Sunday, August 31, 2014

Marriage and the bishops

A friend of mine recently was ordained a bishop and I was honored to receive tickets to and to attend his ordination.  He seems like a good guy and I wish him and his new diocese well.  I hope he is open to the flow of the Spirit in his new office and does not confuse it with the flow of cash from financial backers for his episcopal trousseau nor with the flow of obsequious flattery from clerical groupies.

But, you must give the guy credit.  He's well-aware of my blog and even occasionally reads it - and he still sent me some tix to his hierarchical hootenanny.  (This may come as a shocker but I'm typically not on the "A", "B", "C", or possibly all the way down to the "Z" invitation list for hierarchical hootenannies.  I'm much more likely to top a bishop's shit-list or "people we will ignore and hope go away" list.)  Anyway, we have either found common ground for mutual respect or we find each other amusing diversions...or maybe his invitation and shit lists got mixed up.  I'd like to think it's the first scenario.

The bishop of my diocese delivered the ordination Mass homily and something he repeatedly said keeps ringing in my much so that it's painful.  He said that my friend's "new bride" was this new diocese and that my friend would cleave to this "bride" until death parted them.

New bride? NEW bride? NEW? What, pray tell, happened to the old one?

In January I had an enjoyable and meaningful discussion with said homily-delivering-bishop.  I told him I was really, really tired of the bishops yammering on about "defense of marriage" and blaming all sorts of factors for what they consider the disintegration of marriage when the bishops, themselves, provide such a piss-poor example of marriage. His words at this ordination, which occurred about seven months after that fine January discussion, offer just one example proving my point.

You see if my friend, in becoming a bishop now has a "new" wife in this new diocese, that means he abandoned his "old" wife, his previous diocese.  And I would bet my entire retirement savings that if the hotline from the Vatican rang asking him to be bishop over yet another diocese, he'd do it.  I think that's called seeking a "trophy wife."  Yep, yep...that's what it's called allright. 

Therefore, I found myself choking back laughter when this statement about lifelong commitment between bishop and diocese "bride" was made...that this commitment would remain until death parted the two.  Give me a freaking break.  The guy that delivered the homily, himself was ordained bishop in a different diocese than he serves now...we are at best his third wife.  If you consider all of his assignments, we are something like his 9th or 10th wife. Furthermore, if this same bishop were asked to take on a larger diocese or archdiocese or don a cardinal's red hat, he would drop his 10th wife for his 11th faster than you can say "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."

To put this in perspective, Liz Taylor only married 8 times.  So, please, let us start using the hierarchy as the gold standard for "lack of marital commitment" rather than her.

I don't know which is more absurd - the notion of a bishop's lifelong commitment to his diocese "bride" or the idea of the bishop's diocese being his bride at all.  I just keep hearing in my head the group "Honey Cone" singing, "Wanted...young man - single and free.  Experience in love preferred but we'll accept a young trainee."  If you guys are married to us, the church of your dioceses, then it would really help if you loved us personally...and if not, then we sure would like the opportunity to train you.

Ah, but new bishops are indeed trained - by the Vatican - at new bishop school.  I'm trying to imagine what that curriculum looks like but somehow, I'm doubting that it involves the bishops' "brides" administering any of the training.  This is so like marriage, you know.... Two young folks tie the knot and then rather than using a honeymoon to deepen their intimate understanding of each other, the husband flies away to a husband training camp which bars wives from attending.

But, hey, let's face it.  We didn't get a chance to select our bishop husbands.  They were forced upon us in arranged marriages made by a bunch of husbands who also don't spend much time with their wives.  Again...stellar example for marriage.   

Let us recall the wisdom expressed in the movie The Princess Bride, "Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva... So tweasure your wuv." 

Guys, we're just not feeling the "wuv, tru wuv" or feeling "tweasured" when you dump us for what you perceive as a better opportunity.  Therefore, can we please stop with this "mawage" charade and just use plain language?  The clergy and bishops move from assignment to assignment just like people in any other career.  It's about your career, not any marriage to us.  You didn't know us before you became our bishops and most of you continue ignorant of most of the people comprising your "wife."  That's because you are corporate executives who develop and maintain relationships with your clients and employees similarly to how other corporate executives do.  You have as much commitment to them.  You have similar or less vested physical and emotional stake in them as do corporate execs. 

There is another source of guidance for bishop qualifications, that we might consider using.  1 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us, "...whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.  Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God?"

Ah, it would seem, according to Scripture that bishops, above all should be married with know...real ones - not metaphorical ones.  The kind that require you to change a dirty diaper here and there, mop vomit, and genuinely, physically and emotionally care for specific people.  Because if you can't demonstrate your ability to care for specific people in your personal household, how will you do so for the church of God?  Just curious.  And, no, babysitting for younger siblings when you were on break from the rarefied seminary world does not count. 


  1. Well-done, fellow Montanan. I don't think our bishop's imagery is original thought for him but more like quoting PF as that seems to be the thing these guys are doing these days. It is a Francis imagery he used in his expression to how he related to his diocese of Buones Aires...mi esposa. He did stick with her for quite some time but then moved on as they say but give him credit, he selected her next hubby with care personally with no one "vetting" the candidate for him. His current "mi esposa" may not even be til death do they part as he does talk of retirement. It is strange talk for them and maybe it is just wistful...or wishful...thinking. I don't quite get the church as "bride of Christ" either.

  2. Thanks for the comment but I'm actually not from Montana.

  3. I received a comment from Victoria DePalma that I have not published because a) it violated the rules for respect and b) in doing a quick Google search her diatribe damning me to hell was posted verbatim to multiple blog sites. If you're going to be a "hater", then at least damn me to hell with some original non-spam text.

  4. Hi sister- love this . Timothy says it all doesn't he??! Thanks for the blog and for the opportunity to continue to be amazed by hierarchal absurdities