cardinal Hume who, in 1996, told Tony Blair he should not be presenting himself for Communion at a Catholic Mass. Blair acquiesced, but couldn’t resist remarking peevishly that he wondered what Jesus would have made of it.

  13. David Smith says:

    This issue has become highly politicized in the secular press here, with, it seems, not a little anti-Catholic bias. This is a cartoon from today in a major local newspaper in my state:

  14. galerimo says:

    We need more bishops.

    Realistically, one for every twelve who were baptised in the Catholic faith would be good a way of moving forward in growing the faith of our Church.

    Jesus models the practicality of such a mode of governance beautifully in the way he served his little diverse band of women and men while engaging also with the larger community.

    The responsibility of any bishop should not exceed the number of people whose feet she or he can wash at the beginning of any truly intimate Eucharist in which they share.

    In such circumstances any individual whether they are President of the United States or merely Prime Minister of Great Britain need only be the concern of the twelve to which they belong; all twelve of them coming together, in unity, and with their bishop, regularly.

    The business of weaponizing the Eucharist or any other form of not forgiving those who “trespass against us” would be less likely to arise.

    Proportioned in this way, the church is likely to maintain focus on living the obedience of Jesus as uncompromised and undiluted devotion to the will of the Father who so loved the WORLD.

    The little band of twelve would find encouragement and support from their leader. She would not be concerned with faith as morality but rather as choice – always in favouring the poor and those who are rejected.

    The current Imperialist model of Church would, in no way be diminished, just exposed. But the little band led by one of their own would be assured that Jesus would find them recognisable.

    He could be with them to the end and as he said of his Church the “Gates of Hell” would not prevail against them.

  15. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64057 ) :

    // We need more bishops.

    Realistically, one for every twelve who were baptised in the Catholic faith would be good a way of moving forward in growing the faith of our Church. //

    That would be a radically new model of the Catholic Church – a church overwhelmingly staffed and run by laity – or one that defined “laity” completely differently from the way it’s defined now. Would they ordain one another? No Vatican, no seminaries?

  16. milliganp says:

    I’m not actually sure what point Quentin is making. Quentin seem to rely on ‘natural law’ arguments but the dogma that the soul is immediately created by God at the moment of conception is Catholic Dogma, defined by the church (aka Bishops). At earlier times in Christian history ensoulment was considered to occur some time after conception. I am not saying this to contradict current dogma but to illustrate that is not immediately deducible from natural law ethics or non-dogmatic sources.

    Thus I would say, we do need Bishops.

  17. milliganp says:

    I thought it might make sense to try and find out exactly what Biden said.

    “Biden said he personally agrees with the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, but he did not think that those personal views should be imposed on others who may have different religious beliefs.”

    So Biden is not saying he believes abortion to be right but that it should be a matter of individual judgement, this seems to be entirely concordant with the principle of free will and personal responsibility for sin.

  18. David Smith says:

    milliganp writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64070 ) :

    // So Biden is not saying he believes abortion to be right but that it should be a matter of individual judgement, this seems to be entirely concordant with the principle of free will and personal responsibility for sin. //

    One cannot expect coherency and consistency from professional politicians, and Joe Biden is nothing if not a professional politician. He says A but does anti-A. That, unfortunately, is par for the political course. If my neighbor says he loves me but hires a contract killer to dispose of me, I conclude that he’s lying, or his definition of love is a peculiar one, or he thinks like a professional politician, or he’s crazy, or perhaps he’s senile. Senility is a sort of craziness.

  19. David Smith says:

    Alasdair writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64067 ) :

    // “it’s been the left who have been pushing aggressively for “abortion rights”.
    Clearly that is the case in the US, but that model may not be correct in the UK. //

    An interesting observation. Perhaps if you’re correct – and surely you’re a much better judge of that than I – the explanation may hinge on a difference between the British and the American meanings of a few words. In my reading of British media, I’ve been struck by the use of the word “conservative”, at least as it pertains to politics. What passes for a Conservative (upper case) party in Britain would not pass for a conservative (lower-case) party in America. At least in this sense, the British “Conservative” would be roughly equivalent to “significantly leftist” in America. It seems to me that both principal British political parties are, by the prevailing standard American definition, leftist. Similarly, when referring to politics, I think we use the pair “right” and “left”differently.

    That’s not to say that “conservative” (lower case) has decidedly different meanings in the two nations. When reading “The Critic”, a conservative British monthly, I’ve felt its outlook to be close kin to that of the more intelligent American conservative periodicals.

    Different cultures. Vive la différence!

    • milliganp says:

      The British Conservative Party really lost it’s way under Cameron, who was economically conservative but a social liberal. Our current leader is a social populist. As I get older I find myself thinking more like Margaret Thatcher, who was probably the last true Conservative leader. However Britain is still well to the right of most of Europe.
      Once you have a “social state” by which I mean that the state has major control of health, education and welfare, politicians always have a vested interest of increasing rather than decreasing control.

    • milliganp says:

      One of the most fundamental difference between European and American conservatism is that, since WW2, it has been see as at worst ignorance or best bad manners to invoke Christianity as the basis for any moral decision.
      The three founding fathers of the European Union were all Catholics who saw Catholic social teaching as foundational to the project. One of the fundamental principles of this teaching is subsidiarity which has now been almost entirely eliminated from the Eurpean political order by the rise of the centralisation of Brussels.

  20. David Smith says:

    milliganp writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64075 ) :

    // However Britain is still well to the right of most of Europe. //

    And yet in at least one recent exception, in yesterday’s Telegraph there was a story about the French PM’s coming out clearly against what he saw as the “woke” threat to the integrity of French culture. I’ve not seen anything like that from the British PM. Of course, Macron phrased his opposition to wokeness on the grounds that it was a threat that emanated from America, a thoroughly French justification that Boris probably would not have at his disposal were he disposed to look for one, which he seems not to be.

    And in Eastern Europe – Poland and Hungary come to mind, but there may be others I’m unaware of – there has been official if not popular opposition to the American left’s latest remouldings of reality. (Yes, you did say *most* of Europe was politically left of both Britain and America.)

    Side thought. Human beings, it behooves us never to let slip from consciousness, are only *somewhat* guided by reasonableness, awareness of the salutary lessons of history, and common sense. In a great many things, we default and yield to the urgings of our subconscious minds. We are curious creatures, always children, always in need of a self-discipline and a self-denial that if we’re fortunate are taught us but which seem not to be innate. We are apparently born with both a potential to mature and a very strong urge to refuse it.

    • milliganp says:

      The problem is that the right in both Poland and Hungary long for something far closer to Hitler than to the restoration of their pre-WW2 order. I don’t see that as conservatism.

    • FZM says:

      And in Eastern Europe – Poland and Hungary come to mind, but there may be others I’m unaware of – there has been official if not popular opposition to the American left’s latest remouldings of reality. (Yes, you did say *most* of Europe was politically left of both Britain and America.)

      As far as I know a lot of the right wing in Poland is still committed to classic 1990s or early 2000s Western democratic values, economic liberalism and so on, but this now makes it conservative, especially by Woke standards. Neighbouring Belarus is probably the most socially conservative and right wing country in Europe at the moment, when judging by European standards of what is right wing and not the more liberal ones you find in the Anglosphere.

      In France I believe the traditional left wing and the right wing have found common ground in opposing US Wokeness because it is so contrary to their Republican and Enlightenment traditions, in the majority of cases. Both Catholic integralists and the French ethno-nationalists have their own special reasons for rejecting it but they are much smaller groups.

  21. John Nolan says:

    Abortion in England and Wales is not a party political issue and Parliamentary votes on the subject are not whipped. That said, those MP who vote for tighter restrictions are almost all Conservative.
    Nor is abortion a ‘right’. A pregnancy may only be terminated on medical grounds and has to be signed off by two doctors. In 1967 MPs were assured that they would not be voting for abortion on demand; as things turned out, this is in practice what has happened.

    However, if it were a case of ‘reproductive rights’ and ‘choice’ then logically a woman could abort her own baby. Yet this remains a criminal offence and can result in imprisonment – there was a case only a few years ago.

    What is worrying is that the NHS – a behemoth underpinned by socialist ideology – seems to be increasingly intolerant of those it employs exercising their right to opt out of assisting with abortion on grounds of conscience.

    When Jacob Rees-Mogg announced he was against abortion on principle, another Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, called for him to be expelled from the Party on account of his ‘unacceptable’ views. We can take some comfort from the fact that JRM is now Leader of the House of Commons whereas Soubry left the Conservative Party in 2019 and lost her seat at the General Election of that year.

  22. David Smith says:

    // The three founding fathers of the European Union were all Catholics who saw Catholic social teaching as foundational to the project. //

    Activist Catholics are worse than most of the rest of their Christian brethren. After all, they grew up in a church in which everyone was expected to believe and do exactly as told. There are seeds of autocracy in that mindset. Mix in the strong human tendency to turn thought into emotion, and love and charity soon turn into anger. Kill the oppressors! Install the dictatorship of the righteous!

    • FZM says:

      Prussian Lutheranism gave the world Hegel, and Hegel was left wing and progressive compared to the reactionary Prussian Lutherans, so this probably isn’t true.

      I think what you find with both Catholics and Lutherans of the past is a more lucid understanding of the political; that it is based on the friend/enemy distinction and that prior to the Second Coming the friend/enemy distinction will always be with us.

  23. David Smith says:

    milliganp writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64078 ) :
    // The problem is that the right in both Poland and Hungary long for something far closer to Hitler than to the restoration of their pre-WW2 order. I don’t see that as conservatism. //

    I dare say they see an extremely angry and violent left as their mortal enemy. Is it not?

  24. John Nolan says:

    Hungary’s successful pro-family policies and resistance to mass immigration (the latter entirely understandable in view of Hungary’s history, demographics and geography) have angered the EU Left, and anyone who opposes the Left is axiomatically a fascist, hence the Hitler jibe.

    The idea of Poles being nostalgic about Hitler is too funny for words.

    Merkel wanted EU sanctions on Hungary, but Poland made it clear it would veto any such move. Hungary’s 2011 Constitution stresses the country’s Christian heritage, culture and values, and states that human life is to be protected ‘from the moment of conception.’ One might have thought this would meet with papal approval, but no. Pope Francis is due to celebrate Mass in Budapest in September but intends to snub the President and Prime Minister and stay only four hours in the country before paying a three-day visit to Slovakia, where he will be received by the (woman) President who happens to be – wait for it – a left-wing lawyer and environmental activist.

  25. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/06/21/we-dont-need-bishops/#comment-64085 ) :

    // I think what you find with both Catholics and Lutherans of the past is a more lucid understanding of the political; that it is based on the friend/enemy distinction and that prior to the Second Coming the friend/enemy distinction will always be with us. //

    With that in mind, would you place the founders of the European Economic Community in the past or in the present? Did they articulate a desire that what they were aiming at was the sort of thing the European Union has since become, or did they see that possibility and work to ensure that it might not happen? And were there in their time influential Catholics who both foresaw and approved of it? There have probably always been one-world-government Catholics, but were they politically influential in the late fifties, when the EEC was coming into being?

    I’m beginning to realize that major social changes that happen at any time cannot be properly understood without tracing them to their sometimes distant progenitors.

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