How Things Have Changed: St. Paul Versus Today’s Bishops

By Dustin Siggins Published on November 21, 2018

In Galatians, St. Paul publicly rebuked St. Peter. Peter left eating with Gentiles out of fear of Jews. Paul’s desired to remind the man Catholics know as the first pope that:

  1. Peter was misleading Gentiles, Jews, and Barnabas about Mosaic law;
  2. Peter was leading Jews to believe that they are separate from Gentiles (contrary to Peter’s belief, held since Acts, that “God shows no partiality”);
  3. and, lastly, Peter’s actions came from cowardice.

Paul was exactly right. He corrected Peter — the highest of human superiors! — charitably and speedily. Even the public nature of the admonition was necessary. If Paul had waited, many souls could have been at risk for mis-education.

Contrasting Paul With Today’s Bishops

 Today’s bishops could use some of Paul’s courage and steadfastness.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) met last week to discuss the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis. They were expected vote on a code of conduct for bishops (‘cause “don’t abuse kids and don’t cover up abuse” isn’t clear from Church teachings?) and to create a lay person-led investigative panel for when bishops are accused of sex abuse, cover-ups, etc.

The Vatican told the bishops to wait until February. So the bishops cancelled their planned vote. Later, a non-binding resolution urging the Vatican to release records about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick failed. Opponents of the measure said that it was redundant because the Vatican is investigating McCarrick.

The bishops’ failed efforts follow media reports which show that as many as one-third of living U.S. bishops have been accused of covering up and/or committing abuse. McCarrick is chief among them. His pursuits of seminarians were well-known by many clergy and seminarians.

Some Pauls Exist

There are a few Pauls who have been effective among today’s bishops. One is Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. He publicly rebuked Pope Francis for denying knowledge of widespread Chilean abuse. This led to an apology from the pope.

Yet even O’Malley’s office mishandled a letter alleging clergy abuse. That letter was sent in 2015. To his credit, O’Malley acknowledged that his apology and defense didn’t mean much. Via Catholic News Agency: “O’Malley said that he recognized that his apology and lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter was probably still insufficient ‘given the way the Church has eroded the trust of our people.’”

Cardinal Raymond Burke and others have corrected Pope Francis on many matters. And USCCB President Daniel DiNardo didn’t take the Vatican’s delay order completely lying down:

“We are not ourselves happy about this,” DiNardo told reporters in an unusual public display of frustration at a Vatican pronouncement. “We are working very hard to move to action — and we’ll do it,” he said. “I think people in the church have a right to be skeptical. I think they also have a right to be hopeful.”

Finally, to give credit where it is due: Chicago Cardinal Blasé Cupich, a chief enabler of Pope Francis who supported canceling last week’s vote, had a Paul-like moment in October. In an interview with the liberal weekly National Catholic Reporter, Cupich said bishops must

as a group, say, “We cede our rights as bishops to have somebody else come in and investigate us,” the cardinal told NCR. “Every bishop has to be willing to say, ‘I will allow myself to be investigated by an independent group if there is an accusation against me.’ “

Some fake accusations are sure to come forward. However, Cupich’s admission that bishops have broken virtually all trust with lay Catholics and the general public is surprising and refreshing.

Souls At Risk

Paul corrected Peter out of concern that the small gatherings with which they ate would be misled about Christ. Today’s pontiff follows the path of his recent predecessors in risking millions of souls. Victims and their loved ones may be most at risk of leaving Christ’s Church. But so are those scandalized by the whole sordid mess. Even the abusers and those who covered it up could have been fraternally corrected and held legally accountable.

That’s not all. Evangelization has become far more difficult. So has effective advocacy of Church sexual teachings.

Peter listened to Paul. Pope Francis has mostly ignored his Pauls. He has declined to respond to critics. He has punished Cardinal Burke and others. He recently declared that those who criticize the Church’s bishops over the abuse scandal are influenced by Satan.

Like many clergy, Pope Francis has broken the trust of Catholics. That trust won’t start healing until he acts more like his founding predecessor.

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  • JP

    So long as there is a papacy in the RCC reform will never happen.

    • samton909


    • James Blazsik

      Jesus founded the Chair of St Peter in Matthew 16. The Church of Christ is built on it.

      • JP

        Peter never claimed to be the supreme leader of the church nor did the apostles acknowledge him as such. No “Chair of St Peter” mentioned in Scripture.

        • James Blazsik

          Again, read Matthew 16. Jesus commanding Peter in John 21 to feed His lambs. Peter is the prominent Apostle in the Gospels. There is evidence late 1st century early 2nd century of Peter’s successor exhibiting papal authority from Rome.
          It happened. How do you know Peter never claimed to be the leader of the Church?
          The Chair of St Peter replaces the Seat of Moses. It is about teaching authority.

          • Ray

            Read Peter’s writings if you don’t believe him. Christ is the head of the Church. The early Church leadership was not about who is in charge. Though they did see the need to ordain elders, bishops and such, They were not about which man is in charge. They had no need to try to bolster up any religious bologna.

          • James Blazsik

            You don’t know what you are talking about. Jesus left an organized Church with distinct lines of authority. Paul said that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1Tim 3:15. In other words, how did the development of theology come about when questions arose or combating heresy? Acts 15 model of the 1st Church Council served as the pattern for Nicea and Ephesus etc.
            Study Church history. The papacy happened as a result of Matt. 16.

          • stan schmunk

            One simple question for you, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

          • James Blazsik

            Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.

          • JP

            “Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages (Matthew 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter’s successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these three texts, yet not one of them who commentaries we possess–Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas–has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! Roman Catholic historian von Dollinger on papal succession.

          • James Blazsik

            You are quoting a theologian who was excommunicated. I am confident you haven’t read the men you list here. I bet you have not even heard of some them until you got this quote off of some website. You are wholly deficient in Church history.
            You didn’t mention Clement who succeeded Peter in Rome exercising his authority in resolving a church dispute in Corinth in the 1st Century. You did not list Irenaeus or Jerome who supported Apostolic succession.
            Augustine did support Apostolic succession as a proof against heresy.
            I’ll go one stop further: the men you mention here did support apostolic succession.
            The papacy happened as a result of Matthew 16 and John 21. It happened – study why.

          • JP

            Irrelevant. The facts that he quoted are true.
            Consider this: …”Was there a Bishop of Rome in the First Century?”…the available evidence indicates that the church in Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than by a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 80,221-222). –Catholic scholar.

          • James Blazsik

            It’s relevant – the point is you don’t know if the information you gave is true.
            Clement was the bishop of Rome in the 1st Century and exercised his authority over Corinth. He was a successor of Peter. Read 1 Clement.
            Read the quote YOU gave – it only covers a couple decades in the second century.
            Again – it happened. It wasn’t an accident. Rome was recognized as the leader from the 1st century because of Peter.

          • JP

            Just because Rome excommunicates someone for telling the truth doesn’t make what they said a lie. He spoke the truth because all you need to do is read the church fathers to see.
            There was no successor to Peter at Rome. There could not have been because: ..”Was there a Bishop of Rome in the First Century?”…the available evidence indicates that the church in Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than by a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 80,221-222). –Catholic scholar.

            BTW- Clement never claims to be the supreme leader in his letters.

          • James Blazsik

            You don’t know the quotes you gave are true. Instead of reading source material, you give opinions of people you use who you want to prove your point. you simply don’t know if they are true. Read the actual Church Fathers – if you even know who they are.
            Again, the quote you gave is meaningless. It only covers several decades.
            I gave you source material. Read 1 Clement, who succeeded Peter as the bishop of Rome exercising his leadership role; You don’t know Church history.
            You simply are googling to find quotes to support your position. You didn’t come up with your position by objectively studying the source materials.
            The Catholic Church can trace successors of Peter from the beginning..
            Read Eusebius – he was the earliest church historian from the 4th century. He actually list the line of bishops in succession.
            The Papacy happened. Objectively find out why.

          • JP

            Here are the credentials for F A Sullivan “Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., is professor emeritus of the faculty of theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, ”
            If anyone knows church history it would be him.

            Where does Clement claim to be the supreme leader of the church in his letter?

  • Aqua

    I have long been interested in peoples’ response to moments of crisis. In matters of life and death; in moments of moral choosing: why do some choose well and others not?

    In Parkland FL, the police chose to hide rather than save childrens’ lives; children they knew and saw every day. They let them die.

    In the Borderline Bar massacre, Thousand Oaks CA, surviving women told of men who could have escaped but used their bodies to shield the women from bullets.

    Moments in time. No time to think. Character revealed. This is who you are.

    In this crisis, correction needed, all Bishops and Cardinals are hiding behind walls. Character revealed.

    These Bishops, to be like St. Paul, would have needed to live an entirely different life to this point. Moment by moment, year after year, Holy disciplined ascetic choices for Christ. Only such a man that lived as consumed with love for Christ as St. Paul throughout a lifetime of disciplined ascetic choices can act as St. Paul did to St. Peter himself at the fork. Character cannot be faked. It is built over a lifetime.

    This crisis in our Church is a purifying fire. Our character is being revealed. Through trial (purgatorial fire) we are either being burned up or built up. Not many men (if any) are rising to this challenge. God’s holy, purifying fire burns on.

  • The predatory nature of homosexual men and the blurry lines between pedophiliac homosexuality and adult homosexuality remain untouched as if by ignoring them, reality will something other than that.

  • stan schmunk

    The primary difference between Paul and today’s bishops is that he knew Christ and they don’t. The seeds of Catholicism were already in existence in Paul’s day and he rightly called it a doctrine of demons and it still is. 1 Timothy 4:1-4

    • James Blazsik

      You don’t know what you are talking about. Paul planted the seeds of the Catholic faith. 1 Tim. 3:15. Paul provides the window to Catholic theology, Catholic theology provides the widow in fully understanding Paul.

  • Ray

    Seems that men want to be in charge. Any man who would want to be in charge of this kind of mess, is not thinking right. The pope should have got rid of everyone in leadership who was involved in any sexual immorality, and let churches run without any leadership if there are not any men left, with the instructions to spend an hour in prayer, let each one pray aloud, pass a microphone if you need to. Try not to all pray the same thing. Let somebody stand up, read a scripture and say whatever it is they find that is good about God. Let them say what it is and give thanks. Let them praise him with the words of their mouth. Let somebody be in charge of when to do what, anybody. Isn’t it time to be a Church again?

    • James Blazsik

      So, aren’t you trying to be in charge telling people what to do?

  • Poterion

    Don’t blame the bishops too much; it was JPII, Benedict and Francis who appointed them and it is The ever collegial Francis who bound and gagged them. Sickening!

  • I suspect that vows of obedience stifle rebuke. If you vow to be obedient to the pope, you will think twice about going against his orders. Peter and Paul didn’t have that problem. Because lay people are not under vows, we can more freely speak up when necessary; more than a clergyman would be comfortable with.

Is Your Heart Heavy? God Knew It Would Be
Charles Spurgeon
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