Scranton’s bishop Joseph Martino has been doing a great job lately of communicating the Catholic faith in public in spite of opposition, instructing Catholic institutions and public officials, and through them, the faithful at large. He’s shown a commitment to prevent Church events from being used to honor reprehensible politicians. He’s reminded a Catholic college to show its commitment to Catholic moral teaching and distance itself from any endorsement of immorality. He’s taught politicians publicly about such as the injustice of government tolerance for abortion, let alone subsidy of it, and
When I read the Bishop’s letter to the misguided Senator Bob Casey Jr., whose voting record is not worthy of the Casey name, I noticed that Bp. Martino is the holder of an earned doctorate in Church history. Now that’s not a common accomplishment among bishops. The most prominent bishop I know of with a similar background is the estimable George Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, who made his studies at Oxford.
We certainly need more such bishops like these: able to stand against the fashions of the moment and teach Christian doctrine. Perhaps we can start looking for bishops among other priests with a background in Church history, and with reason: men with enough interest in Church history to study it in depth are likely to have particular qualities of temperament that the Church needs, such as an admiration for sacred tradition. That is an important quality in this time, when Pope Benedict wants to promote a correct understanding of the Second Vatican Council as a development in continuity with the preceding 1962 years of Church life, and not a breach from it.
Furthermore, bishops with a knowledge of past relations between society, the state, and the teaching Church can have a realistic understanding about what is possible and what is not: that pleasing everyone and leaving problems unattended is not the pathway to peace.