Thursday, June 19, 2008

Archbishop Denounces Election of Bishops

Here I go again. It is difficult for me to resist commenting when a hubristic hierarch pops off. He thinks, I think, that he's going to get away with it, as he always does, with imperial impunity. Guess I just want to let him know that some of us people called lay can pop off, too. More better, more kinder, because we are common folk. Numbers tell the story about our clergy and us the people. In America, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – USCCB – the statistics are at:

Cardinals: active as heads of large dioceses. 20 in all.
Archbishops: 25 active. 16 retired
Bishops: 193 Diocesan. 74 Auxiliary. 141 retired
Priests: 42,307
Common Folk: 67,515,016

224 active hierarchs and 67 ½ million people. Archbishop Curtiss, apparently, speaks for the hierarchs. Who speaks for the people? Nobody actually. There are spokespeople here and there, but only for the groups to which they belong. A person speaking without a group is a loner.

Several times in the last six years, one of the ideas put up was the creation of a United States Conference of Catholic People – USCCP. Just like the USCCB in Washington, DC. We'll pay for it. We already pay for the USCCB. At the present time, there is no spokesperson for all the people.

Still, the Church proclaims that the Magisterium includes a Sensus Fidelium – The Sense of the Faithful. How? Where? Who speaks or writes? The myriad groups with acronymic names are an alphabet soup of the people: ARCC, CTA, TBOC, and so many others. They have produced scholars, whether theological, legal, logical, or cultural. Professors have wandered out of academe. A leader here, another there, have begun to stand and speak truth to power. These people are like ourselves, we who write and others who read. We are the largest group in the Church, almost 70,000,000 in America, over 1,200,000,000 in the world. Within that enormous population is a Sensus Fidelium.

May I offer some thoughts, then, random, dormant for a lifetime, now surging to be heard, pricked by a slow reading line by line, on Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss of Omaha, Nebraska. He wrote a letter to Commonweal protesting the proposal of Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, that bishops be elected by the people in the diocese.

Archbishop Curtiss may be one of the 25 active archbishops in America, but this letter is my first contact with his pronouncements. It is not fair to criticize a person on such a small, singular publication, but his letter must not go unchallenged. Following his distinctive manner of using all three of his names, I am Layman Emanuel Paul Kelly. We don't have any arch-lay people, so there is no other title to give me some status. I am aware of the hubris in and out of me, for it is not a quality of bishops and cardinals alone. There are, then, some similarities between the hierarch and the layman.

For credentials, a bother, a needless bother: husband, father, grandfather, retired litigator, was a Jesuit scholastic briefly in my youth 60 years ago, unknown, lay as in laity, sort of a people-people person who thinks authority figures are more to be challenged than admired. So, I am a composite Catholic, sometime in the clergy, though not ordained, and the rest as a lay person, though not acclaimed.

Curtiss, a singularity, is a typical archbishop, I guess, the kind Rome requires to keep Rome as Rome and us as Romans, if not necessarily as Catholics. I am American, more or less a typical lay person, pretty fed up with Rome and its tiny covey of high priests. And I am Catholic, a singularity, too, among universality.

Here's the Archbishop's letter to Commonweal. Wonder whether he was aware that he exposed himself . . Perhaps the title for this piece should have been: "The Lord Archbishop Has No Clothes."

June 6, 2008 / Volume CXXXV, Number 11  




In his April 25 article, "Reforming the Vatican," Thomas J. Reese, SJ, claims it would help the governance of the church if bishops were "elected by the local clergy, accepted by the people of his diocese, and consecrated by the bishops of his province."

As a bishop for thirty-two years, I have become increasingly convinced that it would be a disaster for the church if bishops were elected by local clergy, either in a bishop's diocese of origin or the diocese where he will serve. I suspect that the most popular priests, those who would offer the people of a diocese emotional support but little governance, would often be the ones elected bishop. They would add to the dismantling of episcopal authority and the diminishment of papal oversight and accountability.

Local election of bishops would move the church toward a congregationalist model of governance that would undermine the international unity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. It is a great blessing for a diocese when a bishop is appointed from elsewhere on the basis of his real pastoral gifts and not on his previous popularity as a hail-fellow. It is a primary duty of a bishop to help keep his diocese in union with the universal church under the leadership of the successor of St. Peter who, with the other apostles, was not elected by his peers.

I can assure your readers that the collective wisdom of the church, with two thousand years of experience, will not let her return to the selection of bishops by the local clergy and laity. Bishops are expected to govern with authority that comes not from clergy or people but from the Lord himself.

Whatever the weaknesses of the present system for appointing bishops, we are much better served by the work of the papal nuncio and the Congregation of Bishops working directly with the Holy Father than we would be by local diocesan political processes.


Omaha, Neb.



1 – Disaster

Archbishop: "As a bishop for thirty-two years, I have become increasingly convinced that it would be a disaster for the church if bishops were elected by local clergy . . . "

Comment: What a terrible thing to say about his own priests. What a terrible way to indict as disastrous, the honor that equals offer to another priest and cloak him with popularity, their way of showing respect, admiration. For the archbishop popularity in and of itself is a contagious disease, like AIDS, leprosy. I don't know him, so can't say he is totally inadequate as a human being, but this opening sentence surely takes off his costumes and leaves him naked as one of the top elite American clergymen worthy enough to run a diocese.

What this horrible sentence says is that this archbishop doesn't trust his own people, dislikes intensely his own priests, and is comfortable only with other Ordinaries. There are 193 dioceses in America. Archbishop Curtiss is the sole Ordinary of one of them, and the other 192 are the only people in the American Church whom he respects. That's awful. It is also sad. Of that 192, only 25 are Archbishops.

He emphasizes his 32 years as a bishop. I had merely eight years as a Jesuit scholastic but 45 years as a practicing lawyer. Neither number brings me any closer to his augustness. There was a great uncle on my mother's side, though, who was an archbishop, too, and for 36 years, in Winnipeg, Ontario. Only met him once. Never got to know him, outside the legends my mother and aunts created about him. I'm afraid , too, that he was popular and that is a defect of character for the archbishop of Omaha.

Question: Why did Archbishop Curtiss turn against his own priests and demean them as unfit to run a diocese, if elected by fellow clergy? And yet, he is OK with himself selecting potential bishops from out the clergy pool? Why does he castigate the election of bishops by clergy alone, excluding lay people completely from the procedure? Does he feel that lay people are worthy of no consideration at all? If he doesn't like priests, why would he like lay people? Is he a Catholic? Strange one, if he is. He doesn't like Catholics, whether lay or clergy, just hierarchs.


2- Popularity Not Governance

Archbishop: "I suspect that the most popular priests, those who would offer the people of a diocese emotional support but little governance, would often be the ones elected bishop."

Comment: He says, I think, that when a person is elected, it is only because of "popularity", which may offer "emotional support" but not "governance." Often. But, when bishops write three names as bishopibile– the Terna – and send it to the Apostolic Nuncio, and he forwards their thoughts to Rome, the Pope, or a subordinate, chooses one. Popular priests never land on a Terna, at least not in Omaha.

That, of course, is not "popularity" but infallible wisdom for and only for "governance." Really? Popes, like Presidents, select their own to pack the College of Bishops with their ilk. Lessens controversy in the dictatorship style of governance favored by the one doing the packing.

Omaha's bishop goes over the top in dismissing elections as based on "popularity" not "governance." His letter, a slur on democracy, manifests a keen tyrannical mindset that the people have no power, are not wise, nor are they free as God intended they be free. This archbishop absolutely believes that he and his confreres are particularly outstanding human beings, chosen by God and his Vicar, with prompting from those given the scarlet and the purple, to select not elect bishops who know how to march in the lockstep of salvation. And nobody, but nobody, is going to tweak that mindset. That is hubris in the highest.

Question: Why do we put up with this autocratic conduct from a "king of the hill?"


2. Dismantling, Diminishing

Archbishop: "They would add to the dismantling of episcopal authority and the diminishment of papal oversight and accountability."


  1. Dismantling of episcopal authority? Of course. Except it is not authority. It is tyranny that is about to be dismantled. There is a difference. All authority is a gift from God. Tyranny is an abuse of that gift. Ever hear of Lay Authority? We have a lot of it, you know. Early on, we gave some of it to our Elders, who later took on the name of Episcopus, Overseer, Bishop. I wrote a paper for the MA years ago, "The Origin of Authority in a Direct Democracy." Never thought it would come back out of my remembery, the place where memories are stored in slumber, to be awakened from time to time. The conclusion to that paper was: The People from God. All power, all authority is given by God to the people. There is no Divine Right of Kings, as bishops like to think and act. That was just a burp in the history of civilization. Didn't last long.


  2. Diminishment of papal oversight? Hardly. There is none. Neither Pope John Paul II nor Benedict XVI exercised oversight. They held absolute power and crushed anyone who opposed it, questioned it, gave it a curious glance. That is not oversight. It is the hallmark of the brutal overseer of slaves chained in a work gang, All black. The overseer is white. The Latin "episcopus" means "overseer ---- "epi" - over, "scopus" – seer." Clergy are white. Laity are black. In the RCC. Extraordinary Ordinaries are the Overseers.



  3. And accountability? I don't want to laugh here, not out loud, nor snicker as some kind of superior being to archbishops, but once again, I see myself on the elementary school playground at recess, watching a bishop as "king of the hill." I ponder how he got there. By ambition alone? A fierce ambition, driving, consuming, to be on a ladder with rungs to climb? By being noticed by one higher up a rung or two? By playing his cards tightly, always pleasing superiors, eschewing mere childish popularity?

Tell me, what accountability was ever required of John Paul II? Benedict XVI? None, right? I hear Pope Pius IX, was it he, the pusher of the doctrine of infallibility, when criticized by his own select colleagues for trying to ram that doctrine through Vatican I –wasn't there before for over one thousand, eight hundred years, you know – and losing it. He roared in anger, screamed, 'I AM THE POPE!!!!!" Then, cannily, transferred the locale of the Council to a distant city, upped the schedule to make it faster, ignored bishops who simply couldn't change their own schedules to get there, and clapped his hands when his supporters voted Infallibility in as one of the unchanging doctrines of the official teachings of the RCC.

I may have embellished the political maneuverings a bit, you know. At any rate, Infallibility has been a dogma since 1869. Before that date, Popes were able to make mistakes. Since that time, the pure gold of never being wrong. Cardinals Wojtyla and Ratzinger lusted after that, for they regarded themselves as infallible when they were teenagers in Poland and Germany. Their self-assessments were confirmed by being elected popes in 1978 and 2005. wonder how Archbishop Curtiss distinguishes their elections by clergy from the paltry "popularity" of "hail-fellows" the usual spawn of such elections . . . The Archbishop is inconsistent, methinks.

Question: Not "Why do we put up with this oligarchic proclamation from a "king of the hill?" But, "Why do I go apoplectic, when hierarchs justify their conduct with such preposterous statements?" Do they really, truly, actually believe that we the laity are that stupid? That could be the greatest gulf. Perhaps. We have allowed them and this Church of ours to be so. We rarely stood to speak truth to power. It just was not done.

The hierarchs of the RCC do so believe. God help them. Not us, though, for Vatican II called us to serve this Church of ours. Our response must be free, relying on the grace of the Holy Spirit and the promise of Jesus – "Where two or more are gathered together in my name . . . " We do not need an overseer's permission to be, to act, to stand, to speak. We could use a servant of the servants of God or two. And so, we pray that the Holy Spirit will see to it that we get them.

Deeply, I do not think there has ever been a time in the recorded history of the RCC, that such abuse of power, such insufferable hubris emanating from so many hierarchs, was made manifest in the epiphanies going on now, out of so many chanceries around the world. It is not Ordinary, though that is the sacred office to which hierarchs are ordained, after having been so carefully selected not elected. The missing "S", which is the single most important letter in the alphabet of RCCism. Rome Selects. Rome will never Elect.

You do not accept this? Go, read that sentence of Archbishop Curtiss one more time. Slowly. If we elect bishops, he said, we will automatically, "dismantle episcopal authority, diminish papal oversight and accountability." That is one helluva charge by an archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church. That's like saying, "If you vote for X as President of the United States, you will automatically dismantle governmental authority, diminish presidential oversight and accountability. You will be committing treason."Just by our selecting our own Elders, as the first Christians did. Exactly as they did, for hundreds of years. This Archbishop from Omaha wouldn't dare let lay people make such a choice. And he sure isn't going to let his clergy have the vote either. Nor will Rome. Only he and his friends have, in their own judgment, the skill, integrity and wisdom to lead. All others must follow. They are Overseers. We are but slaves. Ipse dixit. Solus.


3. Move And Undermine

Archbishop: "Local election of bishops would move the church toward a congregationalist model of governance that would undermine the international unity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."


International unity? There is none. The RCC is a-splintering, busting up all over. Thousands, thousands have left, fed up with childishness, able to see behind the curtain, now that it has been rent by the scandal of all time, the sexual abuse of children by men in black – and purple – and scarlet – and white. No hierarch is beyond the weight of great millstones.

The three Ds – Dogma, Doctrine, Discipline – are now but one D – Discipline – as hierarchs come down strong and quick and mean and nasty, to whip their slaves into line: Cardinal Mahony and his nine obedient bishops dropped all pretense of love and fellowship and basic Christian hospitality by banning and barring Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Sydney, Australia, from speaking, writing, even stepping foot into his diocese, while a guest in our country.

Unity of what? Why, "the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," of course.

  • It is not "one" now. Just look within your own dioceses and its closing and clustering of parishes. Look around the world, especially South America, Africa, Southeast Asia. Rome yells the charade, "One." The rest of the world yells the actuality, "Many."
  • It is truly "holy," though, for no church can suffer the onslaughts of ours and still survive, without holiness. Just look at Jesus' crucifixion. The Church right now is being crucified. By its own. The high priests. The Church, our Church, is so holy that not even its high priests can stain it out of existence. The Roman Church will decline and fall like its namesake, mostly because it is man-made.
  • It is not "catholic", for it is not universal, nor is it the only church, the sole religion. Even though it insists that it is. Try this, without laughing. "Believe me, EPaul, who writes this. I know. I am wise and graced and aged. Heed me. Do what I order you to do. Or I will not let you go to Communion. Tick me off and I'll toss you out. Now, kneel and I'll give you my blessing." Anyone yield yet to my wield of power? Not one? C'mon . . . I want to be a bishop, never wrong, always right, and I'm heavy on the power, as heavy as on the covet when I was younger and eagerer.
  • It is not even "apostolic." The RCC is based on two men, Saints Peter and Paul. Peter is just one of the original twelve. Paul was no original, a sort of a Johnny-come-lately, who used to persecute, got knocked off his horse, and changed his mind. Might better call the Church Petric or Paulic, rather than Catholic. Leave the "Roman" qualifier attached, until it falls off from its own weighty bloat.

How many of us know the names of the other eleven – plus the add-on to replace the one who kissed? Please do not scorn me for being smarty here, but we don't actually know accurately who they were. Before you read what follows, write down all the names of Apostles you can remember. If really smart, jot down the places where they founded Churches. Any with the name of "Roman?" Were those Churches "Apostolic?" Where are they now?

Wikipedia – good for quick research – says:

The four Gospels give varying names of the twelve. According to the list occurring in each of the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark 3:13-19, Matthew 10:1-4, Luke 6:12-16), the Twelve chosen by Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, those whom also He named Apostles, were, according to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew:

Peter: Renamed by Jesus, his original name was Simon (Mark 3:16); was a fisherman from the Bethsaida "of Galilee" (John 1:44, cf. John 12:21). Also known as Simon bar Jonah, Simon bar Jochanan (Aram.), Cephas (Aram.), and Simon Peter.

James, son of Zebedee: The brother of John.

John: The brother of James. Jesus named both of them Bo-aner'ges, which means "sons of thunder".(Mark 3:17)

Andrew: The brother of Simon/Peter, a Bethsaida fisherman, and a former disciple of John the Baptist.

Philip: From the Bethsaida of Galilee (John 1:44, John 12:21)

Bartholomew, son of Talemai: It has been suggested that he is the same person as Nathanael, who is mentioned in John 1:45-51.

Matthew: The tax collector.

Thomas: Also known as Judas Thomas Didymus - Aramaic T'oma' = twin, and Greek Didymous = twin.

James, son of Alphaeus: Generally identified with "James the Less", and also identified by Roman Catholics with "James the Just". [9]

Thaddeus: In some manuscripts of Matthew, the name "Lebbaeus" occurs in this place. Thaddeus is traditionally identified with Jude; see below.

Simon the Zealot: Some have identified him with Simeon of Jerusalem. [10]

Judas Iscariot: The disciple who later betrayed Jesus. (Mark 3:19) The name Iscariot may refer to the Judaean towns of Kerioth or to the sicarii (Jewish nationalist insurrectionists), or to Issachar. Also referred to as "Judas, the son of Simon" (John 6:71 and John 13:26). He was replaced as an apostle shortly after Jesus' resurrection by Matthias.

The Gospel of Luke differs slightly, listing a "Judas, son of James" and not listing a "Thaddeus." In order to harmonize the accounts, some traditions have said that Luke's "Judas, son of James" refers to the same person as Mark and Matthew's "Thaddeus," though it is not clear whether this has a good basis in the text or the use of the names historically. Luke has "Simon the Zealot" in place of "Simon the Cananean". It is unclear whether these two Simons refer to the same person.

The Gospel of John, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, does not offer a formal list of apostles, though it does refer to the Twelve in 6:67, 6:70, and 6:71. The following ten apostles are identified by name:


Andrew (identified as Peter's brother)

the sons of Zebedee (plural form implies at least two apostles)



Thomas (also called Didymus (11:16, 20:24, 21:2))

Judas Iscariot

Judas (not Iscariot) (14:22)

The individual that the Gospel of John names as Nathanael has traditionally been identified as the same person that the other Gospels call Bartholomew. The other three Gospels, however, contain a complete list of the twelve and contain no reference to a "Nathanael." Thus, the four Gospel accounts do not agree as to the names of the twelve. The sons of Zebedee presumably refers to James and John, while Judas (not Iscariot) probably refers to the same Jude, son of James, as the Gospel of Luke's list, traditionally identified with Thaddeus. Missing from the Gospel of John are James, son of Alphaeus, Matthew, and Simon the Canaanite/Zealot. In any case, the author certainly does not bring up any explicit denial of those two apostles, and never actually lists the twelve.

By the second century, the presence of two individuals named Simon (Peter and Simon the Zealot) in the list of the Synoptic Gospels allowed a case to be made for Simon Magus being the other Simon, and hence one of the twelve apostles. The second Simon may also have been Simeon of Jerusalem, the second leader of the Jerusalem church.

The similarity between Matthew 9:9-10, Mark 2:14-15 and Luke 5:27-29 may indicate that Matthew was also known as Levi.

I know that "the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," is in our Creeds, but isn't it more better, more OK, truthful, accurate to say that those four qualities are sort of wishful rather than actual? Is not our Church, the Catholic Church, without an adjective from an ancient and great city like Rome. Wonder where we'd be, had Antioch or Corinth or Lyons or Alexandria become the Primus inter pares – First among equals -- in those early centuries? Hippo? Dublin? Tokyo?

Question: Why can't we just look at our Church – and love it? Seeing it, without the propaganda, for what it does for people, rather than by these credal statements composed by hierarchs down the labyrinthine years of church history? It is a good Church. It is for "the many, holy, for all people, and a Petrine church?" Better than "one, holy, catholic and apostolic." Which simply is not true, though must be believed, as Rome says.


4. Hail-Fellows

Archbishop: "It is a great blessing for a diocese when a bishop is appointed from elsewhere on the basis of his real pastoral gifts and not on his previous popularity as a hail-fellow."

Comment: Well, this one is too tempting to treat seriously. "Hail-fellow" and "Bishop" are not compatible. What strips this bishop naked and unclothes his inhuman self-love, a sickening adoring of self and selves like him, is that he and they have "real pastoral gifts." I agree that he and they are devoid, totally devoid of any "popularity as a hail-fellow." They aren't even nice. They being himself and those who think and glint and speak and hiss, and write and destruct as does he. Calling that wield of absolute power "real pastoral gifts" is blasphemy. It is hubris, though, impure and complex.

Question: Why is that we laity kind of dream a little, hope a little, pray a lot that a real bishop, with real pastoral gifts would come and be one of us, with all of us as an Elder, with wisdom, age and grace among us men and women. That would be pure and simple, wouldn't it? Humble, even, a quality our current Selected, not elected, Hierarchs, don't seem to possess, or even know. Each of us knows such priests, and some bishops, a pope or two – remember John XXIII? – last century. What was it called? Vatican 2. Right?


5. The Primary Duty of a Bishop

Archbishop: "It is a primary duty of a bishop to help keep his diocese in union with the universal church under the leadership of the successor of St. Peter who, with the other apostles, was not elected by his peers."

Comment: Oh! No, that is not the primary duty of a bishop. Archbishop Curtiss made that one up. And it is erroneous historically. Jesus called the apostles, one by one. He didn't go to a Town Meeting and ask for nominations and an election. That came later, after he went home to his Father. When Judas hanged himself, the remaining eleven elected Matthias. First time they had the power of the vote. Went to it right away, without hesitation. Curtiss doesn't know his church history, or, if he does, he falsifies it. Ideologues do that frequently. It's how they operate to keep the power of control.

The primary duty of a bishop is to serve the people of God and help them enter the Kingdom. Curtiss speaks of a "union with the universal church." There is no such union, no such universal church, just a tiny city-state of the Vatican. And the Vatican is not Rome. We use "Rome" and "Roman" out of millennia of habit, without realizing how wrong it is. The actual name for the Archbishop's Church is The Vatican Church, and the religion is not Catholicism but Vaticanism. Accuracy helps us know what city or town and which religion is clamoring for our obeisance.

As far as those "other apostles . . . not elected by his peers," are concerned, I bet the Bishop of Omaha could not name them all, perhaps not even four. Oh!, and Jesus was not elected by his peers either. Be they the other two persons of the Trinity, or his apostles, disciples, or women friends. Jesus invites, calls. While here, he never, not even once, demanded of any man or woman, "Come, follow me." Jesus asks. He does not command. Nor does he excommunicate. Nor does he crucify those who won't come and follow him.

Saint Peter, by the way, was never ordained a priest. He was not a bishop. Never thought of himself as a pope. He was a fisherman, married, a stony one. Saint Paul, too, was no priest, bishop or pope. Not even an original Apostle out of the twelve. Jesus, before and after his crucifixion and resurrection, was, perhaps, a rabbi. He was not a high priest. He didn't like high priests, or those who lord it over others, but allowed others to call him, "Lord, Lord . . . " Wonder what Bishop Curtiss really thinks of Jesus and Peter and Paul . . .

I wonder whether this Archbishop who is so terrified of elections and of popularity, i.e. of people, that he never had the chance to find out who Jesus is in his own episcopal life. I wonder whether he ever talks to or listens to the Lord. Or the cardinal in a nearby diocese. Perhaps, just the Pope? He's heavy on that union stuff with Rome as the sole, solitary, primary duty of a bishop, isn't he? Sad. This poor guy is so fouled up. He doesn't know who Jesus is. He has no idea of what a bishop is supposed to do. And he writes letters to Commonweal!

Question: Does Archbishop Curtiss know anything in the New Testament, or about the first few years of the Church, say from 29 AD, the crucifixion and resurrection, up to 100, AD, another 71 years? Wikipedia tell us at:

The Bishop of Rome is the bishop of the Holy See, more often referred to in the Catholic tradition as the Pope. The first Bishop of Rome to bear the title of "Pope" was Boniface III in 607, the first to assume the title of "Universal Bishop" by decree of Emperor Phocas. (602-610) Earlier Bishops of Rome are customarily extended the title Pope as a courtesy, except in strict historical discourse. The title "Bishop of Rome" is also used in preference to Pope by some members of Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant denominations, to reflect their rejection of papal authority over the Christian Church.

The word Pope – Papa in Latin and Greek – was used by many bishops around the Mediterranean in the first few centuries of the Church. A century is one hundred years. I'm not being cute. I'm asking readers to think of how long a hundred years is, longer than a lifetime, and five centuries is five hundred years. Think on that span of time, from 29, when Jesus died and rose from the dead, to 607 when Boniface III became the first man ever to claim the title of "Pope" rather than just Bishop of Rome. That was 578 years after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.

To put it in focus, 578 years ago was 1430. Columbus had not yet discovered America. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, on May 30, 1431. She was 19. The 15th century was the beginning of the Age of Exploration. There was a world outside of Europe. Magellan and Vasco da Gama and Columbus. Aztecs and Incas. Imagine, no Popes as such for about 550 years. What is all this stuff "the official teachings of the Roman Church" claims as the historical record from St. Peter the Apostle, a fisherman was neither pope nor bishop nor priest but a fisherman?

The first pope to pop up was Boniface III in 607. Historians have granted the courtesy of being pope to his predecessors, all the way back to St. Peter. But the first pope qua pope didn't arrive until the seventh century. Wikipedia says at:

In the early centuries of Christianity the bishop of Rome (like other bishops) was chosen by the consensus of the clergy and people of Rome. The body of electors was more precisely defined when, in 1059, the College of Cardinals was designated the sole body of electors. . . And At the Lateran Synod of 13 April
1059 Nicholas II decreed (In nomine Domini) that the pope is to be elected by the six cardinal bishops.

Sorry, Archbishop Curtiss, those are the facts. That's church history. Popes elected by Cardinals didn't come around until the eleventh century, a thousand years after Jesus walked the earth and the waters in Palestine. During all those centuries, Bishops were elected by the clergy and by the people. Archbishop Curtiss' condemnation of elections of bishops is silly, contrary to the facts of history. To put it rather bluntly, he doesn't even know his own Church and its traditions over the two thousand years since Jesus became incarnate.


6. Two Thousand Years of Experience

Archbishop: "I can assure your readers that the collective wisdom of the church, with two thousand years of experience, will not let her return to the selection of bishops by the local clergy and laity. Bishops are expected to govern with authority that comes not from clergy or people but from the Lord himself."

Comment: This confused archbishop can 'assure" Commonweal's readers all he wants, but his assurances melt in the hot sun of the historical fact over a thousand years of Church History that bishops were elected by a consensus of both clergy and the people. Archbishop Curtiss had a slip of the tongue, not Freudian, but revealing, when he wrote above that the "wisdom of the church . . . will not let her return to the selection of bishops by the local clergy and laity." He knew well that bishops were elected for one thousand years of the church's history, even as he was trying to pull the wool over our eyes that election of bishops was so monstrous a concept that it had never-ever-ever happened in the church before. I can't say that this bishop lied. I can say that he made an egregious mistake and doesn't know what he is writing about.

He can expostulate, too, all he wants about the gift of authority from God. Authority is given to the people, not to hierarchs solely. God does not bypass his people for the favored few oligarchs locked in the costumes and mindsets of the Middle Ages. God gives gifts to his people, and the gift of authority is, just as this bishop asserts, "from the Lord himself." It comes from the Lord to the people and the clergy, just as it did for the first thousand years, and then it comes from the clergy and the people to the bishops. Bishop Curtiss is confused and in serious error. He thinks he and his colleagues are separate and apart from the people in a tiny cubicle of the Vatican, which they think is the church. Just them.

The "collective wisdom of the church," of which this bishop is assured does not reside in bishops alone. It is the hallmark, the lodestar, the essence of church. And the church is the people of God: we who are called laity, and priests on various rungs of the ladder, who are called clergy. Neither one alone is church. Together, we are church. I write this to show that I am not anticlerical. I am simply anti-absolute power as wielded by some, too many for comfort, high up on the rungs of the church's ladder of power.

Question: When a hierarch like Elden Francis Curtiss of Omaha, Nebraska, speaks out so erroneously and austerely and autocratically, riddled with errors and falsehoods, and yet from on high about the election of bishops, we are more deeply inspired to Take Back Our Church. CTA, in its current membership drive, is asking us to ponder, "I've had enough…." Of what? Of 1- Intolerance and 2- Injustice and 3- Lack of Accountability. By whom? By Bishops and Cardinals and Popes, who have forgotten who they are: servants of the servants of God. When? Now.

Does anyone reading this think that Archbishop Curtiss will retract his terrible letter? At least correct the obvious historical errors? Or will he excommunicate me for challenging him to face the reality of our church. It is not his. Or mine. It is ours. Ours. As a gift from the Lord himself.

Join CTA. I did. A few weeks ago, realizing that I can write and write and write and achieve nothing alone. With membership in a group like CTA, I can work with others to Take Back Our Church before unskilled, uneducated, untrained, and worst of all, unqualified bishops like Curtiss of Omaha destroys it.

If we cannot join CTA now, let us reconsider later, please, when we can quietly say,

"We've had enough of intolerance, injustice and lack of accountability. We've had enough of hierarchical pomposity and disregard of historical fact. The Lord himself gave us our church. We should honor it, love it, protect it from those who do it harm."


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