The latest episode of Pope Francis spouting heresy . . . or not – who am I to judge? Anyway, the latest episode of Francis being Francis has me reflecting on the importance of a church being able and willing to deal effectively with bad bishops.
Yes, that is important. I remember in my young days when I didn’t know an Anglican from a right angle that I did know enough that the Episcopal Church was a no-go denomination for me. Why? “Bishop” Spong and TEC’s tolerance of him. Spong drove the orthodox out of his diocese, and no telling how many he drove out of or repelled from The Episcopal Church. I am not saying he was vindictive towards the orthodox. He might have been gracious to them for all I know. But a bishop spouting heresy without being disciplined sends a strong message to the orthodox to leave or stay away.
Further, the leaven of bad bishops spreads throughout a church. That is all the more true for a Pope who makes numerous appointments worldwide. And many of Pope Francis’ appointments have been awful. But even the mere presence of an apparently or openly apostate bishop sends the message that apostasy is okay. It invites more apostasy. And the enormities of the Romans have certainly become more evident under Francis.
To avoid these and other ways bad bishops harm a church, a healthy church must be able and willing to depose them or at least demote them to positions where they can do little harm. And, yes, it is time for Pope Francis to be sent off into the sunset – nicely, of course – but sent off before he does more damage.
That may sound like wishful thinking, and it probably is. But the Vatican Mafia managed to send off perhaps the best Pope of my lifetime. So why not be done with Francis?
The answer to that question may be that the Roman Catholic Church is not a healthy church; worse, that the wolves are in control of it. Most of us are all too familiar with churches that suppress good bishops and promote bad ones and what eventually becomes of such jurisdictions.
Yes, churches can survive bad bishops – 10th Century Rome had some real winners as Popes – but the downward spiral of The Episcopal Church illustrates that one should not so presume on the grace of God. Bad bishops must be made demoted bishops or ex-bishops.
Closer to home, are there bad bishops in the Anglican Church in North America that need to be dealt with?
I may deal with that question at another time.