Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Bishop Clark On Obedience

February 2nd, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

This is the second installment of Cleansing Fire’s review of Bishop Clark’s Forward in Hope. In this post, we will take a look at what Bishop Clark has to say about obedience and adherence to Church law. The bulk of the material on this can be found on pages 31-32 (for those playing along at home). If you wish to obtain a copy of Forward in Hope for your own study, or to send to a Cardinal friend in Rome, you can order it on Amazon. Copies may also be purchased at the Cathedral. Proceeds do go to St. Bernard’s, however.

On to the fun! Much commentary and emphasis added.

Bishop Clark: “We know that the law is clear. [We, the orthodox lay faithful of Rochester do] But we know, too, that in the pastoral decisions of bishops, there is a genuine and legitimate leeway. Pastoral judgments have always taken precedence over an absolutely perfect compliance with the ecclesiastical laws in place at a given time.[Yikes! That?s some kind of statement to make. “Always taken precedence”? I knew bishops had power, but I do not believe that they have the power to override the Supreme Pontiff in Rome!] Sometimes, as we know, higher laws ought to prevail [And who determines when this is the case?].

As we know, too, often enough there is no time to write down our reasons for these judgments [Not enough time? We?ve had illegal lay homilies for how many years now? Bishop Clark, you’re trying to tell us that you couldn?t sit down for a couple hours on some Tuesday afternoon in order to type something up? Do you CF readers want to know the real reason why he does not wish to write down his justifications for the DoR?s liturgical rule bending? The truth is that if the bishop puts into writing that the diocese allows lay homilies and lay pastoral administration, this will quickly be sent to the Vatican for their eyes to scan over.]. Full explanations are simply not possible [But they are]. I believe we need to respond to the people who need our assistance. It is sometimes difficult to make time-constrained pastoral decisions that meet the legitimate needs of people and at the same time honor fully the relevant norms of the Church [An outrageous proclamation of dissent!]. Legal requirements, guidelines, and norms obviously do not all have the same weight and do not always apply in exactly the same way [Bishop Clark, your diocesan ?Norms for Lay Preaching? do not supersede Canon Law, Redemptionis Sacramentum, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Ecclesiae de Mysterio, and a slew of other Church documents.]. Clearly someone could take this to an extreme [Like those ‘radical right-wing extremist bishops’, right? So much for respecting the Church and the promise of obedience they made at ordination]. But bishops simply are not doing that [i.e- Card. Mahony, Bishop Hubbard?].I am not doing that [Bold admission of dissent to Church laws]. Perfect compliance is hardly the highest value [So individuals should be able to decide which laws are important and which are not?… Which we have to follow and which we do not? It doesn’t work that way. ]. The sacraments are for the people. We celebrate them to help the Church be holy, not as an end in themselves [Oh really?].

[The Bishop then spends a paragraph retelling the story of how Jesus and his disciples broke the Sabbath laws in ancient Judaism when they picked grain on the Sabbath day. It’s not very important to include this paragraph and the next that follows in the book, but you can check on it for yourself at your leisure. A very “WWJD” moment.]

We can?t absolutize smaller things without diminishing our capacity to aspire to higher things [Church laws being the “smaller things”?]. This is true for everyone, everywhere.

[This next part will look familiar, as it was included in the book review posted yesterday morning] Co-responsibility and respectful dialogue are much more the rules of operation today. In some ways it?s much easier to simply ?follow the rules.? There won?t be many questions. But what do we risk in living that way? [The bishop is issuing a challenge for others to disobey. As stated yesterday, there is indeed a risk, and that risk is schism and excommunication. Just ask Spiritus Christi how taking risks and breaking the rules turned out for them.]

My hope is that as we realize more and more what it is to be Church as the People of God, we will move toward a helpful diversity [Progressive buzz word alert!], always respecting the creedal formulae and dogmas [Just like how your priests in the DoR demonstrate a lack of respect for the Creed by making it gender neutral, and demonstrate support for the ordination of women in bulletins, homilies, and petitions?], always striving for our deepest values, but recognizing that the living out of such values may find different expressions in different times and places [He appears to be arguing for every diocese to be able to do their own thing, thus diminishing the role of Rome in the governance of the Catholic Church. I?m sorry, Bishop Clark, but there are universal norms that need to be followed and respected. Each diocese just doesn?t do it?s own thi
ng. There would be chaos and anarchy. Is it just me, or does it almost sound like he’s promoting Protestantism as a worthy goal for the Church?]
We can be Church and still make decisions that differ ? if these help us in achieving the deeper good for which we all strive[How big are the decisions we?re talking about here? Rochester has laywomen pretending to be priests. That?s a pretty big difference, and represents a major theological issue. I?d imagine that many people who come here on vacation would hardly recognize the average DoR Mass as a Catholic Mass. That is not good.]

Well, there you have it. Bishop Clark spent a couple pages in Forward in Hope making a point that appears to be that obedience and adherence to Church laws are not important, or even necessary. I must respectfully, and strongly disagree with both sentiments. In fact, I disagree every single word Bishop Clark wrote on pages 31 and 32 of Forward in Hope. The Bishop has a serious obligation to uphold and defend the laws of the Roman Catholic Church.

Let us recall some wise words from Ecclesiae de Mysterio:

“This is especially true of Bishops whose task it is to promote and ensure observance of the universal discipline of the Church founded on certain doctrinal principles already clearly enunciated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and by the Pontifical Magisterium thereafter.”

The bishop must defend the universal laws of the Church, it’s there in black and white. Each bishop isn’t their own little monarch, making their own laws while ignoring the laws of the Church. Bishops are successors of the Apostles, working in communion with their leader, the Holy Father in Rome, who is the head of the Catholic Church. The Holy Father simply can not be ignored because Joe Bishop wants to install laywomen as pseudo-priestesses. It doesn’t work that way in the Catholic Church.

Here is a passage from Redemptionis Sacramentum about a bishop’s duty to uphold the laws of the Church:

“[177.] Since he must safeguard the unity of the universal Church, the Bishop is bound to promote the discipline common to the entire Church and therefore to insist upon the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. He is to be watchful lest abuses encroach upon ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the Saints?

The diocesan bishop is required by Church law to uphold the laws of the Church. Obedience may not be the “highest value” to Bishop Clark, but it should be. Let’s hope that it is for our next leader, whoever he may be.


This concludes part 2 of our review of Forward in Hope. The next topic to be discussed is: The creation of a parallel hierarchy (as a result of the growth and expansion of lay ecclesial ministry). This should appear on the blog some time tomorrow.

Here is the previous installment.

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9 Responses to “Bishop Clark On Obedience”

  1. avatar Scott/Mary says:

    My sixth grader studying his catechism today, #136 of the Baltimore Catechism, can answer, ?What is the Church??
    Ans. The Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.
    Bishop Clark by his own admission in his writing isn?t in communion with our Sovereign Pontiff. Why is it that all those who are drop dead loyal to this bishop, can?t see how it?s his own policies which he has implemented that have systematically been destroying our diocese since he ascended to the office? Please don?t get me wrong. I respect the office of bishop, just not the man holding the office in the DOR.
    Thank you Dr. K for reading the book and doing the penance that goes with it. Your Lent is early this year.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    These comments made by the bishop make the comments by Joan Sobala appear like a mere pile of fluff! This is unbelievable dissent that he is publishing here. Could someone please send a copy of Forward in Hope to the CDF and CDWDS with these passages highlighted? I'd love to know what they think of this. No bishop has the authority to disobey the Church. None. Not one bishop. I believe Bishop Clark may be referring to taking actions in emergency situations, but how long can one use that excuse, and to what extent? He can't, for example, ordain women or married men and say he was dealing with an emergency and that he didn't have time to explain his decisions! You're right doctor, this is dissent. Our bishop is a dissident. The Vatican needs to see this book.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Anyone who sets a bad example is a near occasion of sin. I would not want my children to be around this man. He is very affible but with what he sprouts, he is causing many to lose their faith.

  4. avatar Mike says:

    In a comment on my blog a few months back Rich Leonardi labeled Bishop Clark an ideologue.

    I wasn't sure I agreed with him at the time but, then again, I wasn't sure I disagreed.

    Now I am 100% certain Rich was right.

    This is a man on a mission and if, in the pursuit of that mission, he at times finds himself at odds with the Church, then the Church just needs to step aside.

    2012 cannot come soon enough.

  5. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    wow! I didn't have any interest in this book because I figured he wouldn't be so bold as to say such things. We all know he thinks it, but to put it in print – wow! So, who has the address for where (and to whom) we need to send this thing? I was thinking the less of these things in print the better. But now knowing how outright dissenting it is – I think the opposite is in order. The more we get in print the better – all the more evidence of the nonsense we're living under.

    And yes, this is protestantism, which I left because Pastor Rob would say something entirely different than Pastor Will and neither of them were consistent with their forerunners of the past 400 years.

  6. avatar Anonymous says:

    The preceps of the church are a means of getting us closer to Christ but whrn we ignore them or act contrarary to them, we separate ourselves from God.

    The bishops's notion of ignoring the preseps to obtain a deeper appreciation is simply hogwash.

    He is an ideologue. Those are the most dangerous of people.

  7. avatar Dr. K says:

    Ben, et. al. interested in sending this book as a gift to some leaders in Rome:

    I'll post the contact information for various Roman congregations, as well as the nuncio, towards the end of this book review series. There are still around 6 more installments to go (he says A LOT of interesting things). For those playing along at home, I hope you have your highlighters ready to go.

    ~Dr. K

  8. avatar Gen says:

    I've already gone through four of them. Thank God that Staples has bulk packs.


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