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).
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.
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.
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.