The following fell mysteriously in to my inbox tonight. Obviously inspired by Fr Bryan Houghton's novel Mitre & Crook, and some other essays, it provokes some interesting thoughts about possibilities if a bishop was to take the bull by the horns or rather the diocese by its whatevers.
An Imaginary Pastoral Letter
7th October 2014
7th October 2014
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
I write to you all, clergy, religious and laity at the same time as the contents of this letter concern each of you equally. I wanted my intentions for the first years of my episcopate to become known to you all at the same time so we can avoid some of the communication problems and distortions that may have occurred in the past.
I know my appointment was somewhat of a surprise. I realize that some of you will be sorely disappointed that somebody was not selected from within the diocese, let alone your state, to lead the diocese. The reasons for this, which I do not fully understand, must rest in the wisdom of our current Holy Father, and his advisors, who have consulted within our own country. All I ask from you is your support. What’s done is done and plainly there is no use quibbling about it.
I’ll be honest. Upon hearing of my appointment to this see my first reaction was one of fear. I immediately set out for the one remaining contemplative house of religious that we are blessed with and asked, indeed begged, for their prayers. They will continue to pray for us across the coming years. Please support them in whatever way you can in this great work that they undertake.
Following advice from the Holy See the following policies will be enacted in the diocese.
(1) All seminarians will return to the diocese immediately and reside with me at the Bishop’s House. Their academic needs will catered for by an excellent Philosophy and Theology degree by extension. Their spiritual formation will be under my direct supervision with the assistance of a senior priest who will also act as academic tutor.
(2) Clergy serving exclusively in the administration of the diocese will be returned to full time pastoral assignments in the diocese. Those serving on the various tribunals will be allocated one day per week for this purpose. I am seeking to appoint appropriately qualified lay people to fill the various administrative duties. There is wealth of experience amongst our recently retired men and women and we must now draw upon their talents in a real way.
(3) The provisions of Summorum Pontificum will be interpreted literally in this diocese. This will be a process taking some time but will commence today with a weekly celebration on Sundays in the Cathedral. Parishes should make similar arrangements. If there is any real difficulty I will arrange for the support needed.
(4) The revised General Instruction on the Roman Missal will be implemented in all parishes. Fr Torquemada has been asked to assist with this and will accompany me in the general visitations that will occur across the coming year.
(5) We live in a very secular environment and our public witness is nearly invisible in comparison to the adherents of other religions. It’s time to stand up and be counted for who we are. Clergy of the diocese will commence wearing the soutane when ’on duty’ in the diocese. Religious will wear the habits as determined by their constitutions approved by the Holy See. The Faithful are encouraged to wear modest crosses and crucifixes to indicate their faith.
(6) The Catholic Education Office of the diocese, the Liturgical Commission, and other ’official’ organizations functioning within the diocese will undertake an immediate review of their commitment to what the Holy See requires of them. For the time being the bishop will act as Chairman of each of these groups. As a matter of immediate effect all future appointments to the senior management teams of our schools will be referred to the bishop for approval before any offer is made.
Dear brothers in the clergy. I realize that much of this will be hard for you to adapt to. Many of you, as young priests, experienced changes that you never could have dreamed would happen and now, when you seem faced with a similar change, it must be very difficult to assimilate new ideas and ways. However these are necessary for the good of the Christian people and I ask you to do what you can. I realize that this burden may be too much for some of you and, if you honestly cannot take on this new task, it is best that you retire. I know we are desperately short in numbers but I’m confident that God will provide.
To all the faithful of the diocese I would assure you of my daily prayers at Holy Mass. Support and help your parish priests and those who assist him in his ministry. The Holy Father is giving a clear lead and we should follow, not only for the sake of our own salvation, but that the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for the whole world may be proclaimed.