Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Perhaps humiliation coupled with a sense of personal betrayal fuels the 'righteous anger' of many contemporary Catholics (both liberal and conservative). The Church - or, as they put it, the hierarchy - has fallen short of their expectations, so the Church - or, as they put it, the hierarchy - must change.

I'd like to suggest that maybe it is their expectations that will have to change.

The Church's gift of holiness is an attribute of Christ. It's not the merit-badge for good men.

The holiness of the priesthood is also independent of the goodness of man. It is the holiness of Christ. A man's priesthood is undiminished by that man's depravity. A morally depraved and unrepentant man who bears the mark of ordination is a holy priest. A priest in such moral disrepair is perfectly competent to perform his priestly duties. He serves at the discretion of his bishop. A bishop in such straits (if we should find one) is also fully competent to perform his ecclesiastic functions. He is a Prince of the Church and a holy priest, who serves at the discretion of the Pope.

It is not legitimate to say that the office is holy even when the man is not. Nor is it legitimate to claim that we are loyal to the office, while being disloyal to the man. The quality of bishop adheres to the man; the quality of priest adheres to the man. The office of bishop (absent the man) is a simple emptiness waiting for the bishop's presence.

It is equally illegitimate to claim that one is loyal to Rome, while being disloyal to one's own bishop. One can only be loyal to Rome through one's bishop. One can only be obedient to Rome through obedience to one's bishop.

One of the hardest and highest virtues in the church is obedience.


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