The above question is more a cheeky attempt at a link to Mary and Martha’s post from the other day, rather than a legitimate questioning concerning the role of the Bishop. I’m sure we are all aware of the apostolic origin and importance of the bishop. Here’s Benedict:
Dear friends, this is the purpose of the ministry of Bishops: that this chain of communion be not broken. This is the essence of the Apostolic Succession: to preserve communion with those who have encountered the Lord in a visible and tangible way and thus to keep Heaven open, the presence of God in our midst. It is only through communion with the Successors of the Apostles that we are also in touch with God incarnate.
If only most Catholics could read and understand that passage!!
Anyway, back to my point…
I watched the movie Romero last night. It is a 1989 film that portrays the episcopal reign of Archbishop Oscar Romero. My wife bought if for me for Christmas and I wasn’t sure if they date of production and the fact that it was made by a religious order (Paulist Productions – linked to the Paulist Fathers) would somewhat stymie its effectiveness. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
I have always been attracted to the firgure of Romero, an orthodox bishop actively striving for justice for his flock – looking out for not just their economic welfare but their spiritual welfare too. Also, the image of a priest being assasinated at the altar is a particularly striking one – His very life explicitly linked with the sacrifice of Christ.
However, I have still not arrived at my main point…
There is part early in the film where some Jesuit priests are discussing who would become the next Archbishop (Romero was not yet appointed) and they noted that it needed to be a radical choice. They openly scoffed at the possibility of Romero being chosen by Rome. They wanted someone radical. Someone who make a strong stand. How important is it for the bishop to chosen to lead a diocese to have a certain radical nature? To want to make a big difference, to want to proclaim Christ crucified in a clear, audible, visual manner?
Romero turned out to be a radical in a way. He stepped out of the mold of his predecessor and differentiated himself from the rest of the bishop’s conference. But that’s not necessarily what anyone would have predicted. One of my more brilliant parish priests used to remark when our bishop would do something particularly noteworthy -”You can see the grace of ordination working in him!”.
Does Rome pick radicals, or do they try for safe bets? While we all know about apostolic succession, trust me, it’s political too. Man, after all, is a political animal - almost as much as he is a religious one.
Let’s look at a NZ context. I have heard that certain people in the Hamilton diocese are praying for a certain priest to be named their next bishop. That, dear friends, is political. And I say, good on them! They want a strong bishop to lead them.
I can’t say that I have heard of our bishops doing anything radical. Sure, when you contrast the Catholic worldview with the Secular, anything could be considered radical. I am probably wrong here though, not being an expert on all things episcopal.