Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bishops to be held accountable

This report suggests that some bishops have not only failed in their duties regarding cases of sexual abuse, but that there has been a reluctance (to put it charitably), on their part, to accept responsibility for such failures. Respect for our bishops - a solemn duty - must not blind us to their mistakes and clumsiness. We are all of us damaged by sin, and putting on a mitre does not remove that damage. Ultimately our respect for our bishop is respect for Christ. Whilst we must respect both the office AND the man (since he has been chosen by God) we must be aware that the respect we owe to the man requires us to be honest and realistic against the background of human frailty. In practice this does not mean constantly complaining or highlighting the bishop's failures. It does not mean subjecting him to ridicule. It DOES mean praying for him and supporting him AND, yes, loving him.

Having said all that, our bishops need to be ready to accept responsibility for their mistakes and bad decisions. The sad examples of failure in relation to abuse cases and victims are more serious than most other mistakes, but there are some that are certainly serious although probably not on that level. One of the most serious is the failure to secure and promote sound catechesis in our Catholic schools, including reference to the Church's commandments and moral teachings. This has certainly been a huge failure over the last 30 or 40 years. At this time there also needs to be clear, basic teaching on fundamentals of the Catholic faith, especially with regard to the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation and on Marriage and sexual morality. Many of our young people (going up to 35!) have never been told that there is a serious requirement to attend Sunday Mass (I am not joking). Ultimately, because the bishops are the chief shepherds and teachers of their dioceses, the buck stops with them. Priests who are struggling (and have been for years) with all this destruction need the support of their bishops. I know I have gone on about this before and I probably will do again. I am not blaming teachers necessarily - they use the material they have been given (although a good Catholic teacher will surely be able to see that there have been problems). Parents in the past who deliberately stayed away from Mass and did not bring up their children in the Faith are definitely to blame, but many parents now are "products" of bad catechesis and their knowledge of the Church's moral teachings is extremely poor. Many of the "lapsed" parents of today cannot be blamed. They were not told about mortal sin and the serious obligation to attend Mass at the weekend. Some will deny this, but who told them? Priests? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Parents? Usually not. School R.E. teachers? Usually not. So who told them? Who is going to tell the next generation of Catholic parents? It is no good simply focusing on the parish clergy because the parents are not in church! Common sense - simple logic - tells us that we should begin where we have a "captive audience". Where is that? In school!!!!


  1. Excellent post Father.
    Blessings and prayers,

  2. Hear, Hear Fr Abberton. The requirements of the National Curriculum have expunged any sort of Cathechesis from R.E. lessons in Catholic schools. Sacramental preparation, once the province of qualified professionals who carried it out during school time, has now been farmed out to untrained parish volunteers who - due to their own poor formation - lack any sort of knowledge or confidence in what they are supposed to be passing on to the next generation.
    If the Church wants congregations to be appropriately catechised, they need to employ properly trained staff to lead RCIA and other programmes, plus run ongoing faith formation events for adults.
    However, I know a school chaplain who tried to highlight this crisis with Archbishop Nicholls and received a letter which basically accused her of exaggerating. This Chaplain then met with his deputy who was obviously deeply pained about the situation and the sense that nothing would be done to address it. When are some of these bishops going to wake up to the fact that they are there to serve the congregations!
    Keep up the good work!

    1. Interesting that many of the bishops in America who jumped into bed with pro-abortion Obama are now left with egg on their faces; these bishops have been used as pawns. The devil must be laughing down his sleeve. The fox has been let into the hen run.
      As you sow so shall you reap.