On the Duty of Bishops

Thanks (again!) to Daily Gospel Online, I was led to look at Christus Dominus, the Vatican II decree on the pastoral office of bishops.    I found the following (long) passage impressive for what it calls a bishop to do.  I have highlighted a few sentences that I found particularly striking:

Bishops should dedicate themselves to their apostolic office as witness of Christ before all men. They should not only look after those who already follow the Prince of Pastors but should also wholeheartedly devote themselves to those who have strayed in any way from the path of truth or are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and His saving mercy until finally all men walk “in all goodness and justice and truth” (Eph. 5:9).

12. In exercising their duty of teaching-which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops-they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness.

They should show, moreover, that earthly goods and human institutions according to the plan of God the Creator are also disposed for man’s salvation and therefore can contribute much to the building up of the body of Christ.

Therefore, they should teach, according to the doctrine of the Church, the great value of these things: the human person with his freedom and bodily life, the family and its unity and stability, the procreation and education of children, civil society with its laws and professions, labor and leisure, the arts and technical inventions, poverty and affluence. Finally, they should set forth the ways by which are to be answered the most serious questions concerning the ownership, increase, and just distribution of material goods, peace and war, and brotherly relations among all countries.

13. The bishops should present Christian doctrine in a manner adapted to the needs of the times, that is to say, in a manner that will respond to the difficulties and questions by which people are especially burdened and troubled. They should also guard that doctrine, teaching the faithful to defend and propagate it. In propounding this doctrine they should manifest the maternal solicitude of the Church toward all men whether they be believers or not. With a special affection they should attend upon the poor and the lower classes to whom the Lord sent them to preach the Gospel.

Since it is the mission of the Church to converse with the human society in which it lives, it is especially the duty of bishops to seek out men and both request and promote dialogue with them. These conversations on salvation ought to be noted for clarity of speech as well as humility and mildness in order that at all times truth may be joined to charity and understanding with love. Likewise they should be noted for due prudence joined with trust, which fosters friendship and thus is capable of bringing about a union of minds.

They should also strive to make use of the various media at hand nowadays for proclaiming Christian doctrine, namely, first of all, preaching and catechetical instruction which always hold the first place, then the presentation of this doctrine in schools, academies, conferences, and meetings of every kind, and finally its dissemination through public statements at times of outstanding events as well as by the press and various other media of communication, which by all means ought to be used in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

A challenging charge, but a necessary one.  A lot of bishops have fallen short of this standard.  But, while criticizing them is not off limits, we need to also ask ourselves:  how do we measure up to these standards?

May God, in his goodness and mercy, continue to bless and protect all bishops, and give them the grace to fulfill their duties to God and to His people.

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  • Pingback: On the Duty of Bishops (and the rest of us!) | Dissertating for the Greater Glory()

  • A problem is brewing for all the Catholic bishops in those parts of the world where Opus Dei numeraries and “Traditionalists” are found. They are very likely to begin to start to question the validity of Pope Francis’s election to the papacy.>

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Good heavens, is this nonsense back again? Every few months some blogger or revanchist commentator believes he has found the key to unseating Pope Francis. I am quite surprised that Sandro Magister, who has given voice to several of these theories, has not reported on this one yet.

      • There will be no “unseating,” obviously, but expect the “Traditionalists” to jump on this.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Actually, I would expect this to be a flash in the pan, like the previous “evidence.” I could be wrong since this is the first to occur after the synod, and now the gloves are coming off. But except for a very few hotheads, I think the vast majority of traditionalists are too aware of history and the damage wrought by the Great Schism to rally around this. After all, the same conservative cardinal who made passing references to “anti-popes”, Cardinal Pell, accepted a senior post in the Vatican. One could go all conspiratorial and say that he did it to be in position to support a coup, but I don’t want to go down that particular rabbit hole.

    • That is sad, though hardly surprising.

    • Mark VA

      Relax, Dismas, all’s quiet in my Traditionalist neck of the woods – photographs of our local Bishop and our Pope (Francis, that is) are proudly on display in the narthex.

      We ain’t goin nowhere!

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        And I would miss you if you left!

  • dominic1955

    Same here, we have pictures of Pope Francis and our proper Ordinary in the Trad churches I frequent. I don’t think there is any serious undercurrent in mainstream Trad circles that think Pope Francis is an anti-pope.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I believe you and Mark VA, but I must defend DD by pointing out that you only need to google Francis and anti-pope and see a fair amount of stuff out there. A brief prerusal gives me the sense that it is tied to certain parts of the Trad community that are devotees of various mystics and apparitions of the blessed Virgin. I have no idea what to make of that fact—it is just what I observed.

      • dominic1955

        I don’t doubt him but let me interpret it a bit. I went and googled “Francis” and “anti-pope” and came up with stuff like “Opus Dei alert”, “Most Holy Family Monastery”, “Novus Ordo Watch”-which are already-and have been for quite some time- Sedevacantist nutterballs. I also get “TradCatKnight” who is affiliated with the former SSPX “Resistance” priests (the more recent ones who thought the SSPX is going soft), Maria Divine Mercy (some two bit imposter seer) and The Stormer which is some crazy neo-Nazi site.

        These are Sedevacantists and as you rightly noticed, devotees of mystics and apparitions, and many of the nutty “trads” are. As to their numbers-handfuls. For instance, “Most Holy Family Monastery” is actually just If mainstream Trads are a minority, these people are barely a blip on the radar.

        They will self-identify as “traditionalists” I’m sure and I don’t want to play “no true Scotsman” but no trads who are in communion with the Church think they are real “traditionalists”. They are about as legit as the “anti-popes” (and that isn’t even a title worth granting these jokers) that inhabit Montana, Kansas and Spain.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Fair enough. I did not look real hard, but I was surprised by the things I was pulling up.

        • dominic1955

          David, if you ever want to kill a few minutes and find conspiracy theories to be entertaining, explore the weird side of the internet-Catholic traditionalist edition.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Over the years I have run into various sedevacantist theories involving masons, Jews, communists, the Illuminati, etc. The only thing that has not come up is Atlantis and space aliens.

        • Well, you and MarkVA are wrong, David; this is spiraling out of the Vatican’s control among the so-called “traditionalists”: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-dearth-of-investigative-reporting-on.html

        • Mark VA


          Even if there is anything of substance to this story (a big “if”, in my mind), the whole thing would be a fait accompli, anyway.

          There are much more important things within the Church to think about, like, for example, preparing for round two of the Synod on the Family. Round one was a wake up call in conservative and traditionalist circles:


      • And I also highly suspect that there’s a financial aspect to this desire to unseat Pope Francis; Italy is not exactly the ideal location for the seat of a universal Church: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/damian-thompson/2014/12/cardinal-pell-financial-mess-i-found-in-the-vatican-made-it-seem-easy-pickings-for-thieves/

  • An article about the “nervous and confused” American bishops, who certainly will be no kind of leaders in taking the Church in whatever direction the pope wishes to take it in:


    • Ronald King

      Dismas, “nervous and confused” seem to be symptoms of no tolerance for ambiguity or a fear of an infinite God.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Or simply middle aged and old men who have had the rules that have governed their careers change with little warning. Couple this with the often unreasonable expectations that Pope Francis has generated, and I do not completely blame them for feeling nervous and confused. What I am interested in is how they react in the end.

        • Ronald King

          Hey! I’m old

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Are you perhaps making an argument for married clergy? 🙂

        • The “rules that governed their careers” were ALWAYS anti-Christian, in my opinion.

        • Ronald King

          “However I have a living conscious” I have never used “conscious” in place of “conscience”. Proof of my quickening decline. Am I making an argument for married clergy? I do not know any woman in her right mind who would want to marry a priest.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            But there are many such women. One need only look to the experience of the Orthodox and the Eastern Catholics. With the approval recently given to the Uniate churches restoring their historic discipline here in the States you may soon get to meet some in person.

            The experience of women who marry clergymen is difficult. Years ago I had a chat with a guy (we were both in our 20s) whose father was an Episcopalian minister. He had some very perceptive things to say about his mother’s experience. But I wonder if it is any more difficult than being married to a truly dedicated police officer or fireman, or being married to a soldier on active duty.

        • Mark VA

          Dear Mr. King:

          Your subconscious slip was duly noted,
          Eyebrows were raised – yet no one gloated;
          Since as Freud himself has once admitted,
          Sometimes, a typo can be committed.

        • Ronald King

          Mark, Your many talents amaze me!
          Leaving me with a smile, yet in a quandary.
          You say that you are traditional
          While your freedom of thought reveals a liberal.
          I tried to enter your universe of creativity and intelligence and now I have left concrete evidence which reveals I do not have the rocket power to leave the gravitational pull of my own planet. But I sure do like looking at the stars. Keep shining.

        • Mark VA

          Thank you kindly, Mr. King.

  • THIS article is by the same person who wrote the “Radical Pope” book that is causing all the stir among “traditionalists.” If you read it carefully, I think you’ll get my point that the “traditionalists'” charges about an election conspiracy are REALLY a camouflage for a political and economic agenda. The people who own the corporate media and who are agitating the foolish “traditionalists” do not give a rat’s ass about “theology” or “sacramental marriage,” but what they DO recognize is that this pope has a social justice agenda that threatens them and their interests. Pope Francis IS, indeed, a “conservative,” but he’s a Burkean “conservative” the likes of who threaten the neo-liberal ideology which is based on the false anthropology of the so-called “Enlightenment,” and which commodifies human life. His type of counter-cultural Christian politics threatens Western secularist and “democratic” institutions (and particularly financial institutions and armaments industries) far more seriously than “progressive” movements do. Pope Francis is actually far more of a radical “conservative” than Benedict XVI or John Paul II were, and I just wish the misguided “traditionalists” could see that; he’s far more likely to motivate Catholicism to become “counter-cultural” than they were, and to base that “counter-cultural” trend on an ACCURATE reading of the Gospels, rather than on one that is co-opted into conformity with powerful institutions that are essentially atheistic.

    • Mark VA


      I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, listen to Coast to Coast AM (rarely and accidentally) for entertainment only, and could not hold even a one minute discourse on alien abductions, big foot, channelling, chemtrails, Club of Rome, crop circles, cryptozoology, glowing orbs, grassy knolls, locutions, three days of darkness, UFOs, wormwood, or yeti.

      Most Traditional Catholics I know, are primarily interested in preserving the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for the future generations. Those who are into the loony stuff, in my anecdotal estimation, are exceedingly few – but some of them may have websites to indulge and magnify their hobbies.

      I think one of the best ways to find out what the Traditional Catholic world (in union with the Pope) is like, is to become familiar with it from the inside, so to speak. One may find plenty to like or dislike, agree or disagree, but I doubt one will find the confirmation of some the wild stereotypes.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


        you may not be fond of conspiracy theories, but they are not uncommon I think in traditionalist circles. After all, I just found Fr. Z writing this on his blog:

        “Keep in mind that, even as we speak, powers-that-be are working behind the scene to engineer a desired outcome when the next Synod meets in October 2015.”

        This is classic conspiratorial language. Now, I am not tarring traditionalists in particular—I have to cope with this kind of thinking in many areas across the (political) spectrum. Hofstrader once wrote about the role of conspiracy theories in American thought and I think he had a point. My two cents is that any group that finds itself on the margins will try to find an explanation for its own marginalization, and this can quickly descend into conspiracies explaining the sinister forces “keeping them down.”

      • MarkVA, as a student of history, I am quite FOND of “conspiracy theories,” and all I ask of them is that they be reasonable. I know very well, as you apparently don’t, that “conspiracies” have played a major role in the history of almost every political set-up in the world. Uncovering them has provided spadework for some of the most astute historians: Mary Queen of Scots did NOT, according to respectable “revisionists” of British history, partake of the conspiracy to murder Lord Darnley, and she was, indeed, framed–to a considerable degree–by Walsingham’s secret service, in the Babington conspiracy. Robert Cecil was the promoter of the “government projection” that nursed the Gunpowder Plotters almost to the point of blowing up Parliament, and James I’s chief minister was also the framer of the Jesuits for taking part in a “conspiracy” they had actually attempted to deter–which deterrence he was completely cognizant of, but wished to misrepresent, in order to deflect responsibility for opposition to Stuart absolutism away from his favoured Puritan sect onto Catholics. Julius Caesar was, indeed, murdered by conspirators. Lincoln was assassinated by conspirators who tried more than once, and Gandhi was murdered by conspirators who are, ideologically, the forerunners of the present BJP government of India (the same “parent organization” is called the “RSS:”). It is obvious to any thinking person who has studied the details that both Kennedy brothers were “offed” by conspirators–and very likely the same conspirators (the same Cuban CIA operatives being in the room in the hotel room in Los Angeles as were on the grassy knoll in Dallas; the killing bullets entering RFK’s neck from the BACK, rather than from the front where Sirhan Sirhan was standing, and the autopsy results bearing this out, unlike the tampered-with JFK autopsy results).

        I encourage people who believe that the World Trade Centre was bombed by the American government to DIS-believe that theory because it doesn’t make sense (no American government, not even Bush’s, being willing to risk the ire of the American people, in such an instance). I ENCOURAGE foreigners I discuss these things with to believe, however, that the botched investigations of such things are usually caused by a wish to cover up incompetency, because the people who govern America ARE mostly incompetent, and make foolish errors regarding security issues, which they don’t want people to discover.

        The history of the modern, as well as the Medieval and Renaissance papacy is RIDDLED with conspiracies, many of them having to do with efforts to undermine popes or flout their rules or agendas, ranging from the rats’ lines that smuggled Nazis out of Europe, the covering up of Franciscan-led genocides in Croatia, to simony in papal elections, to the maneuvers of 18th century Bourbon monarchs to have the Jesuits suppressed because of the priests’ possible discovery of the illegitimacy of Carlos III. Many of these occurrences are highly likely and a great many of them had extraordinary influence on contemporary politics. You are absolutely ignorant to reject their likelihood, gravity and influence out of hand.

        As for what’s going on right now during papal synods, one of the most interesting articles I read on the last one stated that the African and Third World ecclesiastics are preparing to come to the second installment better prepared and better “coordinated” in order to stop any sort of “progressive” agenda to change the rules about divorce and annulment, as well as about the treatment of the “same-sex-attracted” by dioceses and parishes. What is that but the initiation of a kind of “conspiracy”?–one, I should add, that I have no opposition to, so long as the kind of “conspiracy” I favour–such as the one to secure the election of Pope Francis–is also not depicted as being demonic.

        • I should add also that I expect that the “conspiracy” by “traditionalists” (who, to me, are not traditionalists at all) to resist Pope Francis’s attempts to draw out the nuances of the Church’s true positions on such fine theological points as “complementarity” to become more dogged and relentless, because they look upon religion and spirituality as means of limiting sinfulness, rather than liberating the human spirit for what it does naturally and originally, which is to love.

        • And also I think that THIS article will help MarkVa to understand why I think that regarding such matters as the primacy of human conscience over “teachings of the Magisterium,” I don’t think he’s “traditional” at all.

        • Mark VA


          I find it amusing (in an amiable way) that I don’t fit some preconceived notions of what is a traditionalist catholic – but, there it is.

          For a better lens, try learning about this world from the inside. Then, what you may not like about it, will at least be based on some empirical foundation.

          Now, can we move on to some other topic?

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          But Mark, what fun is that? 🙂

          But fair enough. I never expected much discussion on this post. Let’s move on. I have a post coming tomorrow that should be interesting to discuss.

        • Just as a follow-up to this conversation, David and Mark, you might be interested to know that I’ve done my level-best to contradict the “conspiracy theory” that the “Trads” that MarkVA is endeavoring to distance himself from:


  • Roger

    The only thing worse than a crazed traditionalist is a crazed liberal who is intent on changing church doctrine to allow abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia and to allow divorce “Catholics” to receive communion. Those creatures exist and sadly some are clergy, ministers of communion and other “volunteers.”

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