Timothy, Titus and Episcopal Power


A blessed memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, co-workers of Saint Paul, both of them ordained by him into the early episcopacy of the Church, when every bishop was a ‘missionary’, charting forth into unknown, hostile, pagan territory, meaning an almost certain martyrdom. Certainly bracing for the soul, and an excellent focus for the mind. Perhaps more of our current leadership – and not just in the Church – should get out into the ‘real world’ more often, to see what it actually happening on the ground, so to speak. Wood-panelled chanceries, with thick sound-absorbing carpets, filled with computers and well-compensated apparatchiks and ‘spokesmen’ clicking and scrolling, issuing ‘media bites’ – all of this tends to have the precise opposite effect, of cocooning, smothering and attenuating our souls. As Paul urges the recently ordained bishop Timothy in his second letter:

I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control

Such words take on particular significance in light of the recent legalization of abortion in the state of New York through all nine months of pregnancy, signed into effect by the professedly Catholic governor, Andrew Cuomo, who had the World Trade Centre lit up pink in celebration. Blood-red might have been more appropriate. There are calls for Cardinal Dolan to excommunicate him, even by his fellow bishops, which His Eminence has so far dismissed, citing that such penalties are not to be used as a ‘weapon’.

In one limited sense, he is right, for canonical sanctions are a ‘weapon’ in the same way a scalpel is: They wound, but only to heal. Governor Cuomo has put his soul – and the souls of many others – in grave jeopardy, and bringing him publicly to that realization may not be a bad thing at all; in fact, in may be, in the truest sense of the term, salutary.

To stand against the powers-that-be, and to lose the acclaim and praise of the world – with all of its attendant comforts and accolades – is difficult indeed. But the days may be coming when, to paraphrase Christ to Peter, his first vicar, ‘when all of that is taken away from us’, and as Cardinal Ratzinger predicted, we return to something more like the early Church, smaller, scattered, but more focused, intentional, powerful. Only then, perhaps, will we see more fully what Christ’s Mystical Body really is, and the lord of this world in all his manifest evil.