Posted by: Jayme | December 2, 2008

The REAL Importance of Solid Bishops

Today I was casually browsing online and came across 3 seemingly unrelated postings that led to the same point.  The strength and orthodoxy (or lack of thereof) of local Bishops matters a great deal.

First I read The Power of a Bold Bishop by Deal Hudson.  He wrote about Scranton’s ordinary, Joseph Martino.  Before and since the election Bishop Martino has spoken about the issue of abortion needing to be a priority for voters.  “No social issue has caused the deaths of 50 million people,” Martino said at a recent conference, adding, “This is madness, people.”  Hudson also points out that Philiadelphia pro-life activist credits Bishop Martino with the majority of Pennsylvanian Catholics voting against the pro-choice presidential candidate.  (This is the opposite of the national Catholic vote, and Pennsylvania itself was a blue state.)

I was encouraged after reading about Bishop Martino, but then noticed a very different article on a UK site, Be Careful Not to Offend Gay Worshippers, Catholic Priests are Warned.  It referred to a leaflet put out by British bishops advising priests to be more welcoming to gay worshippers, as well as to advertise for homosexual support services in their parishes.  Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was pleased by the advice, but he felt it was undermined by the “homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism.”

It seemed to me that when the official teachings of the Catholic Church  “undermine” the message of a group of bishops, the problem is most likely to lie with the bishops.  Mentally, I jumped to the conclusion that this leaflet could just be symptomatic of a larger problem.

This may not have been too big of a leap, as shown by the third article, UK Adoption Agencies Voluntarily Refuse Religious Opt-Out Clause for Homosexual Adoption.  This Catholic Exchange piece reported (emphasis mine):

Catholic adoption agencies in the UK have refused to employ a legal opt-out built into the government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR), willingly opting for secularization instead, a British legal expert has said. In an interview with, Neil Addison, an expert in religious discrimination law, said that the reason Catholic adoption agencies in Britain are closing or secularizing is because they are not interested in remaining Catholic. Moreover, he said, the bishops have been complicit in their unwillingness to fight for the Catholic nature of their agencies.The crisis over the adoption agencies has forced into the public eye the deterioration of the Catholic charities in Britain. The problem, said Addison, is not that the Catholic agencies have been backed into a legal corner, but that they “lack the will” to act in accordance with Church teaching.

It is not my intention to sit in judgement of individual Shepherds of the Church.  Today though, sitting at my computer in my Ohio home, I was struck by the dichotomy that appeared on my web browser.  A single PA bishop who courageously spoke out for Church teaching has an impressive and empowering effect on his flock.  Across the pond, bishops who appear to be bending to secular pressure are leading Catholics who seem to be doing the same.


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