One thing that motivated me to go to the Institute of Christ the King at the end of my university studies in 1990 was the influence of Opus Sacerdotale, an association of French parish priests. In the 1970’s, they generally remained faithful to the old rite of Mass or a conservative interpretation of the Pauline liturgy. Their primary concern was the older and personal style of pastoral ministry: a priest is both a father and a friend to his faithful, a priest among his people. I soaked in the spirit of this association and view of the priesthood from my early seminary days (when many of the old parish priests were closely associated with the Institute they helped to found and supported in those early days of the 1990’s). I spent time in parishes like Le Chamblac with Fr Montgomery-Wright and Bouloire with Fr Jacques Pecha where I installed an organ in 1992. Most of these old priests are now promoted to glory, and the spirit of French traditionalist Roman Catholicism made a radical change from this pastoral priority to politics, even with the pretext of moral issues.
In 1979, Opus Sacerdotale published a booklet with the title Des Bons Pasteurs pour l’Eglise en France. I have translated the chapter on the Episcopal ministry which contrasts the true priestly and pastoral role of the Bishop with the managerial style that has crept into all churches over the past twenty years and more. It is a beautiful and limpid text.
Without any triumphalism on my part, this notion of the Episcopate is something we have achieved in the Anglican Catholic Church and other continuing Anglican Churches. The most terrible scourge of any Church, beyond gender issues, sexual orientation, ordination of women, flat and boring liturgies and other questions is the sprit of corporate management and bureaucracy, distance from the people in parishes and unaccountability. Ours are small Churches, for which I am grateful for my priestly calling and mission.
Here is the translated text:
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The Bishop, Pastor of a Diocese
Why not apply the same principle of real pastoral responsibility to bishops?
The pastoral charge does not consist in taking care of administration, but of people living with their needs, their sorrows, their hopes.
General services are certainly necessary at the diocesan level, but why deprive those entrusted with them of the effective responsibility of parish priests?
It is traditional for the bishop himself to be the parish priest of his cathedral. Why would he not actually perform this function, with an assistant priest, of course?
Instead of spending his time in meetings, in conferences, in colloquia to say what needs to be done, the Bishop would only himself have to give a pastoral example.
How much time has been saved for him and God’s people!
The pastoral office is not self-glorification but a service. Authority, according to Jesus, belongs to the one who makes himself the slave of his brothers.
It would therefore be necessary for the Bishop to be responsible for a diocese of a size that would be accessible to his human possibilities.
We should no longer have these overly large and cumbersome dioceses whose members are practically deprived of any relationship with the father and spouse given to them.
What is stopping the Church from multiplying the dioceses? The bishops would then be in a position to exercise their service in a healthy and holy manner. The faithful would know and love their bishop.
Perhaps the “trade union” of episcopal commissions, which controls the bishops, would be dismantled in this way! The bishops, currently in office, could, if they wished, free themselves from the hold of the commissions.
True collegiality could be established: it would be a union of persons in Christ and not a collective solidarity in liberalism and resignation.
This solution would put an end to the anomaly of auxiliary bishops who are pastors without families. A man cannot give his life to an administration. You don’t get married with marriage, bu with a real wife. A bishop must be able to love a Church community and give his life to it because it is his in the name of Christ.
Last but not least, a bishop, father and husband of his Church, would no longer leave the care of vocations to incompetent and partisan commissions.
There are countless young men who honestly aspired to the priesthood and were rejected for unbelievable reasons:
– because they are “too pious”,
– because they want to “offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”,
– because they want to “serve the faithful with the Gospel and the Sacraments of Jesus Christ”.
These motives, for which a holy Curé d’Ars was ordained, are deemed to be incompatible with the vocation to a “ministry” the commissions arbitrarily define in the name of temporal points of view of a psychological, sociological or political nature.