One of the ideas that Protestants have about Catholics is that we expect the priests to take care of our holiness for us. They offer the sacrifice of the Mass, they read and study Scripture, they study doctrine and theology - all so that we don't have to.
And, though this is a stereotype, it's largely true.
But the thing is that not only is this wrong-headed of Catholics, it's often simply wrong. What I mean is that priests - and especially bishops - sometimes don't come anywhere close to doing what we're depending on them to do.
As yet another exhibit in this case, David Clohessy of SNAP issued a statement today that was more an honest lament than it was a press release.
He talks about the passing of child molester Fr. Robert K. Larson, whose victims included 17 children, 5 of whom eventually committed suicide. He talks about how Larson's passing was kept secret until after the burial. He talks about how none of the victims or their families, who must be experiencing a difficult mixture of emotion now that Larson has died - none of them were contacted by any bishop. Clohessy states (my emphasis) ...
We are sure [Larson's] bishop will issue a statement expressing “sadness.” But that's a public relations move, not a pastoral one. A truly compassionate shepherd would aggressively reach out to those in pain using every means possible, not just a terse, conveniently timed press release.
But that's the story: generally speaking, bishops care more about PR than about hearts and souls. They care more about systems and spreadsheets than about men and women in need. This is not true for every bishop, but it's true for most, and it's the great lesson the Abuse Scandal has taught us.
Now, my point here is not bishop bashing (really, it's not).
My point is this.
While Catholics are looking to bishops to be representatives of Christ, that's also what non-Catholics are looking at every one of us to be. Become a Catholic, admit that you're Catholic, and you're on as much of a mission as any priest, deacon or bishop.
Every person we meet every single day of our lives is longing for something. He's longing to see the Face of Christ.
And it's our job to show it to him. Especially if our bishops won't.
And we can only show others His face if it we let it shine through ours.