“Unbelievable! Bishop Strickland can only be removed by the LORD ALLMIGHTY!”
“…… for the crime of being too Roman Catholic.”
“Bergoglio is an abhorrent communist.”
These are some of the comments to the tweet in which Raymond Arroyo, influential anchor on the Catholic channel EWTN, reports on the removal of Bishop Joseph Strickland from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.
A barrage of similar messages – not always so aggressive – are being read on Catholic websites, written even by those faithful who one would not think would take a stand against the Pope, supporting a bishop who is divisive, who has called the Pope a “snake”, a “usurper” and a heretic, who writes “Pope Francis, Nancy Pelosi and the tyrannical culture of death”, and who supports one who calls Francis, with epithets including “a diabolically misguided clown”.
244 bishops in communion – one on the opposite side of the street
I write these lines in the room where 244 bishops of the United States are gathered for their autumn General Assembly in Baltimore. Meanwhile, right now, Bishop Strickland, below, on the opposite pavement, after praying the rosary with a group of supporters, is giving an interview to LifeSite News.
Two images that contrast like black and white. In one, 244 men with different thoughts and often profound disagreements, united in the same spirit, trying to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit for the Church in America. On the opposite side, a man incapable of integration, who chose to separate and deepen the division in the Church, in order to impose his thoughts.
I will not analyse Bishop Strickland’s attitude. It seems to me that what has been said is enough to conclude that he is morally unfit to be a reference point for Christian values, let alone to lead a diocese.
I am shocked
I am shocked. And not so much because a bishop has betrayed his mission as a bishop. Since the beginnings of the Church we have known similar cases and much worse.
I am shocked by the power of certain religious media leaders to convince millions of good people that Christianity is basically about knowing perfect texts, about breaking them down and obsessively valuing every word and every comma; about devoting all possible efforts to deny every other possible interpretation (obviously one’s own will always be the correct and only acceptable one, because it wisely offers the correct foundation of “the truth”). Moreover, in these leaders it becomes imperative to fight to impose one’s own just and objective conclusions, regardless of the morality of the means used, and regardless of the possible validity of the interpretation of others.
In this dynamic, there is no difference between obsessive Protestants and obsessive Catholics. The only difference is the texts they analyse, regardless of any kind of context.
How is it possible that such elementary Christian values as respect and humility are thrown overboard, and a person’s honour is shamelessly besmirched, simply because they do not agree on some points that both judge to be important and even essential?
How is it possible that a basic principle of the Church’s Tradition and Canon Law, such as respect and obedience to the Holy Father, can be trampled underfoot, without any complex whatsoever?
Five minutes ago, we were kissing the Pope’s ring.
I do not understand. Until five minutes ago, it was obligatory to kiss the pope’s ring, genuflect before him, and faithfully follow all his orders. And we did it with great conviction. God was speaking to us through the pope. He was the Anointed One of the Holy Spirit.
But that ended the moment he began to take us out of our comfort zone.
. The moment we no longer like what he says. . The moment, he keeps wearing his old shoes. . The moment he doesn’t want us to kiss his ring. . The moment he greets the sick rather than the powerful. . At the moment when he denounces those who live in the clouds of ideas without coming down to the suffering flesh of Christ in the brothers. . At the moment when he builds toilets for the homeless in the Vatican. . At a time when he wants us to care not only for the soul, but also for Creation. . At the moment when he demands us to be coherent, and we feel reprimanded. . At the moment when he wants us to be more like Jesus than like the pomp of the Vatican. . At a time when, like Jesus, he wants everyone to enter the Church, because he wants everyone to have access to salvation. . And I ask myself why so much effort, so much fidelity, so much theological training, so many perfect works, if in the end he also wants sinners to be saved?
“No, we are against sin, not the sinner”, says the best fallacy designed to make people understand that they are the sinners, not us.
We were hypocrites
We were hypocrites when we respected the Pope.
We bowed to him, we flattered him, to make ourselves look good, not because we respected that he was the Vicar of Christ on earth.
We did not move a hair on our souls towards conversion.
If we had been authentic, we would not be his main enemies today.
We had our papers in order, without the need to live radically the command of Jesus: Love God with all your soul, and your neighbour as yourself. Care for the wounded. Visit the captives, sell all that you have, then come and follow me.
We were hypocrites, if we are the ones attacking the Pope today. In that case, we are showing our true nature today. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.
But most do not fall for this falsehood.
It is easy to detect whether we had an authentic spirit before the Holy Father, before the Church and before Jesus, or whether it was just a matter of external gestures that had nothing to do with our soul. If respect and obedience depend on who occupies the chair of Peter, we are obviously using the Church to assert our ideologies, our own agenda.
If, on the contrary, we respect the Pope and recognise in him the Vicar of Christ, anointed by the Holy Spirit; if we do not proudly feel that we are the anointed ones, but humbly submit ourselves with love to his authority and filially respect and love him, by God’s grace we do not belong to the group of opportunists who manage the Church as if it were a political party.
The key to the Christian does not lie in his perfect reasoning.
The key to being a Christian is not to know everything, but to love radically.
Lord, are you asking me to strip myself of everything and follow you?
. Are you asking me to be humble? . Are you asking me to stop following those who confuse me with their perfect lip service? . Are you asking me to love your Church with all my soul? . Are you asking me, in humility, to let myself be shaped by the prophetic spirit of the pope, even if he is sometimes wrong? . Are you asking me to defend him with my soul? . Are you asking me to love him? . Are you asking me to love the sinful brother, the one who cannot get out of his vicious circle? . Are you asking me to sell everything and follow you?
Give me, Lord, please, the grace to be more faithful to you in love each day.