This Saturday I was privileged to assist at the Episcopal Consecration of Mgr Leo Cushley as our new Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. I will pass over with a mental 'tut' the presence of Protestant guests standing in the sanctuary or the fact that a young school girl read the Epistle when you had plenty of clerics present to do their job. I wish however to focus on the duties of a bishop in this short reflection.
The Apostle tells us that it is legitimate to desire the office of the episcopate (I Timothy 3) but he sets out the qualifications for one who follows in the path of an Apostle, namely that he should be prudent, vigilant, sober, of sound mind and live an impeccable life among men. The crisis of confidence in the uniqueness of Christ's Church and of a firm commitment to her saving mission must be known by all of us. Let us not be so naive to believe that all is well with the flock Christ has entrusted to the shepherds of His Bride. Our parishes have declining numbers, seminaries are empty (apart from the various traditionalist ones), nuns have fled from their habits and prayers and have turned into activists, ignorance pridefully reigns among the laity. How many souls have perished already or will perish if this sad state continues to exist? What will happen to our bishops, the primary teachers of the Faith in their jurisdictions? There is far more to the office of bishop than purple buttons! Although it is a holy desire to be consecrated as a successor to the Apostle, to receive the fullness of the priesthood, to be able to lead a diocese to salvation, the man elevated to such an angelic state must be fully aware of his duties and responsibilities. His own salvation depends on the salvation of the flock entrusted to his care.
He must enter the sanctuary daily with a pure heart to offer the unblemished Sacrifice to the glory of God and for the salvation of his flock. He must counsel prudently those who seek his advice and spiritual expertise. He must bear patiently with sinners, console the grieving, attend to the poor and sick, all without complaint. His preaching of the Faith must be clear and concise. He must alert the faithful to the errors and dangers of the day. He must show the face of Christ to those who have defaced their own divine likeness through sin. His first concern upon awaking should be to praise God and to beg Him for the grace to carry out his duties with due diligence.
St. John Chrysostom remarks that a man would be better to flee such a burden. After all, when much has been given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). I do not offer my advice to His Grace, I am simply setting out the duties of a bishop as they are.
The patron saint of our nation is St. Andrew and this name in Greek signifies 'manly. Oh how we need men in the episcopate! We need fearless leadership among the clergy, who will state clearly the truth and be unashamed of the Faith handed onto the saints. He must be a man first to be an effective father. He should abandon as a grave danger the meetings and summits with politicians and dignitaries. He should not seek the company of such people who utilise the Church to their own ends. Our politicians endlessly blaspheme the Lord while proclaiming religiosity and moderation. The bishops must be aware of this deception, calling out their errors, especially if they claim to be Catholic. I am not calling for our bishops to abandon the public sphere I am urging them to be cautious and aware of the devices of politicians. Too often our shepherds launch onto the latest social justice craze whether it be 'green' light bulbs or carbon emissions. He becomes a servant too frequently of those who support the greatest evil of our time, abortion. Usually he does not realise what kind of company he has entered.
I also speak out against the 'trendy cleric' who seeks to be friends with the world in order, as he claims, to make the world more disposed to accepting the Church. Such a false Church would not be worthy of accepting. It would offer nothing as it demands nothing. Truth and holiness should be attractive enough to people.
The Church universal and triumphant celebrated with joy the consecration of Leo Cushley but we must not neglect these sober truths outlined above. Let us pray without ceasing for our shepherds that they may first know Christ to lead us to Him.
I also ask for prayers for our former Archbishop, Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien. He has done immense harm to our Church but I do feel terribly sorry for him. Remember him and all others who have failed.
I managed to greet His Grace after Mass and he did not pull away his hand as I and others kissed his ring, a small but good sign.