Bishops as source of Church’s life?

Bishops as source of Church’s life?

You all know how loath I am to criticize another blogger in public (ahem), but seriously, having been burned by that recently I still felt compelled to respond to something Rocco Palmo said in a interview.

Speaking to the diocesan newspaper in Wilmington, Delaware, he explained why he focuses so much time and attention on the activity of bishops.

“The source of the life of the church is derived from the figure of bishops,” Palmo told The Dialog last week. “Bishops matter - their personality, how they make people feel.”

While I won’t dispute that “bishops matter” when you’re considering their effect on the Church—as our shepherds and pastors, of course they matter—but to claim that they are “the source of the life of the Church”? That’s just ridiculous and I think all but the most self-centered bishops would agree. (Perhaps Rocco was quoted out of context or misspoke. If so, I encourage him to clarify.)

The source of life in the Church is Jesus Christ and more specifically, Jesus present in the Eucharist. In fact, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life, as the Catechism tells us. I know Rocco has a particular fondness for the men in purple going back to his childhood—in some ways not unlike the way some boys were baseball or Star Wars fans—but I think a little perspective is in order.

Gossip and clericalism

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  • And so, our Bishops cannot have a blog that reports gossip about them? Dom, your beef about Rocco smacks a bit green since you do not have the access to these men of power that he does. Why? Because he does enjoy the minutia of Biship gossip! Also, I dare say, you don’t think that *you* don’t entertain a bit of “gossip” now and again? Pleeeze, Dom. You are better than this post. Really you are.  [And I am sure that you *are* hoping for a visit from said Rocco. Don’t hold your breath…]

  • And you seem a bit hyper-defensive of Rocco.

    I did not say he couldn’t gossip about bishops. I was disputing his characterization of them as “the source of life in the Church.”

    Neither did I say that I do not engage in rumors (although I would dispute characterizing what I do as “gossip” but you can define it how you will. I see a difference.)

    As for your implication that I’m doing this in order to get him to link to me and thus, I suppose, get a traffic boost… “Pleeze” yourself. I’ve been doing this blog since Rocco was in short pants and I have my own well established audience of readers. I don’t need gimmick links.

  • It might be helpful here to note that Rocco did not say that bishops are the source of life in the church but rather that the source of life in the church is “derived from the figure of bishops.”  There is a significant difference in the two phrasings.

    And what is the “figure” of bishops?  The Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church spells it out:

    “Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sin and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles. Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, “to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), which is the Church…  The bishops themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor.  Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them… A diocese is a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop to be shepherded by him with the cooperation of the presbytery. Thus by adhering to its pastor and gathered together by him through the Gospel and the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit, it constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative.”  (Christus Dominus, nos. 1, 2, 11)

    The bishop, as vicar of Christ, is the pastor in the local church: priests and deacons are ordained to share in his ministry for he is Christ among us.  To say that “the source of the life of the church is derived from the figure of bishops” is not at all a bad description.

  • Rocco may be thinking of #55 of the Ceremonial of Bishops (and I think it might be said slightly differently in some other document):

    In him the Lord Jesus is present in the midst of those who believe, and the faithful’s life in Christ in some way depends on and derives from him.

  • Interesting explanation, but not buying it. Look at his next sentence: “their personality, how they make people feel.”

    So, what’s the source of life in the Church? The bishop’s personality. Uh, uh.

  • I think I should add a clarification. I’m not saying that the office of bishop doesn’t matter to the life of the Church. Nor am I even saying that the individual bishop and his personality doesn’t matter. What I am disputing is that the bishop himself, his personality, are the “source of life”. Big difference.

  • Bishops are, of course, a source of unity in the Church. But what Dom has rightly pointed out is Rocco’s reported statement about why they’re important is because of how they make others feel.

    No. They are a source of unity, going back to Ignaitus of Antioch’s articulation, because they teach and maintain the deposit of faith. If you are united to the bishop, you are united to that.

    But matters of actual church teaching do not enter into Rocco’s radar at all. He is all about the personality.

    He’s young.

    I wouldn’t overestimate Rocco’s “access,” either. Look at his blog for the past few months. What “inside information” does he provide? Hardly any, frankly.