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What Ten Apostles in Gethsemane Can Teach Us About Our Bishops Today


In his most recent post over at First Things, R.R. Reno discusses the contemporary phenomenon in the Church which he aptly labels “duck and cover” Catholicism. Specifically addressing the firestorm which erupted when Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Reno observes:

As I expected, the leaders of the Catholic Church have done everything they can to avoid saying anything in response to the furor over the Indiana RFRA. Their counsel is “dialogue,” an unfortunate weasel word long used by administrators who don’t want to take a stand.


Some months ago, I predicted that Catholicism in America would basically accommodate itself to whatever sexual regime dominates our society. The accommodation won’t be explicit. The Church won’t endorse homosexuality or gay marriage. Instead, the bishops will step aside, avoid controversy, and just stop talking about things that carry a high price for dissent. This duck-and-cover non-statement fits perfectly into this trajectory.

My first impulse is to laugh…

But I can’t laugh, because the tragedy is too poignant. Doubtless there are faithful Catholics in Indiana who think marriage is only possible between a man and a woman. Doubtless they resist the pro-gay propaganda their children are subjected to by the media and often in school. Doubtless they try to support the Church’s teaching on sex, family, and marriage. In the midst of a propaganda blitz denouncing all dissent from the coming regime of gay rights, this anodyne non-statement says to them, “You’re on your own.”

I’m sure that’s not the intent of the Indiana bishops. They’re undoubtedly faithful men trying to be good pastors. But they’re also disoriented by the rapid pace of cultural and political change in America (aren’t we all). And, to be frank, they’re also disoriented by mixed messages from Rome. (Who are they to judge?) They’re as frightened as the rest of us of being denounced as “homophobic bigots”…

Every option has a price. So they find a way to do nothing. Duck-and-cover.”

Mr. Reno is onto something very profound here. While the faithful look to their bishops for examples of heroic virtue, what they sometimes find instead are men who are simply flawed and frightened.

A little over a week ago the Church entered Holy Week with a reminder of those first bishops, the apostles themselves, and their very human reaction to conflict when the crowds turned against them. From the gospel reading for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:

Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.” He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the scriptures may be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. (Mk 14:43-50)

These were the twelve selected by Christ Himself.

Yes, of the twelve there was a traitor. Do we indeed have bishops today who betray Our Lord just as Judas did two thousand years ago in Gethsemane? Of Course, and it is no less scandalous now than it was then. We know these Judas priests by their actions and words. We know them by their betrayal of the past and their refusal to transmit the authentic faith from one generation to the next.

Thankfully, we also have bishops with the courage and fidelity of Saint John. The beloved disciple followed Our Lord to the foot of the cross, where he alone of the apostles stood with Our Lady before the suffering Christ. Today one thinks of courageous men such as Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco or Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan. In stark contrast to a disordered and relativistic culture which celebrates homosexuality, or a Church which fails to protect Our Eucharistic Lord from repeated desecration, these two men exemplify a heroic virtue that is as rare as it is inspiring.

The sad reality, however, is that many bishops today reflect the behavior of the other ten apostles that night in the garden of Gethsemane. They do not conspire to betray Our Lord and His Church, but neither do they exhibit the courage and fortitude needed to stand by the Truth, particularly if it leads to the Cross. Human nature compels most people to run away from conflict, not towards it. “And they all left Him and fled.”

Like the apostles in the garden that night when Christ was arrested, more and more bishops today will flee when the persecution begins. They will abandon Him by their silence and through accommodation. They are neither Judas nor John. They are the other ten. Please pray for them. Now is the time for heroic virtue and courageous priests, not duck and cover Catholicism.

(Picture: Arrest of Christ by Duccio, 1308-1311)

18 thoughts on “What Ten Apostles in Gethsemane Can Teach Us About Our Bishops Today”

  1. Lent before the one recently completed, I took to read St Thomas More’s “Sadness of Christ” Last book written by the saint while awaiting execution. It explores the themes that Steve notes in the piece here. Betrayal, weakness, avarice, laziness of the hierarchs of both Jesus time, St. More and our own. And, of course, our own and the apostles bewilderment, lukewarmness and fear. I completely recommend this book as a lesson in how to respond to persecution and the betrayal of our shepherds. The saint was not stranger to that experience.

    We Christ crucified. We can only, like Peter, repent and pray for forgiveness. Don’t rely on fallible men. Only Christ.

      • I’m glad.

        You are not alone in being treated shabbily. I think most orthodox Catholics do so at one time or another and to one degree or another.
        At one parish, the pastor had a Dominican sister (sans habit) give the homily (or as he called it a “reflection” and not a homily, you see) during Lent. I wish I could say that after I pointed out the error of such shenanigans that he corrected himself. He didn’t and every encounter with him after that became an occasion for unkind teasing on his part. The teasing bothered my wife but I was happy to be acknowledged for my orthodoxy and reverence of the Eucharist.

        I don’t go to that parish any longer. I don’t go to daily Mass any more either. Now, I spend Sunday Mass near the sanctuary keeping my eyes and heart glued on the crucifix next to the tabernacle.

  2. Thank God someone else has noticed the bishops silence. As one from Indiana, I believe Brian Williams is being too charitable. The bishops are only silent when it comes to morality but when it comes to social justice and getting money from our tax dollars, then you see action.

    I’ve watched our bishops write editorials in the secular paper regarding immigration reform, Bishop Doherty and Bishop Tobin were down at the state house promoting immigration. It seems they promote what makes them money and so have become more like CEO’s for a very profitable global organization. They speak at dinners and fund raisers and look at the bottom line and where they can make the most money from our federal, state and local business funds.

    Just watching the pope echo Obama on inequality, immigration and global warming while being very politically correct regarding homosexuality clues me into what is important to Catholic leaders.

    The USCCB has shown me over and over what they believe in and it’s not very Christian to me. Their promotion of universal healthcare with “abortion neutral language” was appalling yet they were looking forward to more gov’t money to help run their hospitals and it was their hospitals, like Ascension Health, that promoted it to their employees. They really didn’t care about the HHS mandate because NY and California had been paying for birth control and abortions for years in their union employees health insurance. Now, Ascension health, the largest Catholic health network does the same.

    I watched the first lame duck session with Obama in office and the USCCB promoted the START treaty to reduce nukes, the DREAM act(earlier immigration reform bill) and was silent on repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I was shocked. Of all organizations they should have realized the dangers of allowing homosexuals into a culture. They’ve paid out billions because of their problem and yet they stayed silent on the one clear moral issue?

    When the marriage amendment came up last year, the bishops were very deceptive. The front page of the Indy Star had an article titled, “Bishops Take No STand on Ban”. It proceeded to say that the bishops believe in one man one woman marriage but we must show dignity to all. They got their front page story that told the world they were not going to support the marriage amendment. Then, there was new editions added to the marriage amendment and it was called HJR3. We never heard from the bishops again but the lobbyist in the middle of the paper and in the middle of a long article said Indiana Catholic Conference would support HJR3. Funny, how they get one message out and then when they support something good, it’s very quiet. Worse, the lobbyist never sent an alert out asking anyone to call or support it…even though they were supposed to. HORRIBLE! I wrote three public emails trying to get them to do something but was disappointed. Of course, the fact the Indianapolis diocese has allowed Dignity USA at St. Thomas Aquinas parish for over 20 years might have something to do with their complacency. I wrote to Bishop Tobin regarding the fact that Dignity was having a priest from Minnesota speak promoting same sex ‘marriage’ and I heard nothing from him. Dignity is still there today having mass at 6pm on Sundays.

    I again, wrote public emails to 4 of the bishops regarding religious freedom and again heard nothing. Of course, I didn’t expect to hear from them but instead wanted to confirm to others how this should be a bishops job and they weren’t doing it.

    Another problem I see is that the CAtholic faithful are way too willing to make excuses for them. They’ve been trained that from the bishops and the priests they receive Christ and so they need to be protected and helped. Of course, the leaders sacrifice the good of marriage to give us Christ in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist where they witness to the greatness of the marriage supper of the lamb in heaven but without standing for Christ and His Truth in the real world, their witness becomes hollow. One of the reasons they do not marry is so they can evangelize in the public square. They do not have a wife or children to worry about and so should be the ones taking the heat for their flock.

    The gospel has been twisted because the Church has become, for too many leaders, a business. They get billions from our federal and state tax dollars to feed the poor and do everything they can to continue the gravy train. I’m appalled since this is not true charity. Jesus didn’t say to take money from one to give to another but He wanted each church to help within their communities by asking to give from the heart not getting a gov’t program and becoming part of the gov’t welfare system. So, although the Catholic faith has beautiful truth, it seems the leaders have become part of the gov’t to the extent that Obama has used the CAtholic church and it’s network of non profits and charities to transform our country.

    I called Catholic Charities to see if they were taking in illegals into Indiana and found out they only take refugees but the USCCB had contracted with Bethany Christian services to take in illegals. Obama is now using our tax dollars to fly in ‘refugee’ children from three South American countries . Will it be Catholic Charities that get the billions to help find homes for these children? Meanwhile Obama seems to be increasing the redistribution of our wealth while changing the electorate and demographics of our country. They’re accelerating diversity when our country used to stand for ‘e pluribus unum’, out of many one.

    The bishops and too many other leaders within the Catholic hierarchy, that want to keep their big paychecks coming in, have forgotten that their primary reason for being is to save souls. Too many are happy and comfortable with allowing the Truth to be hidden under bushel baskets of positive programs while letting sin in the real world destroy families and our country.

    Then again, they seem to have global goals and care nothing for our country. Benedict wrote about global governance, redistribution of wealth, and the UN having sharper teeth in his economic encyclical, Caritas et Veritas, that he finished just in time to give Obama. Francis has written about the evils of trickle down economics as one of his first writings. Why? Why are these men even talking economics when morality seems to be front and center the past 6 years? Could it all have to do with how much money they get from the deals they cut with the leaders of the world. God help us all.

    • Thanks for your response and effort, even better than the original article.
      The time for diplomatic speak was over along time ago I appreciate your rigorous honesty.
      I can’t hear a priest talk about sin from the pulpit once every month. At Fatima the Blessed
      Mother said God allows wars to occur as a punishment for sin. And look at the endless
      wars with perhaps a world nuclear war on the way. and sins of the flesh send more souls to hell more than any other sins yet never a word about any of these sins. Even about the lack of modesty
      in Church!
      I am much more inclined to pray for these young kids being subjected to all this institutionalized and legalized depravity than for our leaders. They are the ones at risk
      and are being betrayed!

    • Hi Lori…I just have to commend you as you did an EXCELLENT job of providing a very clear overview of the major issues…Once again, GREAT JOB…

    • One more thing…I am GUESSING that you have heard of Michael Voris over at Church MilitantTV….I am just guessing by your level of passion AND orthodoxy that you have probably heard of Michael……You are right, these bishops have LITTLE TO NO idea what possibly awaits them if they do not start focus on really making every effort to save souls…..

      • Yes, I’ve listened to Michael Voris and I’m happy he is revealing the corruption and heresy of our cardinals and bishops. We are called to be salt and light and yet too many of the bishops and priests keep people in the dark and or ignore those who question what is going on. It’s amazing to think Dignity USA has been in Indianapolis over 20 years. My friend said she wrote to the bishop over 10 years ago with no response and me and a couple of friends wrote again a couple years ago when the priest was promoting same sex ‘marriage’. Their duplicity and deception is EVIL while their little priest minions always defend them and make the laity who bring it up, feel like they are the sinner.

        My pastor runs the biggest and richest parish in Indiana, and has disowned me, I’ve seen him manipulate and actually create fake ministries to make people think he is addressing issues. It’s FAKE but fools most of the busy families in the parish while brainwashing them like Maciel from the Legionaire of Christ to always speak ‘charitably’. What is funny is the pastor himself doesn’t know what charitable is because, just like a liberal, he has no problem calling you a ‘uncharitable’ when you bring up a leaders hypocrisy or even when you send an email comparing our times and it’s similarity to Nazi Germany. I told him I’m not uncharitable because I care. Funny, how they are so twisted but I can only imagine the amount of suck ups they get and so pride takes over and you know what happens then…pride goes before the fall.

        The fact our pope is elevating those like the guy in Chile,, and Kasper while demoting Cardinal Burke is very ominous. Yet, I notice the priests in Indiana make sure they speak of our Pope often. My pastor has mentioned him in his pastor notes and so has priests during homilies. They are making use of his popularity and that my dear is what they do. They hold their finger up n the air and go with public opinion.

        Notice that now most people are anti abortion and so they now, after 40 years are speaking out against it where just 5 years ago, they were worried about hurting peoples feelings. Now, they use it as a distraction so they don’t have to speak on homosexuality.

        Ultimately, Catholicism is a multi billion dollar business and the priests make pretty good salary considering everything is paid for and they get gifts. They do not take a vow of poverty so who knows how much money some of them have from a member giving them an estate. The money is there to be made and MONEY and their tax exempt status is the golden calf. Just the idea that Carol Keehan, from Catholic Health Assoc. makes almost a million a year makes me wonder what other heirarchy makes on the boards of hospitals and universities.
        How does this imitate the apostles?

        I’m sure there are some good innocent priests but I worry how they too get twisted within the deceptive and hypocritical lives of too many leaders.

        • Great response once again…I live up near a suburb of Chicago and LET ME TELL YA, we have a REAL gem up here in this Cupich guy….He was handpickded by Francis and is ALL ABOUT being “accepting, welcoming, etc, etc….He went on that Face the Nation show back in late November AND he said that he would have no problem giving out the Eucharist to politicians who support child murder/abortion AS he believed that it would give them “grace” and hopefully lead them to conversion…..DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL TO YOU???? I mean, let’s look at folks like Biden, Pelosi, Durbin, Kerry, I mean giving them the Eucharist has REALLY led to a conversion, RIGHT???? You are exactly correct….Far too many bishops, priests, and cardinals care MORE about what the laity and congregation/world think than what God’s word says….
          Voris always calls it the Church of Nice….I think that I know the answer based on your previous post, but how many times in the past year have you heard a homily on MORTAL SIN, ABORTION, HELL, CONTRACEPTION, COHABITATION, ETC, ETC???? You know what I find interesting is that they will put this stuff or articles about these subjects in the “bulletin”, but do NOT get up there and do this from the pulpit and I really believe that the reason that they do not it from the pulpit is that it is the EASIER AND SOFTER WAY….Let’s be honest, HOW MANY of the actual church attendees actually pick up a bulletin and even if they do, do they actually read it??? No, I think that I am dead on right with too many of these weak priests….They do NOT have the inner guts to take a stand for Christ and take the heat afterwards….The Bible states that the world will HATE you, WHY can they not figure that one out???
          I met the Archbishop about two months ago at an event in a suburb of Chicago and went right up to him and asked him why he gives the Eucharist out to politicians who support slaughtering babies….You will NEVER believe what his response was….He asked me if Dick Durbin ever had an abortion….I directly responded by saying NO, what does that have to do with anything??? He then said to TAKE IT UP, TAKE IT UP WITH THE SUPREME COURT AS IF IT THE SUPREME COURT’T PROBLEM, NOT ANY PROFESSED CATHOLIC’S PROBLEM WHO SUPPORTS CHILD MURDER…I immediately called a solid Catholic couple that I know and told them about it….DO A FAIR NUMBER OF THESE BISHOPS AND LEADERS HAVE ANY, ANY IDEA WHAT POTENTIALLY AWAITS THEM IF THEY DO NOT DRAMATICALLY CHANGE COURSE???? Look at James 3:1 sometime if you get a chance as that verse talks about the fact that judgement will be more strict for those who take on a position of authority in the church….
          Also, one of my HUGE issues is with the fact that far too many of these bishops and cardinals do NOT enforce Canon Law 915 and it is a law, law, not option….Does your bishop enforce it by any chance??
          So, do you live right near Indianapolis as I used to have a job that covered the northern part of the state, south bend, Elkhart, michigan city, etc, but the main company, Anthem, was headquartered down in Indy. I’m guessing that know all that you want to know as well about CCHD, CRS, Catholic Charities as well, correct??
          I would be curious to know where this Dignity parish is located, the one who is promoting ss marriage….
          Have a great day….

          • Mike, I’m right there with you. The past seven years has been eye opening and heart wrenching to say the least. I watched Cupich’s interview. Pathetic. The bishops fear man more than God. I’m doing a bible study on Mark and Jesus was quite stark and vivid when it came to sin. He actually used hyperbole and said that a man should cut off his arm or take out his eye if it causes him to sin yet our bishops and priests do not preach sin because they are selling themselves and the sacraments.

            My friend knows of an open homosexual who was accepted into a seminary in Ohio. She asked our bishop, Bishop Doherty, why they were accepting homosexuals into the seminaries and all he said was, “They must be chaste for five years.” There is no concern or governing regarding spiritual matters. I really think it’s all business with these guys and when they speak of evangelizing…it is a sales job.

            I’m in north Indianapolis. Dignity is at St. Thomas Aquinas in Indainapolis. You have a good day too and keep praying. God is good and He will clean house.

          • I do not think that I conveyed this to you, but I send out a bunch of “Catholic type” or spiritual articles out in general and would be happy to add you to my e-mail list…It appears that you and I are in agreement on a number of the major issues of the day and thought that I would see if you would like me add you….Again, just thought that I would convey that to you….If you would like to e-mail me to let me know, I can be reached at [email protected]

  3. The faithful Bishops you speak about above, remind me of certain (many) members of the Republican Congress of the U.S. It is the grassroot Conservatives who are doing the fighting the same as the “faithful” in the Catholic Church even in the midst of a gross betrayal of our leaders… and I am not as kind as you, omission can be much worse than commission… and Jesus well might say to these leaders in the Church who practiced “duck and cover,” “away from me you evildoers, I do not know you.”

  4. They are Judases. The Conciliar church popes have all been Judases. They have denied the true Catholic faith and have turned the people against Christ with their false doctrines and their public acts of idolatry and sacrilege against the Body and Blood of Christ.


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