Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not lone wolves, but sheep

Today's first reading instructs us:
Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you.

May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the Blood of the eternal covenant, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

-- Hebrews 13:17, 20-21

We are to defer to our overseers, the bishops. Each bishop is the shepherd of the flock in his diocese, in service to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of His Church.

Where bishops lead their flocks astray, as has happened with the sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance perpetrated in the unfathomably grave abuse scandals, the laity should, of course, speak out and organize to protect children. But those shepherds who have allowed the brutal victimization of children will have to give an account: it will be better for them if millstones were tied round their necks and they were thrown into the sea, than that they should have connived in allowing the sins of wicked men to be perpetrated upon innocent children.

However, let us not lose sight, as mainstream media screeds about the abuse scandal seem directed toward having us do, of the fact that we are not the bishops, and that most situations are far away from resembling anything like the abuse scandals. Where the bishops instruct us in matters of faith and morals we are to obey and intellectually assent. Where the bishops instruct as to prudential matters of politics, we are to defer to them, and strive to bring our thinking into line with theirs.

There are times, as in the abuse scandals, when remonstration with the bishops is called for. But our default response to the leading of our shepherds must ever be obedience and deference, not the assertion of individual will.


  1. Are you the "Irenist" that regularly comments at Leah Libresco's blog?

    - Val

  2. Guilty as charged. If you happen to be the Val who regularly comments at Leah Libresco's blog, then I will be very grateful indeed to have you reading over here! Despite our differences of opinion about various religious matters, your (if you are that Val) consistent good humor and thoughtfulness are always welcome.

    1. I am indeed that same Val.

      I asked once, in one of those threads, whether or not you would be willing to correspond by email. I don't know if you ever saw the message, so I'm leaving it here. I would like to ask questions (and even answer, if asked) "in good faith" of a committed Catholic who is actually willing to flesh out how this worldview works... something at which you seem to be much more qualified than Leah.

      If this is not seen as intrusive or demanding, please contact me at ms.medusa at gmail.

      And my thanks in any case.

    2. Here is a copy of an email I sent this morning in reply to your comment, Val. I may have mistyped your gmail address?

      Hello, Val.

      I don't recall ever having seen your invitation to dialogue over on Leah Libresco's blog. I'd be delighted to answer any questions about my Catholic worldview. I apologize for not having gotten back to you sooner, and apologize in advance for what may be some delays in future: my wife gave birth to our daughter this weekend, so things are a tad hectic as we learn the ropes of this whole parenthood thing for the first time. So if it takes me a while to answer you as this dialogue moves forward, please know it's just due to busyness, not to any disinterest.

      That said, I guess I'll start us off with a question of my own, if I may: Is there any particular motivating concern to your interest in the Catholic worldview? I suppose you might just enjoy chatting about this sort of thing (which is fine), or you might be puzzled by having a Catholic friend who seems far too nice to belong to our reactionary little sect, or you might be working on a scholarly project with a Catholic angle, or . . . well, I can imagine all sorts of doubtless interesting reasons. What's yours?

      Looking forward to being educated by your questions and hoping this finds you well,
      Tom (a.k.a. "Irenist")

    3. :O Well congratulations to all of you!!!

  3. I very much like that last sentence, since the response ought always to be "not my will but Thine". I've been reading up some more on how to answer the dismissal of the social teaching as prudential judgment (since most of those I know and encounter online are right of center), and your last line reminds of a section of the Catechism that deals with the social doctrine:

    2422 The Church's social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ.202 This teaching can be more easily accepted by men of good will, the more the faithful let themselves be guided by it.

    I.e., avoid the prideful thought that you know better than the Church!