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Bishop of Antioch (entered heaven around 64)
Stay away from people like that. When they start to enjoy criticizing bishops, they will soon go in for criticizing popes. When that happens, they almost inevitably get proud, and may even fall away from the true Church. OK, fine, so bishops aren’t perfect (and neither are popes). Even so, as faithful Catholics, we revere our bishops as God’s chosen instruments to administer his grace. They have received the ministry of the Apostles, and the Holy Spirit is at work in them. If an individual maverick bishop decides to go off and directly contradict the teaching or discipline of the Church, we should certainly not accept or obey him in those things, since by his rebellion he will have separated himself from the apostolic college (the pope and the bishops in communion with him) to which God has entrusted the care of the Church. Nevertheless, even in that case (especially in that case), we should pray earnestly for him and refrain from unnecessarily elaborating on and gloating over his deviations. Remember what our Lord said about taking out the plank in our own eye before we take out the speck in our brothers?
Today’s saint reminds us of the dignity of the episcopal office and the religious reverence that each of us owes to it. If you remember rightly, St Peter himself founded the Church in Antioch, that important eastern Mediterranean city. When he moved on towards Rome, he appointed Evodius to be a bishop. The great martyr St Ignatius then succeeded him. From the beginning, then, God willed for his Church to be pastored by normal men who would take the place of the Apostles, and extend that particular ministry throughout all the earth.
So, my dear nephew, when you kiss the ring of a bishop, you are showing reverence for much more than a fallible human being; you are making an act of faith in God’s Holy and Catholic Church, the only historical institution that has received the divine promise of indestructibility (Remember? “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18). And when you badmouth a bishop, even a recalcitrant one, you are belittling the principle of Church authority itself. And, by the way, the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies to bishops too.
God bless, Uncle Eddy
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