I just got word yesterday that a brother priest and most respected friend has been appointed Bishop-elect of the diocese of.......these are some words my heart was moved to send him.}
Perhaps the words are no longer uttered but there was a time in my youth when a priest was named bishop-elect, his confreres would remark: “Ah, he is to receive the mitre, the crown of thorns!”
With the seemingly endless procession of news reports but the universal horror of crimes of abuse, sins of abuse, against children by priests, and all the pain, anger, outrage this rips open again and again, I presume only the most obedient and willing to be one with Christ-crucified, of priests, accepts becoming a bishop.
Therefore dear Bishop-elect, you can be assured of my constant prayer for you.
No doubt soon, if not already, priests and laity will be seeking your attention with their needs, perhaps complaints and pain.
You may find yourself overwhelmed, especially by the pain among our brother priests, for as you well know, as horrific as are the actual sins and crimes of a few, in the current climate the false accusations against the many, upon whom church authorities impose the same sentence as on the guilty, has created among priests a demoralizing climate of fear and uncertainty.
What is a bishop to do when secular powers and their agents, as well as certain groups among lay Catholics, insist on extreme measures against all accused priests and the holus-bolus approach of automatic suspension of all accused places an indelible mark upon them?
What is a bishop to do when lawsuits bankrupt diocese after diocese, and when faced with even one verifiable act of abuse the pressure for drastic action is constant?
How is a bishop to render justice to innocent victims, protect the vulnerable, yet remain a true father and shepherd for all his priests?
How is a bishop to heal the wounds of the victims, comfort all Catholics afflicted by the repercussions of this scandal, strengthen and uphold all his priest-sons, yes even those convicted justly, in particular those falsely accused?
Dear bishop-elect I cannot answer these questions but pray you will not flee from them, but will take them deep into your heart and through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, seek the way to truly shepherd everyone who is in pain.
From our beloved Holy Father to the ordinary priest and lay person, it seems outrage dominates all discussion and response.
With full respect for the Holy Father, yourself, everyone who is indeed rightly outraged, I must pose yet another question: Whence, compassion, reconciliation, restoration?
In just a few days the Child will be born anew in our midst, He who comes among us to redeem, forgive, restore.
Standing in the midst of the immense pain within the people and the priesthood, how shall we imitate Him?