a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.
Of all these, it is perhaps the last one that provides the greatest challenge.
On the one hand, a Church must have money to operate. As so, every bishop, like every other minister, must engage in fund-raising. We continue to come up with new euphemisms for it. We call it “development” or “advancement”, but at the end of the day it is about convincing people to give money.
And for a good cause.
On the other hand, the money must never become the thing to which we are attached. How far will we go to obtain the money? How far will we go to protect the money?
How many Christian Churches have over the years sold the best seats to those who give the most money? How many priests were in the old system named Monsignor, not because of the holiness of their lives, but because they could raise money? Sadly, our churches are covered with the names of wealthy patrons. Where are the names of the poor but holy, those who worked hard and gave good example, but had no money to donate?
Worse by far, were the crimes covered up by bishops in order to protect the money. And today, how many dead innocent priests have had their reputations ruined, because of an accusation that had no proof? We used to believe in the presumption of innocence. We used to believe in due process. We used to believe that a person had a right to face their accuser. Now we seem willing to throw it all aside to protect the money, to avoid a potential lawsuit.
The lure of money is seductive and on a practical level we all need it to survive. But St. Paul reminds us today that we should never place protecting money over the protection of people. As individuals and as a Church, caring our brother and sisters must always come first, especially the most vulnerable, and the most broken among us.