The Road to Hell is Traveled by Bishops in a Prius

(March 15, 2017 – Steven O’Reilly)  Our U.S. Bishops have been in the news lately. Lifesite News recently posted an article regarding the U.S. Bishops writing to the new U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on the subject of Global Warming. The article reported that the bishops wrote a letter to the Secretary of State, letting him know how important this issue is to them. Now as someone who has written letters to U.S. Bishops on theological questions, I certainly hope their letter on the environment ends up like mine – summarily deposited in a trash can by someone utterly disinterested in what the writer had to say.

I have nothing against Creation. The Lord made it. Creation is, therefore, good. However, God made the world for man, and not man for the world. The Church’s focus is, or ought to be, on saving men, not whales. Reading the article led me to some reflection on the Church at large. I have noticed in life that people who are not very good or interested in doing what is hard, tend to wander off to do what comes easy. It is easier to take the path of least resistance-like a ball rolling down hill. However, when you take that path long enough, do not be surprised when you find yourself, inevitably, at the very bottom of something-usually dark and dank. This reflection suggested to me why too many bishops in our country and elsewhere in the world- including the upper reaches of the hierarchy- are increasingly more like United Nations functionaries for whom the Golden Rule is Global Warming (Climate Change?) or immigration from terrorist countries long at war with Catholic civilization. The political and media elites, Hollywood, etc., will mock you for advocating the Natural Law and Catholic teaching with regard to sexual morality. That is hard. However, they will love you if you are for “saving the whales” and are against Global Warming. That is easy. Do not ask Mr. Joe Catholic to entirely fund the family that got into the country without a background screening you opposed, especially when they will be living next door to him. That is hard.  Rely on the Federal government for funds. That is easy.

That is something of our problem in a nutshell. We Catholics do not have, nor have we had, a crop of good bishops for a long, long time. A Church that was strong and sure of itself and its teachings a half century ago is lying in tatters. Nowadays, Catholics who want to be Catholic are “fundamentalists.” Frankly, I never thought the term “fundamentalist” is a category of thought that could rightly be applied to a faithful Catholic, since one must believe everything proposed and taught by the Church. So, if everything is “fundamental” to the Catholic faith in this sense – the term cannot be meaningful in a Catholic context. Yet, our own Pope uses that term- I suppose of types like me. Ok…so if I am “fundamental” – what then is he?

Yes, culture has changed. Yes, there are more temptations through the media, etc.  All this has impacted civilization. However, the bishops by and large have been negligent in their pastoral and doctrinal care of the sheep over the last several or more decades. For too long liberal theologians were (and still are) allowed to remain in the universities where they undermined the faith of the young in their charge. Numbers of priests dropped. Numbers of male and women religious are down. Bishops failed to discipline theologians who question Catholic teaching and politicians who acted in opposition to it. Now, some bishops even give communion to public adulterers without a firm purpose of amendment. Polls show too many Catholics do not accept Catholic teaching, not only on matters of morality, but on basic sacramental theology. This list can go on. Most practicing Catholics know the list and can add to it.

Yet, for all their talk about, and emphasis, on “discernment” and “accompaniment”- the popes and bishops have done a lousy job in discerning what is wrong in the Church these past 50 plus years. I didn’t know climate change was so important! I bet 95% of Catholics know what that is, even if they cannot tell you what transubstantiation is- or that they believe it if you explained it to them. Such is the discernment power of our present day episcopate. However, I really-really feel better knowing they have “accompanied” us over the last 50 years. The “where to” to them does not seem to matter-like the growing confusion and division in our Church- but, hey, they are willing to “accompany” us. The type of accompaniment they embody, as the Church has declined these past 50 years or more, is kind of like that annoying relative in the backseat who had been giving you wrong directions and dispensing liberal politics for the last 50 miles.

All the above is super hard to fix. Therefore, fellow lay Catholics, expect more “easy” to-do stuff from our bishops. Christians are being beheaded overseas in parts of the world which still hold out hope of one day conquering Rome and turning St. Peter’s into a mosque. Hey, but we should have more immigration from these countries- and ‘do not worry’ say our bishops.  I have wondered about the theology training received by many bishops; but listening to our pope and bishops, I must add that I now wonder about their knowledge and sense of history as well. Good bishops should be less concerned with Global Warming, and more concerned with Eternal Warming. It has been said that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” If this is so, it must also be that a bishop’s vehicle of choice along that road must be environmentally friendly- most certainly not an SUV.  No. The road to hell is traveled by bishops in a Prius.

Unfortunately, we lay folks must expect the current batch of bishops of all ranks will generally continue to focus on the easy stuff-afterall, there is more hill to roll down until the Church reaches the bottom (but not much more). Yes, many bishops will focus on the easy stuff. The ‘stuff’ the world loves-i.e., the World itself. One’s natural inclination is to want to be loved. Yet, the adulation of the world is deceptive and dangerous. ‘It profit a man nothing to gain the entire world and lose his immortal soul- but for whales?'[1]


[1] Yes, a very bad pun based on the Man for All Seasons.  I couldn’t resist.


9 thoughts on “The Road to Hell is Traveled by Bishops in a Prius

  1. Dear Steven,
    Your desinterest in the opinion of the bishops about global warning is understandable, but I find it very unfair to blame “the popes of the last 50 years” for the decline of the Church in this period. We had great popes who wrote beautiful encyclicals about the faith. We received a magistral teaching about the theology of the body from John Paul II, who also wrote very deep and important letters about many aspects of Christian life and teachings. Maybe you support a kind of dictatorial imposing of these teachings but I do not think that this works (neither did the great popes of the past 50 years). Pope Francis and many of the current bishops and cardinals are representing the bad, modernistic movement within the Church (not to forget the freemasonry) and this is a culmination of a development that was present in the Church during the entire 20th century, but that has now come to ‘fruitation’. It is all a sign ‘of the end’ but the popes of the past 50 years did all they could to stop this modernism. However, scriptures must be fulfilled and the Church will revive after this final test, this Passover in which She follows her Lord Jesus.

    fr. Peter Klos, Amsterdam.


    1. Sorry, Father but your argument simply doesn’t hold water. I have great respect, and even affection, for both St. John Paul and for Pope Benedict. Both Popes did seem to see the decay within the Church but their actions were confused. Many of the worst (read most liberal) Bishops and Cardinals in office today were appointed by either JP II or Benedict. The sex abuse scandal was handled horribly by both Popes in as much as guilty Bishops and Cardinals were never sanctioned in any significant way. Both prior Popes lamented the rot spreading in the Church but they failed, utterly, to stand firm against it.


  2. Father Klos, thank you very much for reading the post and for your comment. I do not disagree with you. With regard to the popes of the last 50 years, I think they have been a mixed blessing. You are correct, Pope John Paul II did give us excellent magisterial teachings. The “mixed” part for him and for Benedict XVI is that they have also given us some very awful bishops and cardinals. For example, Kasper- if my recollection of the facts is correct- tried the communion-for-adulterers thing when he was an archbishop, but was told to stop by the Rome of John Paul II. Good job, John Paul II. But…..even after that, Kasper was created a cardinal. I love JP II, but I am sorry – that is simple, gross negligence. We know today how the Kasper thing turned out. Popes cannot go on naming bishops and cardinals without respect to their theology, because from this pool of men we eventually get a pope- like Francis. For the US, JP II also gave us Cardinals Mahoney, Bernardin, etc. I think I would trade one good apostolic letter from JP II for 10 superb cardinal picks. Thanks again.


  3. Excellent insights. Catholics who use the term fundamentalists to denigrate other Catholics who actually believe we have the words and deeds of Jesus (see Dei Verbum 19) do not even know where the term came from. It came out of the Niagra Conferences of bible believing Protestants as a statement of basic principles. Ironically, 4 of the 5 fundamentals are principles that are actually Catholic. Catholic biblical scholars whose understanding of reality was shaped by secular principles rather than the faith of the Church, greatly undermined confindence in the historicity of the gospels and, as a result, the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Scholars like Raymond Brown castigated other Catholic scholars who see the flaws in their scholarship as fundamentalists.


  4. Dear Jim and Steven,

    It is not up to me to defend the appointments of John Paul II or Benedict XVI. I am sure they were aware of the modernistic views many of them held. But when we look at Jesus, he did the same. He chose His apostles among very weak men. All of them – except for John – left Him at Calvary. Peter – His first successor – denied that he knew Him. Judas betrayed Him. Jesus was aware of all that in advance, and still he made them His apostles. He gave them His confidence, relying that the Holy Spirit would prevail over disbelief and errors. Maybe – it is just a suggestion – pope John Paul and Benedict acted in the same way: giving confidence to people who were not perfect, believing that also now the Holy Sprirt will prevail. Jesus died, partly because His followers abandoned Him. The Church is dying, partly because her ministers are betraying her. But the Holy Spirit will intervene. We will see a new Pentecost and everyone will know the Truth. Let us pray for that glorious Day!

    fr. Peter Klos.


  5. Here, here! Right on, friend. The bishops are the successors of the Apostles, but this generation is made up of too many odious chumps who are as irrelevant as burlap banners and banjos at Mass. But, some are just as odious theologically and morally even though they’ve ditched their freeze-dried aesthetic trappings.

    Here’s to eating fish on this St. Patrick’s Day, despite the soggy dispensations of wimpy prelates!


  6. Father, thank you for your thoughtful input. I definitely share your view that the Holy Spirit WILL intervene. We are tested in this world. We must keep the faith even when developments are discouraging – knowing there will be a new Pentecost. I pray for that glorious day, as well. Regards.


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