Sunday, December 13, 2009
On the Accountability of Bishops #2
Traditionally, and according to the Vatican Council bishops are responsible for teaching, for sanctifying and for governing their dioceses together with their co-workers the priests. The toleration of such serious sin, cover up and therefore complicity in the sin would indicate the Irish bishops failed miserably in all three of these areas, as well as in simple morality. In both England and Ireland, and maybe the rest of Europe, maintenance seems to have a higher priority than mission, yet without a sense of mission there is nothing to maintain and there is no purpose in the Church therefore its structures are fossilized and meaningless, preserved and defended like ancient monuments. I suspect this lack of purpose is responsible for the paucity of vocations, for a loss of morale, of spirituality, of hope in so many clergy.
The obvious answer is to Christ, the traditional model was that bishops were accountable to their diocese, to their people and their clergy, who were defenders of their people's, or at least their parish’s, rights and to Rome which ensured their obedience to the Faith and the Law of the Church.
Since the rise of the Episcopal Conference bishops see themselves as accountable, above all, to their brother bishop and to the faceless and multifarious committees of the Conference. This accountability far from being about fraternal correction and developing a sense of zeal seems to be about loyalty to the conference and developing a culture of committees and mediocrity, hiding behind collective structures.
The National Conference of Priests in England and Wales decided to close down, in part, because of the frustration of getting any response from the bishops, because every decision has to be made by the Conference, a process which in practice took years. Of course the NCP was formed as a priestly response to the Bishop’s Conference.
Bishop O’Donoghue when he dared to break ranks with the Conference by issuing “Fit for Mission?” was shunned by the Conference.
The Bishops Conferences, certainly in England, and probably in Ireland, removes bishops from a sense of direct responsibility to the diocese.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake