Attention bishops:

Forget nice

The following is a November 12 entry on the blogsite, The Catholic Thing, written by Robert Royal.


I am not a big fan of taking the long view. It may sometimes be wise, even necessary, in human terms. But I’m far more attracted by what is probably the most neglected of Jesus’ sayings: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk. 12:49)

The U. S. bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week for their annual get-together. The scuttlebutt is that they will be mostly discussing matters internal to the Church in America. If they were asking my advice – for some reason, they seem to have forgotten to call – I would strongly urge that they begin with a collective session of lectio divina about kindling fires.

I’d also suggest a few other things. To start with, forget about being nice. It doesn’t work. Be gentlemen. Be kind. But forget nice. As learned Latinists, you no doubt know that the word comes from nescius, which means ignorant. It came, early in modern languages, to mean foolish. Today, an idiomatic translation might be: clueless.

Kindness, of course, is a different matter entirely. Our Lord was kind – kind enough to tell people the truth. His combination of hard and soft is always what we need. Nietzsche, who was brought up among fussing women in a wishy-washy Protestant pastor’s home, emphasized the need to be hard. Like all heretics, he had a point, but rode it a bit too hard to the neglect of other truths.

Christianity, as Nietzsche noted, has been becoming overly feminized, as has the developed world. Mary is the model Christian and the people who have been pushing the Communio theology are right: our first orientation has to be passive, to receive what God is telling us as the Virgin received the Word into her womb.

Mother Teresa

Women are quite capable at times of some of the masculine virtues, of course. But forget the politically correct notion that there are no specifically male and female virtues. In the normal course of things, when the refrigerator needs to be moved, it’s father and son, not mother and daughter, who should do the heavy lifting.

And in the middle of the night, if there’s a noise downstairs that sounds like a burglar, you don’t nudge your wife and say, “Your turn. I went down to check last time.” Be men. Think big. Act big, too. Play big-league ball.

The LCWR, the media, and other softballers will continue to try to thwart you with talk of patriarchy and the old boys’ club. Be true gentlemen. Listen to all sincerely, but listen to God more.

Beware of the two great distortions, bordering on heresies, in our time:

- “Judge not.” Yes, that’s in the Bible, but Christ had no difficulty also stating the difference between right and wrong. In fact, you may have noticed that there’s more than a little holy anger in the Gospels and dire prophetic warnings to individuals and whole groups. Christ is the model. Are you going to follow Him or take the easy way, the one that only seems compassionate? (See “nice” above.)

- “But Jesus welcomed everyone.” Yes, he did, but on His terms, not theirs. If Christianity means just accepting everybody as they already are, indeed as they demand to be accepted – evil capitalists and mean orthodox Christians excepted, of course – why have a Church at all? The politicians are already quite prepared to tell everyone (with the same exceptions just noted) how wonderful, unless it’s “amazing,” they all are. Leave that sort of thing to the snake-oil salesmen.

Be clear about this. The person who invented the phrase, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” was no real Christian. Jesus does both, and Catholics are practitioners of the both/and, not the either/or.

Do you think Mother Teresa would have thought she’d done enough if she had just picked up beggars in Calcutta and not also talked about the callousness of heart and self-indulgence of the wealthy nations who were – safely, legally, and far from rarely – doing away with their own children in the womb?

Be prepared to suffer for the Faith. The world will always play the role it must when it hears the truth. Welcome fair criticism, but accept it in the right spirit. When John Paul II called for a “purification of memory” as we approached the beginning of the new Christian millennium, he was utterly frank about the Church’s past sins. But he never let humility and truth turn into a kind of “Kick Me” sign on the Church’s back.

Know that many Catholics, and non-Catholics, are with you. Seek them out. And the best way to do so is to lead from the front. The apostles knew it was a bad idea, in a sense, for Jesus to go into Jerusalem at the end. But they saw who He was, what He was willing to risk, and they were willing to risk much themselves so that at least they could die with Him.

I know several of you, and know that some of you know all this. But we need you to inspire even more of your fellow bishops.

You have lifetime tenure and jobs that make a real difference. Most people are stuck in humdrum tasks that don’t seem to mean very much. This is an exciting moment in Catholic history that offers opportunities for all the imagination, intelligence, and daring that you can bring to the many challenges at hand.

So make the most of it. Cherish it. Blessed are you.

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  1. Cody in Tucson says:

    Does Bishop Kicanas agree with this article’s theme “Forget Nice”? Let’s see what Bishop Kicanas has to say on his 11/12 Monday Memo blog in reporting from the bishop’s meeting in Baltimore – “Some have expressed concern that the bishops have become too partisan or too political. Clearly that is not the role of a bishop. Our ministry is to witness and preach the message of Jesus Christ. After the election it seems more important than ever to listen and to understand better those who hold positions contrary to church teaching”. (IN OTHER WORDS “BE NICE”! DIALOGUE!) “We need to engage those people and reflect on how we can build a society where human life is treated with dignity and respect. We know that people of good faith can disagree over what we teach. Engagement is a way of communicating what we believe, what we value and what we hold dear as Catholics”. (IN OTHER WORDS “BE NICE”! DIALOGUE!) “Cardinal-elect Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, spoke at the recent Synod of the need for the Church to be humble, to listen, and to engage the society and culture”. (IN OTHER WORDS “BE NICE”! DIALOGUE!) “I hope our reflections give us ways to implement the call of the New Evangelization for new ardor, new methods and new expressions”. (IN OTHER WORDS “BE NICE”! DIALOGUE!) Don’t do it the Jesus way as in this article but do it the Bernardin way! (IN OTHER WORDS “BE NICE”! DIALOGUE!)

    • Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

      “We know that people of good faith can disagree over what we teach..”

      We cannot dissagree on what the church teaches. Christ is always correct.

      • Tell that to the DRE that just removed me from my Catechist position because I am “too passionate about my faith and the Confirmation students are too impressionable”! Oh, I told them that anyone who voted for intrinsic evils (abortion, same-sex marriage and against religious liberty) is not a “faithful Catholic”. oops!

        • Good for you! I wish more catechists had such courage. God bless you, and I hope you have more occasions to influence children in the right direction.

        • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


          You have just joined Legions who have had the same treatment. Wear it as a badge of honor!

          I know of one couple, the parents of a Carmelite priest, who also were removed for the same reasons.

          God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
          Kenneth M. Fisher

      • Abeca Christian says:

        Christ is always right, HE is the truth! but our Bishops are human and when they stray away from Christ’s command to feed His sheep, then they can fall in error. God have mercy on us all.

  2. How much has the American Hierarchy really escaped from the shadow of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin? Paul A. Rahe wrote “American Catholicism: A Call to Arms” on February 14, 2012 in, about the really pernicious influence of Bernardin.

    “[Bernardin's] influence was dispositive for a long time in determining who would head the bishop’s conference, and it was under the Bernardin machine that the American church decided how it would handle the grave sexual abuse scandal that erupted in the diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana in the mid-1980s.

    “In the wake of that event, three individuals joined together – with encouragement from the Papal Nuncio and a number of bishops – to consider the problem of the sexual abuse of minors by clergymen as it applied to the American Church as a whole. …

    “The confidential report produced by this committee was a bombshell. It suggested that sexual abuse was quite common. It warned about the prospect of lawsuits and predicted that the American Church would eventually have to pay out more than a billion dollars; it firmly and fiercely denied that there was any possibility of curing those who sexually abused minors; it spoke movingly about the long-term damage done those who were sexually abused as children; it argued for an immediate suspension of clergymen who were accused; and it urged the bishops to weed out from the seminaries those likely to engage in such misconduct.

    “[The committee members] hoped to have their report discussed in detail by the bishops at their annual conference, but Bernardin’s boys at the NCCB saw to it that the report was tabled. Some months later, Father Peterson … sent a copy to every bishop in the United States. He received no response. When Father Doyle insisted on pressing the issue, he was dropped by the Papal Nuncio and treated as persona non grata by the American bishops. He ended up in exile as a chaplain on a military base in Greenland, and the problem was hushed up. It was thanks to the Bernardin machine that the bishops continued sending the perpetrators to psychological counseling and then dispatching them to new parishes or to other dioceses where there was no one who knew about their past. Bernardin and his boys did not invent the culture of clerical corruption. In full knowledge of what was going on nationwide, however, they perpetuated it.”

    • As shocking as the bombshell report was in its time, the $1 billion number turned out to be a gross underestimation. Money donated by dedicated, hard-working Catholics that could have done much good all went down the tubes simply because the bishops refused to believe what was right in front of them.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      At every Archdiocese of Lost Angels Religious Education Congress, the memory of Bernadine is a cause celebre. CRCOA, Inc. needs more help in opposing this annual dissent fest now under the alleged reformer Archbishop Gomez who has to date changed nothing!

      To find out how you can help, call or E-mail: 714-491-2284,

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  3. Canon 915, or formal excommuniction.
    1 Cor 5:11-13

    The public SCANDALS within the Church by heretics and schismatics is destroying the Church in the USA, right under the noses of the Bishops who are supposed to correct SCANDALS to teach and stop the loss of Souls.

    • Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

      You have no idea,

      Here is a glimpse of whats going on

      “November 12, 2012
      [Baltimore, MD] Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and LCWR president Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, have issued the following statement:
      The three bishop delegates of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Bishop Leonard P. Blair, and Bishop Thomas John Paprocki; the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Sister Florence Deacon, OSF; Sister Pat Farrell, OSF; and Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ; and LCWR executive director, Sister Janet Mock, CSJ, met Sunday, November 11, for preliminary discussions about the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the CDF.
      The discussion was open and cordial and those present agreed to meet again to continue the conversation.”


      • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

        Sartain and Paprocki are amongst the better ones, but Blair!

        Bernadine>Mahoney>Blaire, any questions?

        It would not surprise me in the least that Blair wrote this inane report as well.

        God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
        Kenneth M. Fisher

        • Bishop Blair of Toledo is not Bishop Blaire of Stockton. Bishop Blair is former auxiliary bishop of Detroit. Bishop Blaire is former auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles.

  4. To sum it up: This is the Church Militant, not the Church Milquetoast. Restoring the traditions of the Holy Church and preaching what the faithful must do to see Heaven and avoid the fires of hell and not use the homily as comedy time is paramount in this Year of Faith. We need our clergy to be brave men, and not be afraid of what the world thinks.

  5. Larry from RI says:

    Stand up for The Greater Glory!

  6. Father Karl says:

    Since Vatican II, there has been an acute shortage of priests and religious nuns. But there is a surplus of bishops. Perhaps there are too many of them, as they seem to be uncontrollable. At any rate, the majority of the bishops have no spines, and ccave in to the liberals, but harshly attack conservatives and traditionalists. They have been way too nice to the enemy, and too mean and nasty to faithful Catholics. Only by prayer and sacrifice can we win bishops for Christ.

    • Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

      They are not faithful themselves. I could see some yawning and dozing off as Cardinal Dolan spoke. Good thing most of them look over 80

  7. Stan Williams says:

    Fabulous. Right on target. this past election cycle, with all it’s moral opportunities for instruction, was essentially ignored by the bishops. Oh, they put out their publications and we heard a few sermons. But where, O God, was the confrontation of evil in the public square? No where. The bishops were again wearing a cloak of fear, avoiding confrontation. Ratzinger called such behavior MUTE DOGS.

  8. Mr Royal nailed it. So did Doctor James Dobson when he said “Sometimes love must be tough.” The only thing the bishop who “straddles the fence” on controversial issues will get is a very sore straddler. If they truly want to be Christ-like, they will be bold in asserting and defending the truth. For most of the American bishops, that would be a radical – and badly needed – departure from their typical posture. And that, my friends, is a shame.

    • Ted, the reason that the Catholic Church is such a media punching bag is that the bishops have asserted and defended the truth.

      • Sure. In a bare-knuckle brawl, they’re running a pillow fight. Some bishops do defend the faith and do boldly proclaim the truth, but as a body they act like a bunch of wimps.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      “I would rather you be hot or cold than luke warm, the lukewarm I (Jesus) volmit out of my mouth”!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  9. Nice pep talk to the bishops, but ironic since the author begins by saying that “nice” does not work.

  10. Since Jesus is the model that we are called to follow, then these bishops must see how corageous He was when he fully came into his mission on the cross. They must recognize how the mental anguish, fear and loathing of His having to take on our redemption caused Him to break out into a bloody sweat (His apostles hardly recognized Him!) in the agony in the garden, and then how He was scourged and beaten into a bloody mess, being crowned with thorns, spit upon, His beard pulled out, His hair matted with His blood, and how He embraced His cross when He was presented with it, and then that long and arduous trek up to Golgotha, when He had to have someone else help Him carry that cross, and then His mother watching Him being nailed to it, and then was there when He died. Gee whiz, all that example of not-so-nice and we are afraid that they will play nice to those who persecute us, and hate us because we are lovers of Jesus? I say to all of us, let us also lead, because we can’t do anything by ourselves. We also have that blueprint of how to answer adversity. We can take it like Jesus did, and we can embrace the cross we have all been given, but we can emprace that persecution, revel in it, grow in it, and give His example, which was pretty manly. We can take it like Jesus, bravely, with strength and vigor, leaning on eachother, because nothing will be easy, and should it be? Instead of looking at our bishops and expecting them to act like Jesus, how about if we ourselves act like Jesus, being forthright, honest, sincere, strong in the faith, and faithful followers. We can get through this together, so suck it up, people. It’s going to be hard, but we have a strength in Jesus that everyone without Him doesn’t have. Let them marvel at US, and let the bishops be strengthened by us praying for them, and loving them, and hoping in Christ that they will get the strength in Him, from Him, for us. Amen, anyone?

  11. St. Christopher says:

    Christ commanded the Apostles to go into the world and convert all, accroding to what Christ taught — niceness was not a consideration: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.//Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20; DRA). This is what the Son of God commanded the Apostles to do, and what He still command the bishops to do to this day. The USCCB has completely and utterly lost this direction in its feminized concern not to offend and to be accepting of everyone. This attitude of the bishops is not Catholic, and not even Christian. Scripture teaches that Christ was open to all, and sought out all, but did not ultimately give his life for all. Bishops must be the shepards that show the way, not that are a better kind of social worker.

  12. Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

    My two cents. Both the Apostolic Nuncio’s and Cardinal Dolans Addresses were totally on the money. You can go to USCCB.ORG website under videos and watch them.

    Then the political Bishops from California took center stage beginning with Cardinal Mahoney, and immigration supported by Archbishop Gomez, Followed by Bishop Lori and then Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.
    I said to myself, These Bishops do not get it, (California Bishops and their brother bishops).

    Your days in engaging in politics are over. Forget ballot measures and evangelize your church. Did you not hear what your two brother Bishops said?
    Both Archbishop’s Gomez and Archbishop Cordileone have too much cleaning up to do beginning with their seminaries, and Catholic school especially high education institutions to be engaging in grandiose conquests of ballot measures.

    They need to do the hard and difficult work of not being in the lime light and actually converting souls so that their successors can go to war on a grand scale.

  13. Abeca Christian says:

    Some of their actions weren’t nice but they were stupidity disguised at nice and they were and continue to be more harmful to our souls. May God have mercy on us all and even if our shepherds aren’t feeding the sheep, I pray that the lay faithful will know better.

    May they lead and obey Jesus when He asked Peter over and over…feed my sheep!

  14. I hope that everyone has read Cardinal Dolan’s presidential address to the General Assembly.

  15. Nice? Since when?

  16. Mk 16:15 –
    And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”.
    (He did not say get into politics.
    He did not say form a bureaucracy.
    He did not say – take money from governments for charity.)

    Let’s move forward without some of our Bishops who choose to forget that Saving Souls must be the prime objective, and that they are obligated to TEACH the Laity.

    We can follow Pope Benedict’s instruction – and indivdually study the CCC, and share it with others.
    We need Bishops to ordain new Priests; we do not need Bishops to get to Heaven – thanks to the great gift from the Magisterium, the best teaching tool after the Bible – the CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition.”

  17. The majority of bishops should forget socialism. But they won’t. I some how doubt they would forget it when those of us who reject the Obama administrations policies are thrown in concentration camps or killed by Obamacare. They don’t truely care for the unborn babies. So you honestly think they are going to care about you and me? They only care about their own hides so they will bow down to their king , the Bow Down to USA enemies king. They will let you die just like the Obama administration let our four fellow Americans die in Bengahzi. Find a parish with a solid Catholic priest who hasn’t been infected with socialism. Pray and fast. Hold on we are in for the ride of our lives!

  18. R.B. Rodda says:

    There are 194 (arch)dioceses in the USA. Each one is effectively the independent fiefdom of the local (arch)bishop with little coordination between each. While that structure might be historically accurate, I think it has been shown to be woefully inadequate for the demands of today’s world.

    Imagine for a moment if there was ~70M Mormons in the USA. The power and influence the LDS fellowship would yield would be stunning because they are exceedingly well organized.

    While I certainly don’t think the Catholic Church can or should copy the LDS model, I think huge (HUGE!) improvements could be made in the organizational structure of the Church — particularly in large countries like the USA.

    Maybe it is time to have a US primate?

    Maybe it is time to actually have a coordinating office (NOT the USCCB!) in larger countries like the USA?

    Maybe it is time to consolidate some (arch)dioceses?

    The Church (in the USA at least) from a managerial standpoint is bloated and effete. Until concrete changes are made, it really will be of no practical consequence.

    • Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

      The Structure of the Church is what it is becouse Jesus will it that that way. Its always been that way since the 1st century. The Church is not a political party; its a ship with souls bound to heaven
      Her sole porpose is salvation. Primates/ apes and such are not necessary.
      The United States will pass, but the Church will remain until Jesus comes back. Her Structure is especially brilliant for days such as these where men think its their jobs to organize society as they will it.

      The Church can never be bloated; they might have bloated diocesean offices; but this is not GE or some City Government working for social order.

      Your thinking is V II Norvus Ordo type that think the Church is not adequate as Jesus wills it.

      • I don’t think Jesus ever had the USCCB in mind. Now THAT is Novus Ordo thinking.

        • Well, actually it started in 1919, well before Vatican II. It was called National Catholic Welfare Council (later changed to Conference at the suggestion of the Vatican), then in 1966 was reorganized into National Council of Catholic Bishops and United States Catholic Conference. Those two entities were combined and named United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in July 2001. You will no doubt find it interesting that it was once ordered disbanded by Pope Benedict XV although the order was quickly rescinded.

      • Juergensen says:

        Jesus built His Church on Peter and the Apostles, not on the USCCB, its lavish offices in Washington DC, or its misleading-if-not-heretical “Faithful Citizenship”.

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