Tuesday, April 5

Embarrassement of riches

Servant?  Or Princess? Clothes make the man.
So, in the course of my normal readings, I have come across a number of topics which really deserve discussion.  On the one hand, there is a prescient discussion of the marginalization of homosexuals within the RC church which resonates with me as someone who has always been a social 'outsider'.  There are a series of discussions (here and here, for a start) of the rise of fundamentalism and dogmatism which is something that I have seen as well.  There is a particular scripture reading I found which I will talk about at a later point, but I think I will engage probably the most controversial and problematic topic which has been presented to me - the Scriptural challenge of the authority of the RC hierarchy (and, possibly, the hierarchy of most apostolic churches).

Warning - potentially inflammatory statements below.  Check flame-throwers at the door.  You have been warned.

The can of worms was first opened last night when I read 1 Timothy 3, wherein Paul outlines the qualifications for a deacon and for a bishop.
Therefore an overseer (ἐπισκοπῆς, bishop) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity (gravitas) keeping his children submissive (under control), for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim. 3:1-8)
A bishop must be the husband of one wife?  That counts out arguably all the clergy (some deacons excepted).  On a less literal note, you want to have leadership who has practical understanding of the laity's daily concerns to provide context, understanding and the ability to 'lead from the front'.  Thus, a long-term, spousal relationship is rather key, whether the bishop is male or female...straight or gay.

Must manage his own household and keep the children under control? Again, this disqualifies all the orders (some deacons excepted).  If you don't have a household or children to manage, how can you gain the skillset needed to care for God's church?

Able to teach?  Before you can teach, you must know the material yourself and it is painfully apparent that there is an entire generation of clergy who have only the vaguest knowledge of Scripture and Tradition.  If you have the Magisterium spoon-feeding the laity, that's one thing.  When the Magisterium is arguably as ignorant as those they are supposed to instruct, then you get double-think.

Gentle? Hospitable? Not quarrelsome? Consider the rhetoric of Corapi, Zuhlsdorf, Dolan, Burke, the African bishops of the Anglican Communion and others.

Not a lover of money?  The Vatican bank has had ongoing scandals for the last 30 years.  Further, as one archbishop stated, the driving reason for not coming forward regarding the priestly abuse of minors was that it would expose the Church to nearly unlimited liability claims.

Speaking of priestly abuse of minors, the slow-roll train wreck has shown over and again that leadership (the bishops) were complicit, if not active in covering up the scandal.  That would go to 'above reproach' and 'well though of by others' requirements.  If leaders cannot be trusted and/or respected, they lose all authority.

So, let me see about bringing this home.  The basis of leadership is the establishment and use of rapport with the followers to gain respect and inspire.  If those in leadership are categorically disbarred from having those points of commonality, then they are intrinsically incapable of true leadership.  This isn't about a few 'bad apples' or even a cadre of good ol boys.  It is a systemic problem of self-imprisonment within an ivory cathedral.  The parallels between the pharisees/sadducees of the 1st century and the institutional, apostolic churches of today are disturbing. 


  1. Great summation Tim. Juxtaposing Paul's ideal with our reality is saddening indeed.

  2. Oh snap! Someone actually reads this! :P

    Thanks Colleen. I think what probably doesn't show through is my sadness. Sad because these things HAVE to be pointed out and sad because they CAN be pointed out.

  3. When the Church ignores Paul on the married state of overseers for 1500 years it's such habitual behaviour that it seemingly cannot be overcome. Yet She cannot ignore his opinions regarding homosexuality - "cafeteria Catholicism" anyone?

  4. Tim, I've been reading. Very good analysis.

  5. Thanks for the comments.

    @a-nony-mouse: The trouble is that Paul, like his predecessor, that Nazarene hippy, didn't go to a good Catholic school or seminary and, consequently, show grave misunderstandings of Tradition and Scripture as the Magisterium has interpreted it for us. Heck, they were laity! What could they know? *coughs delicately*

    Honestly now, if everyone followed that hippie's advice, can you just imagine what kind of world it would be?