No bishop should have that much impact

No bishop should have that much impact

A new bishop shows up in the diocese and the celebration of the Mass improves. So why is that a sign of a problem?

Dale Price is on to something here. He went to Mass in a neighboring diocese, one in which he has consistently seen terrible liturgical abuses, but now there’s a new bishop and the celebration of the Mass has improved. But Dale points out that this indicates a deeper problem.

There’s something deeply, fundamentally wrong here. No, no—I’m not griping about the fact positive changes have been made. But here’s the bottom line: no bishop should have that much impact on the form and substance of Catholic worship. That’s where the concept of collegiality goes flying off the rails and starts to barrel roll.

If he does have that much power, then in a very real sense you are less a Catholic than one of the faithful of the Church of (Arch)Bishop X. Worship changes (or does not change) on his fiat alone. Wait until he gets promoted, retires or passes away, and everything can change. Talk about a quite-literally man-centered religion….

That, I submit, is manifestly screwed and out of whack with any recognizable Christian tradition. Yes, the Orthodox have collegiality, but they don’t pretend the bishop has any special mastery over the form and substance of the Divine Liturgy. For them, it’s hands off, your excellency. Time to start listening to the wisdom of the East again. And start removing the episcopal “escape hatches” from the liturgy—it sounds good on paper, but in practice… [emphasis in original]

He’s right on the money. The Catholic faithful should not have to depend on the managerial and leadership skills of a particular bishop nor have to guess at his orthodoxy. Neither should they have to put up with priests and pastors whose personal adherence to the liturgical law depends on whether the bishop is cracking down on them.

If there’s one thing the Tridentine Mass has going for it is that because it’s in Latin most priests wouldn’t have the slightest clue how to go fiddling with it to their liking and creating liturgical abuses with it at the same time. Maybe an all-Latin Novus Ordo could have the same effect.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli