22 April 2017

"Archbishop Becciu"?

So an English gentleman, Fra Matthew Festing, has been ordered by some Italian archbishop called Becciu not to set foot in Rome. Such is the degree of petty tyranny to which Christ's Church Militant has now descended.

 Did I say 'archbishop'? This Becciu has never discharged a pastoral role as a real Bishop, let alone an 'arch'bishop. He is styled 'Archbishop' because of a nasty, corrupt practice set in place by S John XXIII, of spraying episcopacy over pen-pushing bureaucrats.

I complained about this twice in 2014. Interestingly, Cardinal Kasper made exactly the same point around the same time. In this matter, he is absolutely right. This is a massive abuse calling for reform, but still unreformed even in an allegedly reforming pontificate.

I wonder what conclusions we should draw from the spectacle of a Pope whose rhetoric is about Shepherds Smelling of Sheep, and about a Church Which gets Its Hands Dirty, but who actually functions oppressively through 'archbishops' who smell of nothing so much as the Computer.

Here is one of the pieces I originally wrote in 2014.

It is nice to know that Important People in Rome read my blog so carefully and take it so seriously. Cardinal Walter Kasper, I gather, agrees with me that: it is an abuse to thrust episcopacy upon curial bureaucrats as a sort of 'honour'. Kasper points out that even the great and admirable Cardinal Ottaviani, that hugely wonderful apotheosis of doctrinal rigour combined with Traditional peasant Catholicism [that bit's my description, not Kasper's], was not a bishop until S John XXIII, in accordance with his deplorable new policy, forced him to become one. Indeed, back even in the days of the derided 'Renaissance Prince' papacy, this was not thought necessary. (Blessed John Henry Newman was a cardinal but never a bishop.) Why can't the present Holy Father see the logic of my and Kasper's point? To thrust the charism of a Successor of the Apostles upon someone who is not going to be using that sacramental status in et cum Ecclesia, as the Shepherd of a Particular Church with its presbyterium, diakonia, and laos, but is merely going to have a 'titular' see in some long-forgotten place, is an abuse of the Sacraments. It is to use the Sacraments themselves merely to augment a bureaucrat's dignity and vanity ... as well as Signor Gammarelli's profits! Of course, there are bishops whose ministry of episkope is unusual but is pastorally episcopal (one thinks of Archbishop Pozzo, in the Ecclesia Dei  Commission), but I do not think that this is typical of curial roles.

Neither Walter Kasper nor I are attacking the present Pope individually in saying this. Pope Benedict XVI and S John Paul II used episcopal Consecration in precisely the way we are criticising. In my view, it would show Pope Francis in a very good light if he took the opportunity of his reform of the structures of the Curia to introduce this reform as part of the package. He's removed all the silly stuff about curial prebyters getting automatically to call themselves Monsignore ... good ... but the abuse of the Apostolic Ministry carries on, and is a far worse abuse. [Frankly, the speed with which Bergoglio made Tucho Fernandez an archbishop, in little more than hours after becoming pope, calls into question his credentials as a 'reformer'.]

Let curial Cardinal Presbyters be and remain Cardinal Presbyters! (And wear, daily, a galero, if they want to!) But what is worst is that secretaries of dicasteries are made archbishops. Is the Holy Father not aware that, in the local churches throughout the world, 'Archbishop' is a title of some distinction?

Sometimes it is suggested that such 'rank' is necessary so that the curial chappy concerned can 'outrank' Bishops from dioceses (rather as the Officer commanding a naval base used to be made the 'Harbour Admiral' so that he could outrank pushy visiting ships' Captains).

But does the Body of Christ need this infantile preoccupation with rank?


Ben said...

But relevant here is the teaching of John Paul II, that the office of Bishop transcends being head of a particular church:

‘Precisely because the College of Bishops is a reality prior to the office of heading a particular Church, there are many Bishops who, while carrying out tasks that are properly episcopal, are not heads of particular Churches. (Cf. John Paul II, Apostolos Suos, 12) Each Bishop, always in union with his brothers in the episcopate and with the Roman Pontiff, represents Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church: he does this not only in a proper and specific manner when he receives the office of pastor of a particular Church, but also when he cooperates with the Diocesan Bishop in the governance of his Church (Cf. Vatican II Christus Dominus, 25-26) or when he shares in the Roman Pontiff's office of universal pastor in the governance of the universal Church.

‘In the course of her history the Church has also recognised, in addition to the specific form of presidency over a particular Church, other forms of exercising the episcopal ministry – such as that of an Auxiliary Bishop or a representative of the Roman Pontiff in the offices of the Holy See or in Papal Legations; today too, in accordance with the norms of law, she admits these other forms when they are needed.’

(Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World, 8)

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father,

Are you certain that you have the proper spelling of this archbishop's surname?

I was intrigued by the word 'becciu'. My reliable Google Translate reports it is Corsican for 'dirt'. That cannot be right can it?

If correct however, it would be most unfortunate for the poor archbishop unless, considering this present moment when it is desired by most clerics to smell of the sheep...

Eccles said...

Do we blame the organ-grinder, or his monkey?

Chaswjd said...

I agree with you, Father, in principle. There are, however, a few practical difficulties in your proposal. First, the heads of the Vatican Departments must deal with the bishops and archbishops of the world. Will the Bishop of Happy-Clappy be more likely to curtail liturgical abuse if it is the Cardinal Archbishop is calling or if it is merely the father or even deacon who is in charge of the CDW on the phone. I think the Bishop of Happy-Clappy is far more likely to respond to a nominal equal.

Second, there is the custom of appointing bishops from around the world to Vatican positions. The practice is not necessarily a bad one. Having climbed the greasy pole that far already would seem to be some proof of at least certain talents. But episcopal ordination cannot be erased. Under your proposal, we would then have a situation where foreign bureaucrats retain their episcopal rank, yet the home grown bureaucrats (nominally the foreigners' bureaucratic equals) would not share that same rank. Such a situation would certainly provide temptation to bring out the worst in already fallen individuals.

Your thoughts?

Stephen said...

Ah, but what sense of power must come with being an Archbishop! And what, pray tell, is the Curia all about if not power?

vetusta ecclesia said...

Actually I think that Curial pen pushers can still get Monsignor at a youngish age whereas a parish priest would not be eligible for such an honour until in his seventies. So much for pastoral focus.

PM said...

There is a long-standing clerical joke, I am told, that on Rome event the cats are called Monsignor.