Friday, March 09, 2007


Bishop Robert Vasa, Diocese of Baker



46. As I mentioned above still others have expressed concern that my insistence upon an affirmation of faith is a form of ‘judgmentalism’. Some have indicated to me that the task I have undertaken of trying to "oversee" ministry, liturgy and ministers of the Diocese is not "my job". This perspective is most interesting particularly since the very title Bishop means precisely that, "overseer". The reality is that the Bishop has many tasks but, "Among the principal tasks of Bishops the preaching of the Gospel is pre-eminent." (Veritatis Splendor, 114) I recognize that this preaching of the Gospel is not limited to an occasional Sunday sermon but rather extends to a vigilance over all those who teach in the name of the Church, either explicitly or implicitly. In an early section of the Encyclical the Holy Father made it clear that Bishops share his responsibility
to teach:

47. I address myself to you, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, who share with me the responsibility of safeguarding "sound teaching" (2 Tim 4:3), with the intention of clearly setting forth certain aspects of doctrine which are of crucial importance in facing what is certainly a genuine crisis, since the difficulties which it engenders have most serious implications for the moral life of the faithful and for communion in the Church, as well as for a just and fraternal social life. (Veritatis Splendor, 5)

48. At the same time he pointed out that this duty to teach is particularly important relative to those things which are exposed to error, ambiguity or neglect. If it appears that I have focused too exclusively on matters related to proper sexual conduct, it is, in part, because teaching about the morality surrounding this area of human living is most prone to neglect and misinterpretation. It is particularly in regard to this area that the clear and beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church need to be heard and understood. The Holy Father made it very evident that the duty of presenting the message of the Church falls to the Bishops to whom the Encyclical is directed:

49. In addressing this Encyclical to you, my Brother Bishops, it is my intention to state the principles necessary for discerning what is contrary to "sound doctrine", drawing attention to those elements of the Church's moral teaching which today appear particularly exposed to error, ambiguity or neglect. (Veritatis Splendor, 30)

50. Later the Holy Father, recalling the statements of the Second Vatican Council, made this duty of teaching, which is entrusted to Bishops, even more explicit as noted in the following three paragraphs from the Encyclical:

51. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, responsibility for the faith and the life of faith of the People of God is particularly incumbent upon the Church's Pastors: "Among the principal tasks of Bishops the preaching of the Gospel is pre-eminent. For the Bishops are the heralds of the faith who bring new disciples to Christ. They are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people entrusted to them the faith to be believed and put into practice; they illustrate this faith in the light of the Holy Spirit, drawing out of the treasury of Revelation things old and new (Mt 13:52); they make it bear fruit and they vigilantly ward off errors that are threatening their flock (2 Tim 4:1-4)".

52. It is our common duty, and even before that our common grace, as Pastors and Bishops of the Church, to teach the faithful the things which lead them to God, just as the Lord Jesus did with the young man in the Gospel. Replying to the question: "What good must I do to have eternal life?", Jesus referred the young man to God, the Lord of creation and of the Covenant. He reminded him of the moral commandments already revealed in the Old Testament and he indicated their spirit and deepest meaning by inviting the young man to follow him in poverty, humility and love: "Come, follow me!". The truth of this teaching was sealed on the Cross in the Blood of Christ: in the Holy Spirit, it has become the new law of the Church and of every Christian.

53. This "answer" to the question about morality has been entrusted by Jesus Christ in a particular way to us, the Pastors of the Church; we have been called to make it the object of our preaching, in the fulfillment of our munus propheticum (Office of Preaching or Teaching). At the same time, our responsibility as Pastors with regard to Christian moral teaching must also be exercised as part of the munus sacerdotale (Office of Sanctifying): this happens when we dispense to the faithful the gifts of grace and sanctification as an effective means for obeying God's holy law, and when with our constant and confident prayers we support believers in their efforts to be faithful to the demands of the faith and to live in accordance with the Gospel (cf. Col 1:9-12). Especially today, Christian moral teaching must be one of the chief areas in which we exercise our pastoral vigilance, in carrying out our munus regale (Office of Governing). (Veritatis Splendor, 114)

The document, ENTRUSTED WITH SACRED DUTIES, is Bishop Vasa's document implementing Giving Testimony to the Truth.

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