Time to Stand

Clown Mass at Salzburg Cathedral


There is an ongoing attempt around Saint Blogs to get critics of Pope Francis to shut up.  Frank Walker  of Pewsitter will have none of it:

Catholic World Report has an unfortunate piece which tries to make Faithful sensible Catholics feel guilty for honest direct criticism of bishops. Right out of the box we’re all disgruntled, full of pride and ‘cheap chatter.’ Oh, and if we knew anything of Church teaching, we’d be very careful with our ‘murmuring.’

While disgruntled criticisms of Catholic bishops are nothing new, there seems to be an increase of late, especially since the start of Pope Francis’s pontificate. There is clearly no denying that there are problems within the Church, but Catholic moral teaching makes it clear that murmuring against our bishops shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cheap chatter, intellectual pride, and unchecked emotions can often make it difficult to discern who is in the right and make such murmurs justifiable.

Don’t be sold. If you love your Church, you put the blame where it belongs. Try running a destructive problem in your parish upstairs and see how far you get. There’s no democracy in the Church, and to the Pope’s delight, no free market.

Next CWR’s Carrie Gress tells us how we’re putting cracks in the windshield of the bishops’ authority, how we’re just like Protestants, and how we need to be charitable, merciful, not gossip or vent – in short, sheepish before our shepherds.  She aims for her conservative targets with an appeal to ‘subsidiarity’ meaning, “Don’t get over your head.”

Subsidiarity is the Church’s fundamental tenet that assigns responsibility for an issue or problem to the lowest appropriate authority; likewise, it restrains higher authorities from usurping the tasks of the lower. Embracing such decentralization liberates all of us back-seat drivers to let go and let the driver do his job. So too with our faith. If it is your job to voice criticisms of a bishop because you are in close proximity to him as an employee or trusted friend, then yes, using fraternal correction, you may have an obligation to do so. But for the rest of us, not so much, unless you are like St. Catherine of Siena, tasked with the project because of your personal sanctity (and not just in your own mind).

That one about – when you’re a great saint you’ll have to right to open your mouth – is tired. What should we do, all assume we’re not saints and sit down? Can’t we at least aspire a bit?

If in fact our bishops weren’t actively working against the Church and for its enemies, if most of them showed any substantial evidence of being Catholic, or if they didn’t generally have long records of collapse in their dioceses, then possibly this quietism might be in order.

The Catholic model works because it’s a living thing. It just needs to be permitted by those in charge. Inasmuch as it’s blocked by the hierarchy, then we must do our parts.

Our bishops are not politicians. They have been ordained to shepherd us. Are some corrupt? Yes. Are there some who are weak? Yes. Are there some who are sinners? Yes (we all are). But perhaps if we offered them more space to do their job and increased prayer to support them, they might do the right thing. And even if they don’t, at least we know we have.

“More space to do their job.” Which one did she interview for that line?

Let us be blunt shall we?  By and large the clergy running the Church have been doing a lousy job for the past half century.  Pews have been emptied in many nations and heterodoxy proclaimed while orthodoxy has been persecuted.  The scandal of predator priests and the bishops who protected them was merely one among many signs that among the clergy there are many in positions of power who pay only lip service to the Gospel of Christ.  Some turning of the tide was seen under John Paul II and the Pope Emeritus, but the current pontificate indicates that much of that was surface only and that the problems that beset the Church are deep indeed.  When the clergy will not defend orthodoxy, it is the duty, not a right but a duty, for members of the laity, in union with orthodox clergy, to do so.  People who look at the current travails of the Church and think the critics of the Pope are the problem are blind guides indeed.


More to explorer


  1. Pope Francis said that priests should be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

    Well, sometimes the sheep smell and sometimes the shepherds smell.

  2. “Subsidiarity is the Church’s fundamental tenet that assigns responsibility for an issue or problem to the lowest appropriate authority; likewise, it restrains higher authorities from usurping the tasks of the lower.”
    How does this comport with the Holy Father enjoying, “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334), as he reminded us at the conclusion of the Synod? How can an “immediate and… ordinary power” usurp the tasks of the lower?
    Does oe detect a hint of Gallicanism here?

  3. “sit odor vitae tuae delectamentum Ecclesiae Christi ( May the fragrance of your life be the delight of Christ’s Church)”.

    Popewatch has been fair and balanced.

    Please keep praying for Pope Francis.
    May he be less a politician and more a true shepard.

  4. Sorry to be such a dunce but where does Catholic moral teaching “make it clear” about murmuring about bishops? I guess that Catholic moral teaching would address the fidelity of bishop and clear teaching of Church.

  5. Just what I was about to ask, Anzlyne– it does seem a bit light on support, rather than their interpretations, no?
    I’m rather curious who they think decides that someone is sufficiently called to be able to say “this is not right.”

  6. My pedestrian view of the behavior of a few of our prelates is that they have engaged in the clericalism of modernity. When they choose to promote the ideological and the political under the vestments of “pastoralism” they have also chosen to be challenged on the subjects of their less than prudential judgments. Unfortunately too, they have chosen to undermine their own authentic pastoral responsibility. I don’t think censorship of an informed laity serves the Church. Saint Pope Pius X, pray for us.

  7. Here is a citation from from a column recently posted by Father Hunwicke at his website:
    “The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter so that by His revelation they might disclose new teaching, but that, by His assistance, they might devoutly guard, and faithfully set forth, the Revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith.”
    From the Decree of the First Vatican Council, on Papal Infallibility.

  8. Honest criticism of the current Roman Pontiff – or any of his predecessors – is not a bad thing.

    The Roman Pontiff is from an area that is a political and economic mess and has almost always been so. The Roman Pontiff knew little of the Church outside of his diocese and has appeared to learn little about things outside of his comfort zone.

    Criticism of St. JPII came mostly from the left. The traditionalist wing will always be somewhat sore at him for excommunicating Lefevbre, allowing altar girls, and his lack of focusing on the liturgy, but they are fewer than the Left. The Pope Emeritus was not going to bend to the Left (Kasper, Maradiaga, etc.)

    The current Roman Pontiff deserves the honest criticism he receives. Bloggers who don’t like it can stick it in their ears.

  9. …where does Catholic moral teaching “make it clear” about murmuring about bishops?

    In the Gospels we are told that the sheep will not follow a stranger. That’s “Catholic moral teaching” but those trying to shush the faithful probably didn’t mean that.

  10. ahaha- good point Micha! I got a funny picture of a bunch of sheep milling around muttering to each other and reluctantly following– most of them anyway. A remnant tightened their jaws and stayed put.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: