|Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Bishop of Bling|
St. Peter Damian was writing about child molesting priests and bishops who enabled them a thousand years ago. This paper on Damian by C. Colt Anderson makes the argument that the magisterium is not to be confused with the imperium - that the teaching authority of the Catholic Church (which we believe has the guarantee of infallibility on matters of Faith and Morals) is not the same thing as the ruling authority of the Catholic Church.
In other words, the bishops will, in the long run, teach authoritatively, but they may not manage or administer authoritatively. Indeed, the worldly jurisdiction of the Church is not something clearly spelled out in Scripture or anywhere else, as far as I know. Who Christ is, what He asks of us and how Salvation works - this the Church passes on with a Divine authority. But exactly how the Church is to function as a Thing in the world, and how we are to implement this Thing, we are largely left to work out for ourselves.
One thing we know - the Church is not to function as it is today.
I gave just one example in my most recent post - a known child molesting priest being passed from parish to parish, while a string of bishops, who were fully aware of the harm this man was causing his innocent victims, not only failed to warn parishioners, but lauded the man as being "pious", praising his "character": the pious character of a man who got a 13-year-old pregnant, who tried to perform a forced abortion on her, and who sexually abused dozens of boys over his 30-plus year career.
- How can such bishops, successors to the apostles, not only allow but enable and to an extent pave the way for such crimes?
- How can the infamous German "Bishop of Bling" spend $45 million dollars of Church funds to build himself a house?
- How can these men continue to allow the death of catechesis and the universal abuse of the liturgy, ignoring the complaints of lay Catholics and ostracizing them?
How can men who are supposed to be modeling Christ behave like this?
The question is really troubling, not just because of clericalism - the assumption that those who have been ordained are somehow better than the rest of us - but because these questions could not be asked of men who were decent human beings, much less of men who claimed to have devoted their lives to Jesus Christ.
Christians do not behave like this. Men with any personal integrity do not behave like this - regardless of their faith.
If we are going to reform the Church - and reform will come from the laity, not the clergy, it seems - we will have to realize how important our witness is. It is the most troubling lesson of this whole mess.
If we lived like true Christians, even as best we could, we would shine like St. Maximilian Kolbe, like St. Genesius, like Mother Teresa. And our witness would draw others to the Love of God.
If we live as our bishops do, our witness will drive people away - as theirs does.
Perhaps Pope Francis, in his austerity and authenticity, is showing the Way. Perhaps we should follow.