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Bishops' Loyalties (Thu Mar 18, 2004 10:22 am)

As we face the disintegration of the Church and our own parish communities, 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 bishops' loyalty?

Fr. Donald Cozzens recommends that our priority of loyalties, as Catholics, should be: 1) to the Gospels, 2) to conscience, and 3) to the organized Church. No doubt we are all guilty of small disloyalties or betrayals (as pointed out by Kilian McDonnell in his book of poetry Swift, Lord, You are Not) in our attempts to reconcile these loyalties in our lives.

Bishops have a particularly difficult time with this. Bishops presumably are intelligent, probably educated in Rome, politically astute, versed in Canon Law, and above all loyal to the institution. Their priorities seem different, more like - 1) Institution, 2) Gospel, then 3) Conscience. Recent revelations certainly confirm this alignment of loyalties 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 his betrayal of the Gospel, betrayal of his conscience, and betrayal of his people? Might this be considered to be the benchmark of betrayal, and as hard as this may sound, should it not be called what it truly is - betrayal of his role as Apostle of Jesus? More and more we are awakening to this misplaced loyalty, this betrayal.

If you agree, please share this reflection with your friends, write letters to the editor, speak with your bishop about it...and let us know what action you take, and what results you learn of.

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