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Bishops' Accountability (Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:46 am)

Our priests, but especially our bishops need and deserve our prayers, support, and input to deal with the problems we face. As the shortage of priests continues to deepen, no doubt bishops are experiencing a conflict in conscience between their vow of obedience to the Pope and the spiritual needs of their people. While appointed by the Pope, they are responsible to address the care of souls of their community. They are inhibited from doing this by the Pope himself -- an impossible situation. We are reminded of advice given by a wise confessor: "The vow of obedience ceases to bind when one is commanded to do something immoral or unjust. This is the point the German generals failed to see when they carried out their oath of obedience to Hitler."

As we face the loss of the Eucharist due to the shrinking number of ordained men, we need to ask our bishop, "Have we reached a point where the priority of the spiritual necessity of your people is so serious as to cause you to question the morality of compliance with human laws?" Is it time for us to question our bishop's loyalty?

Fr. Donald Cozzens recommends that our priority of loyalties should be: 1) to the Gospels, 2) to conscience, and 3) to the organized Church. ARCC agrees with this priority but also recognizes that all are guilty of small disloyalties or betrayals in the attempt to reconcile these loyalties in our lives.

Bishops have a particularly difficult time with their loyalties. They presumably are intelligent, probably educated in Rome, politically astute, versed in Canon Law, and above all loyal to the institution. Their priorities must be different, more like 1) Institution, 2) Gospel, then 3) Conscience. Recent revelations confirm this priority for many. In affirming one's loyalties it is essential to moral integrity that the consequent "disloyalties" or "betrayals" be acknowledged as such. Alas, in an effort to protect their first priority, the good name of the Church, bishops may quietly compromise their loyalties to Gospel and conscience.

Is a great betrayal occurring in our Catholic Church? Have those bishops who abandon or close viable parishes because of the shortage of male-celibate priests out of loyalty to the institution and its human system of governance misplaced their loyalty? Might such a bishop need to ponder the betrayal of his people while remaining loyal to the organization whose purpose is to serve these very same people? More and more we are aware of this misplaced loyalty and ARCC urges all Catholics to speak out.

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

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