"My bishop is a jerk!"
(A continuation of our occasional "Catholics Are Stupid" series.)
The late Jesuit Father John Hardon made a dire prediction for the Church in North America. He observed that whole sections of the country were already lost, as bishops were leading their people astray, and that only a few truly orthodox shepherds remained. He warned that, in due time, the Church would be reduced to a mere faithful remnant. Now, there are a good many bishops who can "talk the talk." They can bring down the house at a Communion breakfast. They can say all the right things, make all the right moves, play the part to a tee, until there's trouble. That's when more than a few of them choke on it. People wonder why a diocese with a "conservative bishop" can't stop a problematic catechetical program from infesting his diocese, or a few bad apples within the presbyterate from improper handling of either parish funds or pubescent boys -- or both.
The late John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, once lamented how many bishops were, in his words, "morally bludgeoned" by their staffs. This is a difficult thing even for devout Catholics to understand, as they are likely to assume that a prelate can simply give an order and know that it will be followed to the letter. That only happens when the follower has enough to lose by not following. Such a prospect is less likely when that follower cannot simply be "fired" and replaced by someone off the street.
It's much easier to talk a good game at a Knights of Columbus dinner than to clean out the rat's nest at an aging chancery. Especially when you have to depend on a few of the latter to get the day-to-day things done, and you've spent the first year just figuring out who you can and can't trust -- and the results aren't always pretty.
Added to that, is the potential for character weakness in the man himself who would be a bishop. If twenty-five-plus years in the Nation's capital has taught me anything, it is that most people in the public eye appear to have quite a different personality than the one they show one-on-one. A man might know what is right, and find it easy to talk about to a large and adoring crowd, and still be a jerk when the cameras are off. A lot of bishops would appear to fall into that category, having been constantly "handled" by others with their own designs from the moment of consecration. Eventually, these men stop being themselves, and become what their handlers want them to be.
Then one day they wake up and forget who they really are. That's when doing the right thing becomes a lot harder.
Some things can't be delegated. Like being your damn self.