The words I am about to share with you have been on my mind and heart ever since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was released. I find myself writing about it today because I just watched an incredible homily from a good friend. Over the past days, I have found myself confused, angry and betrayed. We were told that these scandals and problems that we endured in the early part of the century were no longer with us. Things had been cleared up. There are new procedures in place. It won’t happen again. That simply was, and is, a complete falsehood.
As I have been reading articles as well as comments on online via social media, I found myself thinking about the book that I read some time ago written by George Weigel. His book, The Courage to Be Catholic, has always stuck with me in different ways. Published in 2002, it explains what the crisis is, what the crisis is not, how the crisis happened, why the Bishops failed, Rome and the Crisis, ways to reform seminaries and novitiates, the priesthood, the Bishops and the Vatican, and where we to do go from here. Within these larger categories, he also focuses on the importance of the laity and how we must play a part in these essential reforms.
Although his points on how the laity are important and should be discussed, I want to focus on my main point and title of this article. As I stated above, elements of the aforementioned book written by Weigel have stayed with me ever since I first read it. One of the parts I remember the most and one that I want to focus on today is that in times of crisis (and reform), the appointment of younger bishops is needed, because when dark times have the hit the Church in the past, this is how the Church answered that darkness.
In the chapter 8, under the heading – “The Selection of Bishops”, Weigel explains the standard of how an individual is assessed to become a Bishop, and that only when the individual has reached the age of 50 will he then be able to join the episcopate. Although we have some younger bishops in the Church today, if we are to see true reform in these dark times, we need our Bishops be to younger men, strong men, like the individuals stated below. Weigel says in the same chapter,
“Those most capable of leading the reform of the Church in the United States in the decades ahead will often be men who are now in their forties, and even late thirties…their age should not be held against them as potential bishops, if they have proven themselves effective pastors or seminary educators to the criteria listed above… (author’s note: see pages 205-206).
“There is a strong historical precedent for appointing younger men as bishops in times of crisis and needed reform. Saint Cyril of Alexandria was a bishop at thirty-six. Saint Ambrose was thirty-four when he was ordained bishop of Milan; his protégé, the great Augustine, was forty-one when became bishop of Hippo. Two of the great reformer bishops of the post-Reformation period, Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Charles Borromeo, were bishops in their mid-thirties…Men of like caliber are available in the Church in America today.”
These are the type of individuals that we need to step-up if the Church is to be reformed in these times of dark crisis. These men would not have allowed the cesspool that exists today in so many places. They were strong, faithful, and true Apostles. They were men of prayer and theological power houses. They didn’t care if they offended someone with their words because the Truth who is Jesus Christ was more important than being “pastoral.”
We all know priests like this right now – pray, pray, pray, pray! – that they are elevated to the episcopacy and can bring true reform and healing to the Catholic Church.
Saints Cyril of Alexandria, Ambrose, Augustine, Francis de Sales, Charles Borromeo,
and the many others…Pray for Us.