Yes, folks, it's that time of year when people vote to give other people recognition for oustanding efforts in fields from the earthshaking to the distressingly mundane. If you look at the sidebar on the right, you'll notice I have a poll. Please vote for the ordinary you think has shown the most extraordinary courage and leadership this year! Poll closes Sunday night at midnight!
In the last few years, bishop-watching has gotten more interesting than watching yet another Kardashian become famous for being a Kardashian, or scanning the fashion news to see if Lady Gaga's apparel will complete the food pyramid. Some months ago, because the image to your left (created by the incomparable Vincenzo) was floating around Father Z's blog here and there, I decided to appropriate it for a column on Cdl. Francis George of Chicago and jokingly nominate him for an award. Since then, I've had occasion to "nominate" four other shepherds for the Ecclesial Backbone Award.
What does a bishop have to do to be nominated? you ask. Simply put, the bishop must take a publicly firm, orthodox stand, in imitation of the apostles whose successors our ordinaries are supposed to be ... the more controversial, the better. Preferably, the issue should be one of "internal housekeeping", if you will; i.e., not policy controversies, such as abortion or gay marriage, but rather a matter of doctrine or discipline in opposition to heterodoxy. If you can get someone at the National Catholic Fishwrap or HuffPo to throw a spittle-flecked nutty, you're a shoe-in.
The nominees for 2011 are:
- Cdl. Francis H. George of Chicago: For going all the way and suspending the wayward Fr. Michael Pfleger after the latter, the controversial pastor of St. Sabina, refused transfer to Leo High School, forgetting that obedience to the bishop was one of his priestly vows.
- Cdl. George Pell of Sydney: For delivering a timely slap in the face to an Irish audience: "People are saying to me the same things they were saying to me back in 1998; we need this, we need that, nobody is doing anything — well, if nobody else is doing anything then you have to get it started yourself and if help comes, as it might or might not, at least you’re doing things." Read the post to see the rest of that paragraph, which is a definite challenge to the people of the Catholic Church in Ireland to quit feeling sorry for themselves and get to work on their problems.
- Abp. Allen H. Vigneron: For taking a loud, public stance against the meeting of the American Catholic Council meeting, warning them that the meeting was taking place without his approval, and advising his priests and deacons that participation in an illicitly concelebrated Mass was grounds for canonical action up to and including dismissal from the clerical state. While the meeting was still held, drawing a crowd of about 2,000, Abp. Vigneron didn't pretend that it didn't exist, or that nothing was wrong with it.
- Abp. John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis: For "outing" Catholics for Marriage Equality MN as having "no recognition from nor affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church". Abp. Nienstedt has done some other things worthy of mention; but since I'm limiting it to matters of internal discipline and doctrine, this is the matter that matters.
- Bp. Joseph D. Foys of Covington: For getting both the Fishwrap and USCatholic in a rip-roaring rage over his decision to proscribe the orans position and hand-holding by the laity during the "Our Father". If Commonweal or America had pontificated on his decision, he would have pulled off a hat trick.
Occasionally throughout the week I'll link you back to this page and remind you to vote. This next year, if you run across a story of a bishop doing something that raises the hackles of the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd, whether it's giving the boot to a pseudo-Catholic organization or (mirabile dictu!) excommunicating a CINO politician, contact me through my e-mail address (in my profile). Let's encourage our bishops by celebrating those who lead!