Who Rules The Catholic Church?

Were someone to ask me who runs the Catholic Church, I likely would respond that it is the run-of-the-mill Catholic laity who do the scut work of keeping Catholic machinery in operation. Priests and religious, of course, handle the more serious stuff like keeping church accounts, administering so-called Catholic sacraments, serving as shepherds to parish faithful, etc. Let no one doubt that it is the bishops who exercise overall control of Church finances, development of doctrine, who oversee the parishes in their dioceses and—significantly—supervise priests and religious and judge their actions. Bear in mind that the occupant of Peter's Throne is a bishop—usually.

1594. The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter.Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc

Bishops confer the Catholic sacrament called Holy Orders on deacons, priests and other bishops. Unlike what one sees all too often in non-Catholic professing Christianity, a Catholic layman cannot call himself to the ministry as a shepherd, or priest. There is no authentic Catholic priest who was not ordained by a Catholic bishop or abbot superior of a religious order. This being the case, it does not appear unreasonable to declare that the bishops of the Roman Church are at least partially accountable for the unwholesome, indecent and/or criminal acts of those whom they ordain to the priesthood.

Now, as some folks living in rural Texas are wont to declare, it's time to get to the rat killing. In this post, I hope to show support for my strongly held opinion that Catholic bishops share in responsibility for the sexual misconduct of the priests and religious over whom they exercise episcopal authority. If my opinion can be demonstrated to be fact, I next argue that those bishops who are shown to share in that responsibility should be charged as accessories in the commission of the crimes their priests are charged with committing.

In this post, my concern is primarily with allegations and charges of sexual misconduct against Catholic priests and religious. One of the popular mitigations frequently offered in apparent effort to excuse an offending priest from the just temporal consequences of sexual misconduct is that the requirement that priests formally promise or vow to remain celibate is a root cause of an offending priest's aberrant sexual conduct.

A vow of chastity is taken by sisters, brothers, and priests of religious communities (e.g., Franciscans, Benedictines). As consecrated women and men, they also take vows of obedience and poverty. I can address these latter two vows at another time, if someone wishes. The vow of chastity for consecrated women and men means that they are committing their lives to celibacy, a word that means unmarried. Diocesan priests…do not take vows. Yet, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, a diocesan priest promises lifelong obedience to his bishop and an adherence to a permanent celibate state of life. Chaste celibacy is seen as a charism, or special gift from God. As a gift, a permanent celibate lifestyle allows one to offer her or himself in service to a wider population; something that married people may not be as free to do.-- What is the origin of the vow of celibacy that priests and nuns take?, The Mailbox, The Cenacle, Brown University/RISD [My emphasis]

Whoa! Did you catch that? Diocesan priests do not take a vow of celibacy, or any other kind of vow apparently. They just promise to be good boys. To help them keep that promise, we are told, God provides a charism or special gift. Based on revelations in the courts and news media, it would appear that quite a number of Catholic priests either did not receive that special gift or sent it back marked "Return To Sender".

John Paul II stated his position on the issue of priestly celibacy in a letter to Catholic clergy sent on April 9, 1979. The reigning pope wrote:

The vow of celibacy is a matter of keeping one's word to Christ and the Church. . . a duty and a proof of the priest's inner maturity; it is the expression of his personal dignity .—John Paul II, quoted by James B. Simpson (1988) in Simpson's Contemporary Quotations

What do we have so far? We have seen that, though others handle the day-to-day grind of keeping the Catholic Church running smoothly, it is the bishops who have overall charge. We have seen that Catholic bishops ordain men to the Catholic priesthood. It has been shown that, while Catholic religious indeed are required to make a vow of celibacy or chastity, priests are required only to promise to live chaste and celibate lives. And it seems clear that Catholic bishops, who grant faculties and otherwise control the professional activities of priests assigned to their control, have a share in responsibility for the sexual misconduct—at least—of those priests. Given the foregoing, it would seem reasonable to expect that those elevated to the status of bishop would be carefully screened and their positions relative to Catholic doctrine and practice closely examined. Sadly, this seems not always to be the case.

There has been a nationwide pattern which I have observed over the last 35 years. Bishops know of ongoing sexual misconduct by Catholic priests and religious and bishops co-operate to keep such misconduct from becoming public knowledge. The following are uniform practices: failing to investigate indications of any sexual misconduct, even with children; failing to supervise properly the cleric in his assignment, failing to ensure that the cleric is prosecuted for misconduct with children. Once an incident occurs, energy and policies at the highest levels of Church authority have been directed to damage control, avoidance of scandal at all costs, and efforts to placate and manipulate victims and families. The latter often involves intimidation, misleading information, and even fraudulent means, if necessary. Policy also involves maintaining the priest in a new assignment without proper supervision and without informing the congregation where the abusive behaviour usually continues.--A W R Sipe, Preliminary expert report, p 16, quoted by Stephen Brady in Catholics of the Joliet Diocese: It's time to demand the removal of Bishop Joseph Imesch From his See., "Ad Mejoram Dei Gloriam", Spring/Summer 2001, p. 9

In a number of friendly interactions on a former incarnation of this forum, I came to know a former Catholic who had worked for ten years as a theologian in the chancery of a Catholic diocese in a large Southern city. This man came from a decidedly Catholic family. Just about everyone in his family were either priests or religious. One of his uncles was archbishop of an eastern seaboard diocese. An aunt is mother superior of a convent. Most of his life was spent in the presence of a strong Catholic influence. He told me something that, while it did not shock me, me certainly came as a surprise. He said that, in all his life, he had never known a single priest or religious who believed in God. Think about that as you read what follows, which is extracted from a sworn deposition taken from Joseph Imesch, Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet in the matter of allegations of sexual misconduct against Catholic priest Gary Dennis Berthiaume:

Question by attorney: What was Father Quinn's opinion of Father Berthiaume?

Answer by Imesch: “I wish I were more like Gary.”

Question by attorney: That's what he said?

Answer by Imesch: Yes. In fact, both of us said it.

Question by attorney: Thank goodness he's not.

Answer by Imesch: That's your opinion.

In another part of his deposition Imesch mocks Church teaching and the vow of celibacy.

Question by attorney: Does (sic) homosexual activities violate the oath of celibacy?

Answer by Imesch: The oath of celibacy?

Question by attorney: The vow of celibacy?

Answer by Imesch: It's not a vow even.

Question by attorney: What is it, a pledge?

Answer by Imesch: Promise.

Question by attorney: Promise?

Answer by Imesch: Promise.

Question by attorney: Does it violate that?

Answer by Imesch: Sure.

Question by attorney: Does it violate the promise of chastity?

Answer by Imesch: Sure.

Question by Attorney: What do you feel or do you know is the penalty for the violation of those promises?

Answer by Imesch: Eternal hellfire. I — you know, what's the penalty. Put in that I laughed. .

Question by attorney: There is no official church reaction to that type of activity?

Answer by Imesch: Official?

Question by attorney: Among priests?

Answer by Imesch: No.

Excerpt from sworn deposition taken in Case no. 83-256-466-NZ; Gary Alan Kedeizierski and Betty Kedzierski Vs Gary Dennis Berthiaume; Archdiocese of Detroit (John Cardinal Dearden); Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church; quoted by Stephen Brady in Catholics of the Joliet Diocese: It's time to demand the removal of Bishop Joseph Imesch From his See., Op. cit.

If you are a Catholic parent, I believe it extremely urgent that you click on the above link and take the time to read the entire article which details charges and allegations of sexual misconduct made against a number of Catholic priests. Some of the sexual behavior attributed to, and in some cases admitted by, Catholic priests is frightening—or should be. You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed in order to read this file. You can download it free from Adobe

The rules of this board make it clear that it exists to expose the heresies and practices of the Catholic Church in the light of Scripture. There are so many passages of Scripture that leap to mind when examining the behavior of priestly sexual abusers and the bishops who cover up their misdeeds that it would almost seem appropriate to quote the entire Bible. However, let these few lines point to God's opinion of priests such as those mentioned above:

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!-- Matthew 18:2-7

All the smoke and noise created by news media attention on the unconscionable conduct of many in the Catholic priesthood led RCC leadership to make a number of statements concerning changes in the way Mama Church does things that were expected to fix problems of priestly sexual misconduct.

A quick check of the Diocese of Joliet web site revealed that, in that diocese at least, it appears to be business as usual. Joseph Imesch seems still to be working there, although he no longer is THE bishop. He is identified as Retired Bishop.. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same)

In response to the question that is the title of this post, I submit that it is Satan who rules the Catholic Church.

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