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Posted July 22, 2010

Bishop as Father to His Priests

Archbishop Vlazny
Origins. July 22, 2010. Vol. 40. No. 10

“As fathers, we need to be agents of reconciliation” when there are disagreements among priests, Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland in Oregon said June 15 in an address at the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in St. Petersburg, FL.

. . . .He said that “one of my own saddest experiences as a bishop is dealing with some of the criticism and misunderstandings that occur among priests.” The archbishop pointed out the importance of the bishop creating an atmosphere of trust and affection in a diocese. He also said it is important for the bishop as father to stick up for priests when they are picked on, as he said has been done in recent reporting on the clerical sex abuse crisis. He pointed to three moments that are especially important for the bishop to act as father to priests: ordination, the first assignment as pastor and resignation from assigned duties. “We can’t simply put a man in a job and then ignore him. He will often need our guidance, support and encouragement.”

. . . .Just before Easter I concluded that our local newspaper was really piling it on with respect to the continuing fallout of the child sexual abuse scandal here in our church. After they had shredded my brother bishops on one day, then ridiculed the pope on the next and finally, with considerable arrogance in my judgment, derided priestly celibacy as pretentious at best and harmful at worst, I thought it was time to take them on. I paid the price, but I felt good about it because I really thought I had acted as a father should. When the “big guys” are manhandling your son, you don’t just stand around and watch.