Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bishop McManus: Authority and Service

Faithful Catholics of the Worcester Diocese are blessed to have a spiritual leader such as The Most Reverend Robert J. McManus. As Father Euteneuer of Human Life International has observed (see here), "In a time when far too many scandals go unaddressed in our Catholic institutions it is very encouraging to see a bishop take a bold stand in defense of his people and the integrity of the Church."

There are some who would criticize the Bishop, asserting that he should have done more. They would argue, along with Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand, that: "The right use of the sacred authority of a bishop or a religious superior is much more necessary, more urgently called for by God when it is not just the deviation of an individual which is at stake, but rather the spreading of a terrible spiritual plague by one who is either malicious or ignorant. The failure to use God-given authority against such a person [and one could add an institution of higher learning] is a betrayal of Christ. Anyone who, from cowardice or insufficient moral courage, fails to take up a fight, brings a terrible responsibility upon himself...The betrayal of God-given authority, by keeping silent or by not intervening where this is a sacred duty before God, is always a very grave fault. Sometimes it comes from the ostrich-policy of burying one's head in the sand and not wanting to see the evils which authority can and should eliminate; sometimes it comes from the slogan, 'Authority is no longer effective today, it belongs to the Middle Ages.' This is much more dangerous than the abuse of authority which we just discussed; it is an even worse naturalism than this abuse, it is a failure to see what is demanded by the sacred office of a bishop or a religious superior. One looks upon authority as uncharitable and harsh because one looks at it 'from without,' and fails to understand that it is a deed of the greatest love, that it is true love of neighbor to use God-given authority in the spirit of Christ and with the full awareness of being responsible before God." (The Devastated Vineyard, pp. 205-207).

And this is certainly true. But what exactly is "the right use of sacred authority"? Is it only command and not service? Does a Bishop have to abandon the pastoral dimension of his ministry? Of course not. In Mark 10: 42-44, Jesus tells His Disciples: "..You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all."

In his book entitled, "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way," Pope John Paul II wrote, "There is always a problem in achieving a balance between authority and service. Maybe I should have been more assertive. I think this is partly a matter of my temperament. Yet it could also be related to the will of Christ, who asked His Apostles not to dominate but to serve. Obviously a bishop has authority, but much depends on the way he exercises it. If a bishop stresses his authority too much, then the people think all he can do is issue commands. On the other hand, if he adopts an attitude of service, the faithful spontaneously tend to listen to him and willingly submit to his authority. So a certain balance is needed. If a bishop says, 'I'm in charge here' or 'I'm only here to serve,' then something is missing: He must serve by ruling and rule by serving. We have an eloquent model of this dual approach in Christ Himself: He served unceasingly, but in the spirit of serving God He was also able to expel the money changers from the temple when this was needed." (Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, pp. 49-50).

Bishop McManus has warned Holy Cross that continued dissent will have its consequences. He is also being pastoral while remembering that authority is not just command but service. He is striving to achieve a balance. And he deserves our prayers and our support.


Anonymous said...

I agree Paul. I pray for the Bishop every day. I also pray that Holy Cross will listen to the spiritual father of this Diocese. This is our DUTY!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post which provides a sense of balance regarding the duty of a Bishop. It was most timely. Pax.

Anonymous said...

Contact the Bishop, tell him of your support, and ask him to address the problem of a Holy Cross professor promoting homosexuality:

Professor Nickoloff needs to demonstrate that he accepts the Church's moral teaching on homosexuality.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Just for the record: Someone posted a comment last night (evening of 1/7/09) using the name Paul. This post is not mine. I do not post at the HCCNS website nor have I for quite some time. If any comments are left at that site under my full name or simply "Paul," they are not mine. I have no intention of visiting the HCCNS site in the future.

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