In our discussion below about St Mary’s, Perigrinus said:
You can’t force people to be in communion with you. You can certainly force them out of communion with you, though, or accelerate that rupture, but that is pretty much the last thing any bishop ought to do, ever, to anyone. Hence, if he is to err, a bishop ought to err on the side of maintaining connections, building bridges and seeking to repair relationships, not terminate them.
Sure, he could reassign the administrator, appoint a new administrator or paster and thereby reassert control over the church building. But the church building is just bricks and mortar, and is of no real consequence. If the price of doing that is irrevocably driving the community out, then that action does not build up the church; it breaks it down.
There are obviously difficult decisions facing the archbishop here, and no choice open to him is free of downside, or will insulate him from criticism. But I think his instinct here is sound; he wants this community in the church, not out of it, and he’s inviting – or perhaps challenging – them to want the same thing, and to act like they want it.
And Joshua made the comment:
As David would no doubt say, the real issue here is that the people of St Mary’s have not only been cut off from true catechesis, they have been subject to false catechesis for decades – this is spiritual abuse of the faithful, surely a terrible crime.
Before I comment further, I want to make it clear that I am not criticising or trying to advise Dr Bathersby on what he should have done or should do, I am simply wanting to discuss this as a “test case” situation, in the abstract, as it were.
I regard to Perry’s and Josh’s comments, I must say I am with Joshua on this one. Sometimes acting “compassionately” can be an excuse for inaction or indecision, and the lack of action and decision can end up causing more hurt in the end. Classic sayings come to mind (which can be added to the one I originally cited of “a stitch in time saves nine”) such as “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind” or “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Of course, declaring an entire parish to be out of communion with the Catholic Church (= excommunicated) is a drastic action (and hopefully will not be required). And the removal of a much loved pastor and the insertion of a new pastor can be vehemently resented. However, if the over all health of the parish and its members is what is in view, sometimes these things need to be done.
As Joshua says, it is truly a form of abuse to turn a blind eye when a man who is supposed to be a spiritual father leads the children of the Church astray. The Church (and its bishops in particular) are currently copping a lot of (genuinely deserved) flack for turning a blind eye toward priests who were sexually abusing those in their charge. Although the world will not see it as the same thing, turning a blind eye toward the activities of heterodox pastors in our Catholic parishes is just as culpable.
It is not an act of compassion when the surgeon hesitates to amputate while gangrene spreads in a limb for fear of the pain that would be caused by such an operation. For the sake of the children of the Church, the kindest cut is the quickest and most decisive one.