Monday, December 26, 2005
You can't be a priest without the bishop
"All I want to do is be a pastor in this beautiful church . . . and to imitate Jesus," he said a few minutes later in his homily. "I'm coming here to serve you every day and every night. I'm coming to be one of you and if one day you love me in return, my vocation and my life will be fulfilled."
So Father Marek Bozek was quoted as saying at Mass on Christmas Eve at St. Stanislaus Kostka church, in St. Louis. This is the Polish parish you've heard about, that is in a bitter fight with the bishop of St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke.
Would that Father Bozek -- who has been suspended as a priest by his bishop in another diocese, whom he defied in going to St. Louis -- and, I presume excommunicated for his formal cooperation with schism in St. Louis -- might reflect on the teaching of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote this to the Christian faithful in Smyrna:
You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed that of the Father; follow the presbytery as you would the Apostles; reverence the deacons as you would God's commandment. Let no one do anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not permitted without authorization from the bishop either to baptize or to hold an agape; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God. Thus everything you do will be proof against danger and valid.
It is a theological truth of our Catholic faith, that a priest's priesthood finds completeness in the bishop.
When a priest forgets this, bad things happen.
There are those Catholics -- who assert they are "traditional" and "orthodox" and "faithful" -- who cannot keep unexpressed their dislike -- well, let's be honest, their contempt of their own, and other bishops. (I recall being at a meeting of such self-styled "faithful" who were warm and affirming toward priests, until the priests at their meeting declined to obey their demand that they publicly attack the Archbishop. At that point, they turned on the priests, calling them "cowards.")
They, too, I would refer to St. Ignatius of Antioch.