Irish episcopacy: out to lunch-and deaf


In the UK’s Independent (Nov.4, 2012) there is an extraordinary telling article regarding the absolute dysfunction of the Roman Catholic church in that part of Europe.It is written by a teacher at the Dublin City University, Colum Kenny. It could have been written in any English-speaking jurisdiction including Canada. Basically it deals with the stunning arrogance of papal appointed bishops so convinced of their rectitude and episcopal power that they do not have to listen to the people they are sworn to serve.One hardly knows where to start with such appalling behaviour. It would appear they are deeply enmeshed in System think. They appear totally enmeshed organizational molasses far from being a community of believers in the same church. They seem tone deaf to the voice of fellow Christians in an organic body. Here in brief is the story.

The Irish Bishops conference has refused to meet with the Association of Catholic Priests, 1000 strong in this small Catholic country. The reason of course is they fear what the front line providers are going to say to them, Vatican ll insisted that bishops are not branch plant managers, sent from headquarters to enforce the Roman line.Lumen Gentium (27) stated that they are not to be  regarded as “vicars of the Roman pontiff.” Vatican ll insisted that the bishops were there,”teaching sanctifying and governing.” One verb is missing: Listening.

It was the martyred Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer who put his finger on this refusal to listen deeply:

The first service that one owes to others in community consists in listening to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives His Word but also lends us His ear … Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and, in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.


I50 years after the  Council’s inception, there has been much movement in this regard, in hearing  the lived experience of the baptized and integrating in ecclesial life.

The great Anglican convert John Henry Newman inspired much of the thinking that it is the entire People of God which is the bearer of the Spirit. As an Anglican he never bought the cult of the papacy, “a church with a church” he called it. By the time of the Council  this ultramontane view had become rigid in the Roman Church.The pope was infallible (by himself), his bishops too at the local level and the priest was the voice of God in the parish. Infallibility previously had been exercised in many ways —councils,papal pronouncements and the witness of the entire people. By 1962 there had been was a massive delegitimizing of the lay voice. Pius Xl phrased it well in 1939: The Roman church had become a monstrosity.Its head is way out of proportion to its body.” Cardinal Newman had been saying all of this in his own way.The papal magisterium can never be the sole locus of truth.The  voice of great theologians those who advanced the understanding of the great Mystery must be taken into considration.

Vatican ll (1962-65) began the massive corrective.The vast majority of the baptized must be heard

The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) states this quite nicely:

Those who exercise episcope in the Body of Christ must not be separated from the ‘symphony’ of the whole people of God in which they have their part to play. They need to be alert to the sensus fidelium, in which they share, if they are to be made aware when something is needed for the well-being and mission of the community, or when some element of the Tradition needs to be received in a fresh way. (#30)

As the Irish would say, who do these bishops think they are? It’s not as if they are riding high in the polls after shocking scandal after scandal has emptied  churches in this almost totally Catholic country,They are acting like fossilized bureaucrats in aa church which has privileged communio.They have not grasped that the day  is long gone when diktats from the centre carry much weight. The Church as politburo is a non-starter.

If these silly men will not meet with their priests what are lay people to think.One  Catholic layman Geoffrey Chaucer phrased it well in the 14th century,”If gold ruste what shall iron do?”

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