Bullying Bishops: Reformers of the Reform

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior using force or coercion to afflict others.

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It can use subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation or not so subtle methods involving condemnation and punishment. It is always destructive and demeaning. Bullying has no place within the community of faith.

Bullying can range from simple one-to-one bullying to more complex institutionalized bullying in which the bully may have one or many “lieutenants” who assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities.

Reviewing events of the past couple weeks, it is clear that contemporary Roman Catholic leadership in Rome, along with the Vatican’s lieutenants in the USCCB, have launched an aggressive program of Catholic bullying.

(1)Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said during a Sunday homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois that President Obama is following previous governments that “tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches.”

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care,” the (Peoria) Journal Star and Chicago Tribune quoted Bishop Jenky as saying during the homily. “In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda – now seems intent on following a similar path.”

(2) SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and others). It is an independent and confidential organization, with no connections with the church or church officials. SNAP is now being bullied and attacked by Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn and his lawyers. SNAP is fighting hard to protect the confidentiality of victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors. Bishop Finn, by the way, is making other headlines these days as well.

The first criminal case against a sitting U.S. Catholic bishop in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis will go forward after a Missouri judge’s decision that Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, must stand trial on charges of failing to report suspected child abuse. The charge against Finn centers on the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest who was arrested last May on charges of possession of child pornography. While the bishop said he was aware of questionable images on the priest’s laptop as early as December 2010, Ratigan was not reported to police by the diocese until May 2011.

In separate indictments in October, prosecutors charged both Finn and the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese as a whole with criminal misdemeanors in the case.

(3) The most outrageous case of current Roman Catholic hierarchical bullying of course is CDF Cardinal William Levada’s doctrinal “assessment” of LCWR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The leadership and members of LCWR, the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious, are “stunned” by the announcement that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered a reform its statutes and has appointed an American archbishop to oversee its revision.

“The presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” LCWR said in a news release. “Because the leadership of LCWR has the custom of meeting annually with the staff of CDF in Rome and because the conference follows canonically-approved statutes, we were taken by surprise.”

The Vatican announced it had appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain to oversee LCWR, which has been the subject of a doctrinal assessment by the Vatican congregation since 2009.

According to the document from the congregation, Archbishop Sartain is given authority over the group in five areas, including:

(1) Revising LCWR statutes;
(2) Reviewing LCWR plans and programs;
(3) Creating new programs for the organization;
(4) Reviewing and offering guidance on the application of liturgical texts; and
(5) Reviewing LCWR’s affiliations with other organizations, specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.

The document from Cardinal Levada’s CDF re-emphasizes the reason for the doctrinal assessment, writing that Levada told LCWR leadership in 2008 that the congregation had three major areas of concern with the group:
(1) The content of speakers’ addresses at the annual LCWR assemblies;
(2) “Corporate dissent” in regarding the church’s sexual teachings;
(3) “A prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” present in some of the organizations programs and presentations.


Why Bishops Bully:

Bullying research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, and they have a strong need to control or dominate. A prejudicial view of subordinates can also be a particularly strong factor.

Psychologists stress that a bully reflects the environment of his “home,” repeating the model he learned from his parents or superiors. In Roman Catholic history, we call this Roma locuta, causa finita: “Rome has spoken and the matter is closed.”

Bullying studies also show that envy and resentment are often key motives for bullying. Some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic. Others use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser him/herself feels empowered.

There is something terribly dysfunctional in Pope Benedict’s Reform of the Reform….I miss Pope Benedict’s enyclical: Deus caritas est! (GOD IS LOVE.)


The Restoration of Papal Imperialism: Revisionist Church History and Tunnel Vision Theology

Pope Pius XI warned of the danger in the late 1930s as he saw authoritarian regimes growing in

Italy, Germany, and Spain.

Pius XI in his final public address in 1939, stressed:

The church, the mystical body of Christ has become a monstrosity.

The head is very large, but the body is shrunken. You young priests must rebuild the church and mobilize the lay people.”


1. Redefining Magisterium in Pope Benedict’s (revisionist history) reform of the reform

For years “The Ordinary Magisterium,” the teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church was composed of:
The magisterial role of the pope and bishops
The magisterial role of the theologians
The magisterial role of the sensus fidelium

Under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the magisterial role of  theologians and the sensus fidelium have all but disappeared. Magisterium has been redefined as what the pope and his appointed bishops say

2. Tunnel Vision theology. The old gentleman should know better; but he doesn’t. His theology is not just outdated……It is wrong.

In his latest book, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed that the church has “no authority” to ordain women as priests and rejected the idea that the rule was formed only because the church originated in a patriarchal society.

The pope said that man did not produce the form of the church, and does not have the power to change it. Christ gave the form of the priesthood when he chose his male Apostles, he said in the book-interview, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.”

“The church has ‘no authority’ to ordain women. The point is not that we are saying we don’t want to, but that we can’t,” he said. This requires obedience by Catholics today, he added.

Here the Pope is speaking historical and theological nonsense.

3. Canonization of papal theological ideology. Whenever people erect monuments to themselves, red flags go up immediately. Or they should!

Special announcement: Vatican-based foundation to promote study of pope’s theology

With the pope’s agreement and funding, the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation has been established to promote theological studies on his writings and to reward promising scholars.

Msgr. Giuseppe Antonio Scotti, president of the foundation, said it was established with just over $3.1 million from the pope. The money represents part of the royalties from the publication of his books; the rest of his royalty income goes to charity, Msgr. Scotti told reporters Nov. 26.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired papal vicar of Rome and president of the new foundation’s scientific committee, said he hoped that someday the “Ratzinger Prizes” in sacred Scripture, patristics and fundamental theology “would be considered as something analogous to a Nobel Prize for theology.”


Asking the critical question – rooted in Catholic history and tradition – is neither improper nor anti-Catholic.

Its is very responsible and loyal Catholic behavior.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus of Nazareth will be replaced eventually with a Jesus of Rome.

Best regards in this Advent season — as we prepare to celebrate again the birth of JESUS OF NAZARETH!

John W Greenleaf

What Rome Never Understood: From Power and Control to the Reign of God

The Roman crucifixion of Jesus is the iconic and ironic symbol of today’s deeply troubled Church.


A brief meditation about Sacred irony


With cruel mockery, the Romans labeled Jesus “King of the Jews.” The crucified Jesus proclaimed for all time the essence of genuine Christian belief: the Reign of God — the Way of Jesus —  is not about the strong-arm rule of power and control.

In the Reign of God the weak are strong. God’s Reign —  rule of Jesus —  invites and extolls  self-giving, patient listenting, tolerance, understanding, and forgiveness.

Some Christians just never seem to hear or understand what authentic belief is all about.

Christianity is about the powerless power of the Reign of God. And that powerless power reigns wherever the questioning, the least and the most undesirable are favored while the most orthodox and the most powerful are put on the defensive.

When the institutional Church degenerates into the nineteenth century Catholic ethos, it regresses into a sinister and deeply un-Chritsian lifestyle.

No. It is not just a question of a diffent theology or a different ecclesiology. It is a matter of poor theology and bad ecclesiology.

The Rule of Rome is not the Way of Jesus.

Without a change of heart, our old instituition risks the loss of of its immortal soul…..


Pope Benedict’s Love Affair

Pope Benedict Has His Eyes on the Past 

Historians will label this papacy as the Ratzinger push to return the Church to a nineteenth century Catholic ethos anchored in authority, sin and priestly ritual.


      The 19th century church felt threatened by Napoleon, Garibaldi, Bismarck, modern science and technology.

      Pope Pius IX (“Pio Nono”) reacted by proclaiming himself infallible.

      The monarchical papacy becomes the “traditional” norm.

      Obedience to Rome becomes the sign of authentic and orthodox  Catholicism.

      Pope Pius X launched a CIA-type and well-organized campaign against “modernism.”

      Pius X  proclaimed that “the church is essentially an  unequal society…comprising two categories: the Pastors and the flock.”

      The Church exercised iron rod authority through church laws, rules and regulations.

      The church endeavored to control information and even personal thoughts.

      Catholicism became a religion of authority and control.

      The good Catholic was docile and obedient and submissive


      Strongly anchored in an exaggerated Augustinian theology, the church saw the world as a place of sin.

      Laws and regulations are established to keep people from near occasions of sin and to discipline and strengthen Catholics.

      Civil society is secular and a wicked world of sin and temptation.

      Regular confession is important and the big sins are ones of sexual impurity.

      The view that civil society (“the City of Man”) is evil is reinforced by anti-Catholicism.

      Protestants became the embodiments of heresy, infidelity, and evil.


      Priests are ontologically superior to lay people.

      For Catholics the way to the sacred was through priestly ritual and blessings.

      Through ritual and ritual objects, like scapulars and holy medals, one entered into the “City of God.”

      Ritual devotions (often highly sentimental) to the Virgin Mary and the saints become popular.

      God is the hard and demanding task master. The saints are soft and comforting.

      Since the leaders of ritual are also church authorities, ritual reinforces authority.

      Ironically — in a church fearful about sexuality, Catholic rituals and ritual people are feminized in a queer way.

      Jesus is portrayed as a type of effeminate androgynous male. Priests and altar boys are dressed in lace.


For informed and contemporary-minded Catholics,  Vatican II was a welcomed relief from the negativity, clericalism and triumphalism of the nineteenth century.


  • Priority on Incarnation — we meet God in the daily events of  human life

  • Ecumenism: dialogue + integrity of traditions

  • Humility: church always needs reform, responsible criticism

  • Social justice: human rights and justice essential to mission

  • Religious freedom: all people have right to own religious expression

  • Liturgy: Eucharist central, vernacular, importance of Scripture, communal

  • The priest is not the focus but the one who presides at community prayer

  • Participation: bishops in collegiality & lay involvement in decision-making

  • Church is community of equals: brothers and sisters….the People of God

  • Church ministry is an exercise of servant leadership.