I once read about a good Irish Catholic mom who told her children how to recognize a good priest from a bad priest. A good priest, she told her children, is one who teaches what the Church teaches. A bad priests teaches things that conflict with what the Church teaches. That good advice applies exponentially to bishops called to teach, govern, and sanctify the flock.
So I'm adding a new page to the blog called "Know Your Bishops."
It's important for Catholics to be informed about the good, the bad, and the ugly among Church leaders. Naivety and blind trust are not virtues. In fact, they violate the Lord's command to be "as wise as serpents and simple as doves." (Douay Rheims Matt. 10:16) Note the word "simple." Deceivers love to complicate things. They manipulate the meaning of words and throw out mountains of argument much of which never addresses the problem. They often speak part of the truth while they undermine it with their actions. Like the con man in a shell game, they divert attention from the truth with complicated maneuvers and "explanations."
Catholics need to learn to focus on the simple. The faith isn't complicated. The 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, the truths articulated in the Catechism -- none of that is complicated. Neither is the natural law which is written on man's heart. Much of it is common sense. Do you want to live in peace? Don't kill, don't respond to others in anger, treat people with respect. Be faithful. Love others in the way that St. Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Be patient, don't keep a list of grievances, don't envy others, rejoice in the truth.
It's not rocket science.
That doesn't mean it's easy though. So let's pray for our bishops, both the good and the bad. In fact, especially the bad ones, because a day of judgment is coming for all of us. And consider -- those who have more responsibility will be held to a heavier accounting.
This new page will grow slowly as I post archived material as well as new material. If you have anything to suggest, please put it in the comments section.
And during this Easter season may we all take seriously Jesus' words in today's gospel: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." Pretty simple, eh? No exclusions -- not the Jews, not the Orthodox, not atheists...EVERYBODY. Some saints, when no one would listen, even preached to the birds and the fish -- talk about taking "every creature" literally!
And how about that word "proclaim?" It comes from the Latin proclamare: "call, cry out, raise an outcry, appeal noisily." Does that sound like Christ was telling the apostles to shut up and don't "proselytize?" Is it really "poisonous" to speak of your faith to others?
Actions definitely speak louder than words, but when words and actions correspond the message is magnified.