Church leaders have been angered by the penchant of many bloggers to call them out on their failures to expound and defend controversial Catholic teachings on moral issues like contraception, homosexuality, and abortion. - U.S. Bishops: Bloggers play 'critical role' in defending the Church.
A friend of mine sent a link to an article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review titled, The Danger of Criticizing Bishops and Priests, by Fr. Thomas Morrow. I've written about the issue from time to time myself, noting how some warn that the wrath of God awaits those who do harm to His anointed, pretty much as a deterrent to their perceived foes, who they claim are persecuting them.
Oftentimes, at least it seems to me, most people who utter the least criticism of Churchmen seem to regard it as their right and duty. On the other hand, those in authority, though they urge the Catholic faithful to evangelize culture, to stand up for Church teaching and Religious Freedom in the public forum, get a little touchy about any criticism of how they happen to be teaching, defending - or not defending the faith.
It's always a catch-22 deal - damned if you do, damned if you don't. My personal thoughts on the issue show up in my blog posts - I try really hard to be respectful and charitable, and to express my opinion honestly in charity. Charity is key, but so is humility, and the respect Christians owe to those in authority. Prayerful vigilance is extremely important, as is frequent examinations of conscience, in order to check our tendency to rash-judgement, detraction, calumny, and other sins of the tongue. It's a scary thing, shooting off ones mouth online, knowing we will be judged on every word we say. I wonder if gaining huge numbers of followers, pumping up our stats, in other words, gaining the whole blogosphere, while risking our immortal soul is worth it? But I digress.
The part of Fr. Morrow's essay I found most interesting is the history he shares on how corrupt the Church was at the time of St. Francis of Assisi and the different responses to the corruption in the hopes of reform. Anyway - I'll reprint that part, and then you can go read the rest if you are interested.
Alas, how sad it is that some are far more ready to judge (and criticize) priests than they are to pray for them.In the thirteenth century many priests were involved in seeking wealth and having a pleasant life. They hardly preached at all, virtually never studied, and paid for important positions so that they could get even more money. A number of priests openly lived with women, causing great scandal. Some of the bishops lived in unbelievable wealth, and would sell Church positions to keep their rich life style. Many of the people were just as bad as their leaders.
As a result, many so-called prophets had appeared, some good, some not-so-good, who promised terrible punishments if people did not reform. Peter Waldo was one of the reformers who had a great beginning. He gave up his riches to live in poverty and spread the faith. He had many followers who also lived as poor men, and did penance. However, when they began to preach without permission against the lazy and sinful priests, the Archbishop of Lyons, France, excommunicated them.
The group, called the Waldensians, took their case to the pope, and he encouraged them. He praised Peter for living in poverty and gave him and his followers permission to urge the people to live moral and holy lives wherever the bishops allowed them to do so. But since they had not studied theology they were not permitted to explain the Bible or to instruct people in the faith. Unfortunately, they began to do both.
In time they got into all sorts of errors, such as placing their interpretation of the Bible over the authority of the pope, denying both purgatory, and veneration of the saints. They also refused to go to confession to immoral priests, preferring to confess to good people who were not priests. As a result, the Waldensians were excommunicated by the pope in 1184.
However, there were still a number of them going all over, spreading their errors. And, there were also the Albigensians or Cathari, as they were called in Italy, who condemned the material world as evil. As a result they denied the sacraments, and marriage in particular. Many people listened to both the leftover Waldensians and Cathari because they lived Gospel poverty, unlike the priests.
Despite their sincerity, and their living radical Gospel poverty, they all fell astray. They lost the faith. But, their contemporary, Francis of Assisi did not. Why not? Because he never went anywhere to preach the Gospel without permission of the priests. Furthermore, he would never criticize the priests and bishops—even the most lazy and immoral ones—nor would he allow his friars to do so. (As a result, the Franciscans were always welcome just about everywhere they went.)
Once a Waldensian challenged Francis on his unshakeable reverence for priests, by pointing out the local pastor who was living in sin. “Must we believe in his teaching and respect the sacraments he performs?”
In response, Francis went to the priest’s home and knelt before him saying, “I don’t know whether these hands are stained as the other man says they are. [But] I do know that even if they are, that in no way lessens the power and effectiveness of the sacraments of God… That is why I kiss these hands out of respect for what they perform and out of respect for Him who gave His authority to them.” His challenger left in silence. - Finish reading here.
Art: The dream of Pope Innocent. When Francis first 'got the call' to 'go build up my Church' - he took it literally and started rebuilding churches, he later understood the deeper meaning of that call.