Emeritus Bishop John M. D’Arcy of South Bend, Indiana, who courageously took on the University of Notre Dame when the school announced it would confer an honorary degree on Barack Obama a few years ago, writes a terrific piece for Our Sunday Visitor on “what kind of bishop is needed in the Church today.”  Interestingly, “takes his cues from the bishops conference” is not on His Excellency’s list of key attributes.  While I especially like the section on sound catechetical instruction at the end (“Catechetics is a ministry where the bishop must carefully choose and carefully guide the director of the Office of Catechesis”), Bishop D’Arcy provides a summary of his thoughts midway through:

What kind of bishop then? Someone who is in love with Jesus Christ, committed to doing His will whatever the cost in conflict and stress and even unpopularity. Someone who expects to be asked to make difficult decisions — and who, while consulting widely, ultimately knows by prayer, by experience, by the light of the Holy Spirit which decisions truly belong to him and should never be delegated. 

So, I think the picture of the bishop the Church needs comes more clear. A bishop who believes the call is from Christ and hears it every day. Someone who makes his own will second to the one to whom he belongs. Someone who finds his joy in doing what God wants. Someone who is not afraid of conflict and unpopularity, but expects it and, with the help of grace, even welcomes it, yet always in his public response is measured and, if possible, gracious and respectful as well as clear and forthright. 

A bishop who loves the Cross of Christ. It is not accidental that we were recently given the Year of St. Paul. St. Paul is the great theologian of the Cross. He personalized it and wrote with affection of the one who “has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). He also made the Cross the center of his preaching. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks look to wisdom, but we proclaim Christ Crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and absurdity to Gentiles — but to those who are called Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 11:22-24). 

So our understanding of the kind of bishop the Church needs, and is in fact seeking, becomes more clear. One who is led by Christ through prayer. One who does not seek his own importance. One who does not avoid conflict, but is willing to embrace it for the good of the Church. One who understands that it is the nature of the Church and of the Gospel that it will meet resistance. The parable of the weeds and wheat in Matthew 13 makes this clear. 

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