Poussin – The Death of Sapphira

Pope John Paul did not want criminal abuser priests reported to the police. 

He will be canonized and 99.99% of the laity will applaud. 

No one wants anyone to be accountable – for fear they THEY might be held accountable. 

John Allen interviewed Cardinal George, who tip-toed around the delicate issue of whether bishops should ever be held accountable for their failures – basically, George thought, no. 

George did admit that bishops had failed to punish abusive priests, and that they should use their authority of governance to act against such people. 

Many of laity heartily disagree: Here are some of the reactions (and remember, George is speaking of the failure of bishops to punish priests who molested children): 

I am concerned that Cardinal George is talking about governing – Jesus promised servants and persons who lead by example – the use of the term govern indicates that the bishops have forgotten that they are servants first – I also am not sure about the reluctance to punish – servants don’t punish – shepherds don’t punish they guide and they teach – rulers punish – Cardinal George nor any bishop is a ruler. 

The Cardinal says that bishops need to “take possession of their vocation” by being “governors… who exercise the power to punish.”Spoken like the Grand Inquisitor. Christ exercised his power in the form of a servant. His authority was “self-emptying.”The faithful have already seen far too much of the “power to punich” emmanating from today’s bishops. This is not Vatican II thinking. It smacks of the trumphalism of another age.Sorry. But that’s not what people look for in their supposed shepherd.possession of their vocation,” not just as teachers and preachers, but as governors who exercise, however reluctantly, “the power to punish.” 

Perhaps Cardinal George does not know that many Catholics are not interested in the hierarchy’s power to punish, simply b/c they do not recognize it. We are Catholics regardless of what bishops think or proclaim. 

This would be a grave mistake. The truth is that bishops no longer effectively have that kind of power and Catholics no longer will accept the role of ‘child’ and cede the role of ‘parent’ to the bishop. Those days are behind us for good.

Is it revealing — or merely an accident — that nowhere in this article, which spends so much time looking at the role of the bishops, does the word “pastoral” appear? “Punish,” on the other hand, is right there.

Where does Cardinal George find a mandate for bishops to be “governors who exercise … the power to punish?” Certainly not in Christ’s command to His Apostles at the Last Supper: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. … no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than him who sent him.” (John 13:35-36). Nor is it in Paul’s description of what Christ did: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil.2:5-8).
The true definition of the bishop’s role in the Church is service and leadership (like the “good shepherd” who leads out his flock), a role certainly absent in many recent highly publicised statements and actions by bishops, not only in America. In spite of Cardinal George’s opinion to the contrary, most Catholics seek clear moral principles on which to base their decisions not moral micromanaging by the hierarchy.
The Church of Christ calls for pastoral leadership, not juridical and punitive authority.

“The power to punish!” WHAT? Are we children? George may be the intellectual leader of the Bishops but he’s an idiot.

In the current climate, I’d be very cautious about touting the “power to punish.” Lay people can ignore bishops, celebrate the sacraments as they please, and there is no policing body available to enforce. Cardinal George would find episcopal credibility eroding even further. He shouldn’t dismiss the power to persuade very easily. It sure worked for Jesus.

So the good cardinal says that “bishops are more prepared to ‘take possession of their vocation’, not just as teachers and preachers, but as governors who exercise, however reluctantly, ‘the power to punish’.”Well, lordy-lordy, why am I not surprised by this guy’s remarks???Of course our “JPII” bishops are “more prepared” to “take possession [of] the power to punish”. They stand on their episcopal pedestals, by God, and we’re all gonna’ risk our eternal salvation if we tell these fellas they’re full of it!!!

One might point out the story of Annas and Sapphira in Acts, or Paul’s instruction to deliver a sinning brother over to Satan. Obviously punishment is to be used only in extreme cases, for the good of the sinner and the good of the Church – but the attitude that punishment is NEVER to be used, that bishops should only persuade and never punish, is what allowed sexual abuse to flourish in the Church.

Leave a Comment