Saturday, October 26, 2013

We Are Church on Bishop Bling-Bling: "Tebartz-van Elst Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg"

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst

Speaking on behalf of the German branch of the group We Are Church, Christian Weisner comments on Bishop Bling-Bling, Limburg bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, he of the $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets:

Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a real clash of cultures between Germany’s current cardinals and bishops — nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI — and Pope Francis.

And that seems to me a salient reminder that bishops like Tebartz-van Elst didn't come from nowhere. They didn't fall from the skies.

They were put into their episcopal sees by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, for whom the overriding qualification--the only one that really counted--for becoming a bishop was that one had always said yes and yes and yes again to whatever the pope wanted. Pastoral skill or pastoral sensitivity or an exemplary life in conformity to the gospels was not what counted, as the two previous popes named bishops.

Absolute obedience was what counted. "Orthodoxy" construed in the most narrow way possible--as absolute obedience to papal statements about hot-button issues like contraception and same-sex marriage--was what counted.

And what we've gotten as a result is a church full of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elsts. Our previous popes sowed the wind through their episcopal appointments, and we're now all reaping the whirlwind. 

Whether the new pope, Francis, will reverse this trend remains to be seen, as far as I'm concerned.

Later: when I first posted this posting, I hadn't yet located the original source of the photo at the top of the posting. As hrh notes in the comments thread below, it has circulated at many blog sites. I've just discovered that it's by Sascha Ditscher and appears in this Guardian article by Phillip Otterman.

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