Monday, August 27, 2018
The current crisis in the Church, the one crystalized by Archbishop Vigano's epochal "Testimony" (which remains to be verified in the time-tested procedures and processes of the Church), has led lots of well-intentioned, good, prayerful, and hurt people to denounce failures of "leadership" in the Church. And it is no doubt true, I think, that we have witnessed and are witnessing hour by hour a failure of leadership on the part of our Catholic bishops.
But "leadership" is not a Catholic, nor even a theological, concept, and no manner or amount of better "leadership" will lead (sic) to solutions to the deep problems that are afflicting the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church has always taught that the successors to the Apostles who are the bishops are entrusted by their consecration with three distinct but inter-related functions: to teach, to govern, and to sanctify. Cf. CIC No. 375. Today and for more than a few decades, many of the bishops as individuals, the bishops as groups (such as national episcopal conferences), and the bishops as the college of bishops (cf. CIC 337) have failed the People of God in ways that, as the growing light reveals, are both abject and systemic. What we we are witnessing but also suffering is not merely a failure of governance; it is also cause and consequence of failures of teaching and sanctifying.
All I can think at this excruciating moment is that, along with the prayer and penance that are overdue and that are more needful than ever before, the solution must be sought in the exercise of the three true gifts of the office of bishop, not in more "leadership"or, its cousin, bureaucracy. This is a time for prophecy, yes, but more immediately for fervent exercise of the office of bishop in all three of its aspects -- teaching, governing, and sanctifying, and all three starting with the Bishop of Rome, as Pope Francis has preferred to be called from the time of his election to the Chair of Peter. The only true future for the pilgrim Church lies in orthodox teaching, just and effective governance, and the grace of the sacraments and prayer.