…. Criticism will always come to every leader, but the critic, especially one who purports to be a devout Catholic, has his own moral responsibility to make sure that both the substance and the form of his criticism are appropriately just and merciful.
Having offered those preliminary thoughts, I would like to consider an article, “The Shepherds the Church Needs Now,” published March 25 in the National Catholic Register by Janet E. Smith, my former professor and an esteemed colleague at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
In short, Smith’s article contains much “action,” in the form of criticism of various kinds lodged against the bishops’ response to COVID-19, but “missing” from her article is a cohesive, coherent argument.
Smith fails to make her case on a number of levels. First, she sets the bar of competence impossibly high. And the standard she sets is one entirely of her own design. This is a very common flaw in criticisms of those in authority—using as the sole standard of judgment one’s own sense about what those in authority ought to do.
In Smith’s view, in order to respond competently to the current crisis, each bishop ought to do the following:
- Lead Eucharistic processions in public areas of his diocese;
- “Step-up” his “personal presence to (his) flock” in his online ministry;
- Catechize his people on how to deal constructively with the suspension of public Masses;
- Ensure that chancery personnel are prepared to field incoming calls with requests for Baptism;
- To “learn from their priests,” whose pastoral initiative has produced abundant good fruit: “flying in a plane or helicopter with a monstrance over a whole diocese while people ‘adore’ from the ground; hearing confessions and saying Mass in parking lots; and processing with a monstrance in a flatbed of a truck to take the Eucharist to all parts of town, in addition to live-streaming Masses, Rosaries, Stations of the Cross, and retreats”;
- “Be present to us like never before—to help us keep our faith alive and to have the virtue of hope for our benefit and the benefit of those around us”;
- “Use social media to keep constant contact with your flock. Teach us what we need to know about how to keep spiritually strong in these frightening times”;
- Spend time answering Smith’s list of seven “frequently asked questions” for the flock;
- “[Provide] online spiritual direction every day, and they should broadcast their own daily Mass; they should say at least one Rosary online every day, lead novenas and litanies; they should lead a reflection on Scripture daily, and teach people how to do lectio divina (prayerful reading of Scripture)”;
- “Introduce the laity to various devotions—their favorite ones—and stories of their ‘friend’ saints. Or at least some of these!”;
- “Make themselves daily guests in the living rooms (or prayer spaces) of their flock. Imagine the impact if large numbers of the laity of a diocese logged on daily to pray together with their bishop.”
If this is what it takes merely to achieve the competence required to avoid the criticism of commentators like Smith, I rejoice all-the-more in the unlikelihood of my ever being called to the episcopacy! I simply could not fulfill these requirements, and very few priests or lay people I know could do so. At least, most would find it impossible to do all that Smith requires and perform all the vital functions of leadership without which a diocese is quickly set adrift during a time of crisis….
The above comes from a March 30 article by Father Charles Fox in Catholic World Report.
I personally agree to that; we all going through a very hard time and we need our Bishop to step up and show His love to his people think about this
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO. And I love to see how Priest in Italy are going in the back of a truck trough all the streets not being afraid that’s love that will keep our faith strong and keep us praying.
People will complain and criticize. I’ve been criticized many times. There have been a lot of Saints and even God Himself has been criticized. The Scripture is full of people criticizing God, whether it was criticism from the Hebrews as they left Egypt or in some other situation or criticism of Jesus by some of His followers or criticism of people today who want to blame God for just about anything they can. These criticisms are understandable because human beings have limited brains, including me. I criticize myself sometimes too. That’s the only one that does any good.
Janet Smith is in “Good” Company. If you read C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” or “Screwtape Letters” you’ll find plenty of characters who do the same thing.
“flying in a plane or helicopter with a monstrance over a whole diocese while people ‘adore’ from the ground…”
This has to be the most absurd idea I’ve ever heard of, in fact it made me laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. With all due respect for her intentions, this is misguided.
Fr. Fox’s presentation of the selection of a bishop is deficient. Popes make the appointment, relying on the selection by trusted bishops of the same country, who have been grooming priests who share their peculiar theological, liturgical, pastoral, political, etc ideas to move the church to their ideals. Ambition to attain to power, feel important, be chosen, may move a priest to want to be a bishop. Holiness and fidelity should be prime criteria, rather than promotion of like minded men who will push a new worldly agenda. Priestly vocations are waning. The church is top heavy in bishops and chanceries with more bishops,. Trim down the bureaucracy and episcopacy and teach the timeless Catholic faith.
Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Church history, with the hundreds of strong, Godly and manly bishops who, by cooperating with God’s grace and trusting entirely in His Providence, stepped up and did the heroic things necessary to yield “hundred-fold” good fruits… would understand what Janet Smith is saying. The Freemasonic infiltration of Holy Mother Church has left us with a majority of weak, effeminate, worldly (and perverted) bishops who would rather hide in their chancery office and honor Caesar than go out and fight to save souls.
Texas Governor Issues Executive Order Designating Religious Services As “Essential”
USA churches (& Cathedrals/ synagogues) MUST be open to services for/with the Faithful for Holy Week, Triduum, Easter, etc …
Bravo, Governor Abbot! Bravo Ms. Kazyak for publicizing this noble direction in the otherwise dismally directed civil arena!
As I have gotten older I have come to see that often good, bright, well-intended people (including Catholics) can have very different opinions about the same issues. It seems perhaps that Fr. Fox read Dr. Smith’s article as just one more shot at the American clergy at a time when our Bishops and Priests have been hammered over a number of things, some of which were not remotely their fault. It is understandable that he may be a bit gun-shy in this regard.
However, I believe that because of this he missed her main point. I see her input as a heart-felt Invitation, not a careless condemnation. My first impression (before reading Fr. Fox’s remarks) was, “Thank you, Dr. Smith! You’ve had the courage and focus to name what so many of us Catholics-in-the-pew have been longing for: to see and hear our spiritual Fathers step out front, to see and hear them say, ‘Dear Children, We are here! We love you, and we will not abandon you! Each day as you are kept from Mass and the Body and Blood of Jesus, we grieve with you, and we lift you up fervently to Him and His Holy Mother to keep you close and keep you and your families safe; with you we long deeply for the day when we may all be joined together again to share this Holy Sacrifice, and our worship together of the Holy Trinity, in the love and company of the Holy Family! Know that we will do all we can to be visibly connected with you until the Lord will deliver us all from the multiple afflictions of this un-Godly pestilence!’ ”