We can often look judgmentally on Islam and those who would interpret the Quran in ways that would lead to violence, ways that most of the adherents of the Islamic faith would say are misinterpretations of the text. But what should be done?
While beating up on the Pope and the bishops is popular both inside and outside the Church, we need them. Today we celebrate St. Iranaenus who defended the role of the bishops to, guided by the Holy Spirit, protect the proper interpretation of scriptures.
If the Christian faith were reduced to individuals with Bibles, any charismatic personality could cherry pick verses from the Old and New Testament to justify anything and gather a following. Have the bishops for 2000 years gotten every issue right all the time? No, nor has the Catholic Church ever claimed that. On the core issue, we do hold that through the bishops the Holy Spirit works to keep the Church on the right track as we deal with new realities that the world of the Bible could never have imagined.
Even the great movements of the reformation never imagined a church without structure or authority. They saw the danger of an individual with a Bible, our human capacity to find what we want to see.
The heresy against which Iranaeus fought, Gnosticim, did not die off in the second century. The gnostic idea of having a kind of secret knowledge apart from the scriptures and what was handed down by the Church, seems to resurface in every age. We can dismissively refer to these groups as "cults" but the reality is that many lives have been ruined and even lost, because some poor soul searching for God was drawn into them. We have to look no further than the ongoing saga of Warren Jeffs, right here in the U.S.
Our bishops are imperfect human beings, and any of them including the Pope will readily admit that. As we remember St. Iranaenus today let us pray for our bishops.