An episcopal apology I’d like to hear some day

by Bernard Brandt

When I was a child at a Roman Catholic grade school in Southern California, long ago, the practice of the nuns who taught there was to have the students of in each class room line up in their own line at the end of each recess. One morning, the kids in my class room, while in their line, were being particularly loud and unruly, so much so that they delayed the whole school from going in to their respective classrooms by at least ten minutes.

My teacher, a particularly tall and stout Carmelite nun, came up to me, and said, “I want you to apologize to the whole school for the behavior of our class.” I quietly protested to her, “But I didn’t take part in what they did!” And the nun quietly said to me, “I know that. Nonetheless, I would like you to apologize on behalf of your class. Could you do that for me?” I nodded, and in as loud a voice as I could muster, I apologized to the school on behalf of my class.

It seems that these days, I have heard tell of a number of bishops who are remonstrating with their unruly and disorderly flocks. I have remarked here and there about such bishops. I’m afraid that I have not been very charitable with these bishops, and for that, I apologize myself.

I also feel for these bishops. In the terrible phrase of the Prophet Saint Hosea, their predecessors have sown the wind, and they are now reaping the whirlwind. In the words from our Lord’s parable, the Enemy came in the night, and sowed weeds among the grain. The present bishops are reaping that bitter harvest. And those faithful who have been witnesses to the many evils of the last fifty years know the truth of the Prophet Saint Ezekiel, who said, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

The present situation, then, is that for the past fifty years, the great mass of the Catholic faithful have been as sheep without shepherds. In the words of the poet, John Milton, “The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,/But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,/Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.” And those of the faithful who have attempted, on their own, to learn the Faith, have been alienated by their alleged priests and bishops, who seem not to have done so.

And so, we have become a house divided. And, as both our Lord and Rocket J. Squirrel have remarked, in their way, ‘that trick never works.’

You know, while I doubt that it will ever happen, I’m hoping that one of these days, one of these bishops who is overseeing the consequences of the current train wreck would actually offer an apology for what has happened, and an attempt to make amends. It would go something like this:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am the new bishop of our diocese. I am appearing before you courtesy of this video, which I have asked all of my brother priests to play in place of their homily to you this Sunday. Please also know that in the coming weeks, I will be visiting each parish in my diocese, so that we may become better acquainted.

I speak to you now for several reasons. The first is to offer an apology on behalf of my fellow priests and bishops. Our primary charge, as is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was to teach the Faith and to offer a sacrifice of praise in the Divine Liturgy and the Holy Mass. We have largely failed in that charge. Instead, we have waited on the tables of the money changers. While I can not speak for my fellow bishops on that last point, I can tell you that in this diocese, that practice now ends.

In the coming weeks, this diocese will be dissolving its corporation sole, and will be transferring ownership of all church properties to the respective parishes and institutions of the diocese. In that transfer, the diocese will retain the right to sell or to transfer said property, and to oversee the management of those properties, which management will be in the hands of those in charge of those parishes or institutions. But this diocese can no longer afford to be a target for civil litigation, or the expropriation of its properties by those who see our Church only as ‘deep pockets’ to fill their own pockets.

I and the fellow priests and bishops of this diocese will return to being teachers of the Faith. My cathedral and seminary will begin this process by setting up an online school, which will offer a remedial theological and philosophical education to priests and bishops in my diocese. The primary goal of that website is to offer the treasures of Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the Magisterium to all. All lay men and women in my diocese are invited to make use of this website. And, as the Church teaches that parents have the primary duty of education of their children, that website will also provide a means by which Catholic parents in my diocese can home school their children. In my role as overseer, I will also consult with the Catholic schools in my diocese, to see how we might better teach the Faith, and to teach our children.

I and the fellow priests and bishops of this diocese will also return to the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. To that end, I will offer both online courses and regional workshops, for both priests and laity, in the proper celebration of the Mass. These courses will include such subjects as liturgical Latin, Gregorian Chant, and what His Holiness Emeritus, Benedict XVI, has called ‘the extraordinary form of the Mass’. The website of the diocese will also provide free and plentiful resources in ancient chant, in medieval, Renaissance and Classical polyphony, and in modern hymns. In doing this, it is not my intent to supplant the old with the new, or to replace the new with the old, but like the householder spoken of by our Lord, to bring forth from our stock ‘treasures new and old.’

As regards those who serve the Sacred Mysteries, it has come to my attention that there are some priests in my diocese who have violated both the Sixth Commandment, and their priestly vows of celibacy. I have therefore conducted private investigations, and have spoken privately with my erring brothers. Some have asked my forgiveness, confessed their sins, and have returned to their duties. While I will not mention their names, as I am bound by the seal of the confessional, I would ask you all to forgive them as well, and to permit their return to the service of the Lord. Some have requested the opportunity for retirement, which I have granted them. Please forgive them as well, as have I.

But there are some of my erring brothers, alas, who will neither repent nor retire. I speak to you now, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to explain the situation, and to tell you that if they remain obdurate, I will have no choice save to have them tried before the appropriate ecclesiastical court, and to have those proceedings recorded and available on the diocese’s website.

Finally, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I would ask you to forgive me. I could and should have done far more, and far sooner, to remedy all these problems. I can only confess my failures, ask your forgiveness, and get up to try again. Please help me to do so. But in doing so, I would remind you of the words of the Apostle Peter: ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’

Please answer that call. I will be there with you.