St. Stephen's Cathedral Brisbane
At the principal Mass at St.Stephen's Cathedral Brisbane yesterday two unusual things happened :
(a) after a slightly truncated homily, the Celebrant invited the congregation to listen to the second part of an audio tape on the Role of the Bishop"( I attended Holy Mass at a Parish church for family reasons on the previous Sunday and missed Part One), and
(b) after Mass a full colour glossy flyer in A4 format, double-sided was distributed at the doors of the Cathedral. The flyer was titled "For you,a bishop....with you a Christian"(paraphrasing St. Augustine's famous quote - though without attribution.)

The audio was professionally - prepared with sweet backing music, fade-ins, fade-outs & the works. The text appeared to be taken from the flyer later handed-out if my memory served accurately, and I believe it did. In the brief minutes of its delivery, I could not analyse it in detail, but detected not far below the surface , and sometimes openly , an attempt to undermine an authentic understanding of Catholic teaching on the episcopacy.

The flyer became then, something of higher interest.
It too was very professionally produced.It set out very skillfully to convey its message in words and pictures.And it did so in total anonymity - no Author added his name, no Authority authorised it, and no Organisation claimed responsibility. Yet, that it was official could not be doubted as it was announced by the Celebrant as being available and it was distributed by regular Cathedral volunteers.Strange days indeed!!

The lavish illustrations, including 10 pictures of Archbishop Bathersby and two of the Holy Father are all well- used. The anonymous text is dressed up with two selected brief quotes from St.Cyprian of Carthage,and Lumen Gentium .With skillfull turn of phrase and clever presentation, Catholic Dogma is presented in ambiguous terms, so we get :"Traditionally we call bishops "successors of the Apostles". However......" The uncritical reader is given the impression that the presentation is rooted within the parameters of Catholic orthodoxy, whilst this is subtly subverted.

Archbishop John A. Bathersby

We read "The Apostles weren't bishops in the sense we would understand them to-day" Did they not teach, sanctify and govern? Did they not by "the laying on of hands"appoint successors? (St Paul at least would be surprised! )Did they not Baptise? Did they not organise the faithful? Sure, they did not wear cassocks, zucchettos etc.But are these trivialities to be used to sow seeds of doubt?

Again the role of St. Peter is glibly noted in vague terms : "a significant role of authority and leadership", no "upon this Rock", no I will give to Thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven....". Far more than "significant"!

Again "the question of what a Bishop does is not as important as what a bishop represents....a sign of unity."
Given that the classic Catholic definition of the role of a Bishop is "to teach, to sanctify and to govern", this statement is wholly inadequate. A Bishop is NOT a totem, not just a sign , it is far more important that he be a true successor of the Apostles, in communion with the Vicar of Christ on Earth, teaching, sanctifying and governing, thus doing what the Catholic Church does and teaching what the Catholic Church teaches. He is far more than a "sign"of unity, he is that unity in Christ living, moving and acting - the reality not just a sign.

One quarter of the document is devoted to the College of Bishops. It is, like the Principle of Subsidiarity an authentic teaching of the Church. Strangely, in a long life closely engaged with the Church and its life, I have almost invariably found that the people who most commonly talk with relish about those two teachings are rogues seeking to avoid legitimate authority. But of course we could not suspect that in an anonymous document could we? Or...?

So I missed out on Week One of this effort. I shall be keenly interested in week 3 and in obtaining a copy of Week 1.

We are now 10 weeks away from Archbishop Bathersby's 75th Birthday and Retirement and the removal of Bishop Morris is only two weeks in the past. We are inclined to think that this strange document owes its being more to the latter event than the former.

The notorious Father Richard McBrien

But in looking to its "intellectual' dare we say "theological"origins, it is dripping with the thought of the American dissident Richard McBrien whose book "Catholicism"was the subject of a Monitum of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for its lack of Catholicity and also subject of the Censure of the American National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine regarding its treatment of the Virgin Birth, and of the perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin, of the matter of Ordination of Women, of Homosexuality and Contraception and its equating of the authority of the Church to teach and the teaching of dissident theologians.


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