Bishop Aquila: How Should the Church Exercise Authority?

Urges Clergy to Uphold Truth Despite Unpopularity

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, MARCH 22, 2011 ( The bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, is urging clergy to imitate Jesus’ exercise of authority and to be unafraid of correcting others in service of the truth.

Bishop Samuel Aquila made this appeal Friday in Philadelphia during his keynote address at the 10th Annual Symposium on the Spirituality and Identity of the Diocesan Priest, which was co-sponsored by The Institute for Priestly Formation and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

«Since the Second Vatican Council both the world and the Church have lived through times that question authority and make the exercise of authority taxing,» the prelate affirmed.

He noted, «Today there is skepticism, doubt, dissent and challenges which continue to go against the exercise of authority.»

«Within the Church, this proves especially difficult as the secular culture undermines any authority attributed to God, and makes man into god,» the bishop acknowledged.

«While we are in the world,» he continued, «we are not of the world, but of Christ, and authority must be exercised as Jesus exercised it — in service to the Father, to the truth, and to those entrusted to our care.»

Bishop Aquila affirmed, «In living the teaching authority of Christ, the bishop and priest have the responsibility to know and love the Scriptures as well as the Catechism, teaching with clarity and faithfulness what has been received from Christ and handed on to the Church.»

Communion with Christ

He noted that this must be done «in profound inner communion with Christ,» which means «putting aside one’s personal opinions and seeing with the eyes and heart of Christ.»

«Jesus at times was direct in calling people to conversion — to change their way of acting and thinking,» the prelate observed. «This directness makes many of us uncomfortable today.»

He urged: «We should follow his example and language, even if we do not use his precise words.

«His language is good to contemplate and definitely should challenge us to look at how we correct the faithful, including priests and bishops, and speak the truth especially with those who say they are with Christ and the Church but do not accept the teaching of Jesus and the Church.»

«Bishops and priests, as an act of loving obedience to Christ, must return to a full exercise of the governing authority of Christ witnessed in the Gospel,» the bishop asserted.

He added, «If we do not exercise that authority, are hesitant to exercise it, or doubt it, then it only leads to the father of lies taking hold of the minds and hearts of the faithful, and their continuing to act in the ways of man and not the ways of God.»

«Jesus is the shepherd who teaches us as bishops and priests and future priests how to shepherd, how to live his own pastoral authority bestowed upon us by him and the Holy Spirit on the day of our ordinations,» Bishop Aquila affirmed.

He stated: «The authority that Jesus exercises is received from the Father. He is at the service of the Father.»

«In listening to the voice of Jesus,» the prelate said, «we observe that at the heart of authority are obedience and love.»

Seminarian formation

He encouraged particular attention to the «formation of the seminarian’s heart» to «help them to receive the desires of Jesus in their own hearts, and prepare them to receive, in obedience, the authority that Christ will hand on to them on the day of their ordination.»

The bishop outlined «four practical ways for seminaries to form hearts receptive to the desires of Jesus:» lectio divina, the school of Nazareth, the sacrament of reconciliation and the daily celebration of the Eucharist.

«The seminarian, in having the desires of Jesus, is called to desire to make himself a total self gift to the Father and the Church,» he affirmed.

«In the exercise of the governing authority of Christ, we too, if we have the heart of Christ and the love of Christ, will end up on the Cross with Christ,» Bishop Aquila stated.

He added, «Certainly this was the experience of St. Peter and St. Paul, St. John Fisher, and so many other bishop and priest martyrs throughout the history of the Church.»

The bishop concluded, «Ultimately, living the pastoral authority of Jesus in loving obedience will lead us to the Cross as it led him to the Cross, for we will love the Father with the heart of Jesus.»

— — —

On the Net:

Full text:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation