Saturday, December 26, 2009

My opinion regarding bishops attached to abuse charges

I am writing this to give my opinion about bishops who are, with good reason (not witch hunt false charges), attached to the sexual abuse charges of either covering up or, equally as bad, being negligent in overseeing the purity of spiritual subordinates.

I believe every one of you who covered up or who looked the other way, or who should have investigated but did not, should offer your resignations. This is why.

Being a bishop does not, no matter how much the verbiage and process sound like it, confer higher status or spirituality. I'm saying this in comfort, not in criticism. You must not become so attached to the responsibilities, authority and prestige of being a bishop so much that you view stepping away from it as a diminishing. The highest genuine honors of serving God, and one's flock, is to be a parish priest or priest to a community, or even the contemplative life.

If any of you bishops (including ones who are not in some sort of hot water) cannot follow the imagery I am going to offer you, you have to do some prayer and soul searching.

Imagine that you are no longer serving a bishop's capacity, but you are back to being a parish priest, or one attached to a seminary in a formation capacity, or even entering contemplative service in a monastery. How much of this image makes you feel diminished? Compare this to the feeling of release and of being freed of burdens that separate you from first hand contemplation of God through celebrating the Mass, hearing confessions, prayer, etc.

It is not just humility that caused many saints, when priests, to literally flee when the role of bishop was thrust upon them. Most saints genuinely preferred being parish priests, or members of a community, or contemplatives than they did seeking that princely office. Some of them feigned madness or stupidity to avoid it ha.

If you are really in service to God and his flock, most of you should feel that if your bishop responsibilities were taken from you, that it would be a relief and that once again you are getting down to the brass tacks (American slang for back to the basics, the fundamentals). The more a person seeks being a bishop (or outside the Catholic church, giving themselves that title) the more I wonder why they are seeking it so very much. Usually the answer is that it is viewed as a promotion.

Friends, brothers, though, remember one thing. A promotion upward in human circles is usually a lateral promotion or a downward promotion away from God. Layers of artificial concerns intrude upon even the most well meaning bishop's office. If you stop thinking of a bishop's chair as being a promotion or "increased authority," you will move closer, again, to God. This is why I think this is a valuable mental imagery exercise of visualization for even well functioning bishops who are serene and capable in their calling. Once in a while remember that it's not really a promotion and, further, the most humble duties of a priest is usually that which is closest to God's heart.

I hope that you have found this helpful.
Honoring always JMJ.