Paul Catalanotto: Sheep in shepherd’s clothing

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Some Catholics starve to hear their shepherd’s voice

When Christ told the people that the sheep would know the shepherd’s voice, it carried with it the understanding and responsibility that the shepherds would speak to the sheep.

Currently, some Catholics do not recognise their shepherd’s voice, not in obstinate denial but because their shepherd is silent.  Therefore, the sheep never learn to recognise the shepherd’s voice.  After all, how can these Catholics expect to be familiar with a voice they never hear?  The fallout from such silence is near nuclear in nature, and it sends the flock to find greener pastures because the current ones are irradiated.

The pasture when the flocks with silent shepherds gather is online, the place most shepherds of the Catholic Church like to pretend does not exist.  This is dangerous as the sheep lack adequate formation in recognising the shepherd’s voice and cannot distinguish between authentic shepherds and sheep cosplaying as shepherds.  Therefore, when these sheep hear a shepherdly sounding voice, they latch on to it, not because of the veracity of the supposed shepherd, but because it feels like someone is leading them.

Currently, some Catholics do not recognise their shepherd’s voice, not in obstinate denial but because their shepherd is silent.

For instance, an acquaintance sent several videos of a twice excommunicated, once in 1988 and again in 2015, and holocaust sceptic Bishop Richard Williamson as an exemplar of truth and a figure of authority, someone to emulate. To put it plainly, my acquaintance was promoting an illicitly ordained bishop who also illicitly ordained his own bishops, who has evident problems with authority, truth, and reality as an exemplar shepherd and leader within the Catholic Church.

My acquaintance cannot take the full blame; the bishop spoke with such passion, authority, vigour and supposed clarity that any layperson who has not trained to recognise the shepherd’s voice would want to latch on to what this bishop was teaching, even if wrong.

Most days, I receive texts and emails from well-meaning Catholics who want to follow Holy Mother Church.  However, the content of these emails often nudges the listener toward a rebellion against authority, if not an outright rejection of authority altogether. For example, last week, I received videos of cosplaying shepherds giving sensationalist lectures on the heresies of Vatican II, promoting apparitions that the Church ruled inauthentic, promoting unverifiable mystical visions as authoritative, and calling Saints Paul VI and John Paul II heretical modernists.

In other words, these false shepherds are creating a hermeneutic of suspicion within the Catholic Church, making it even more difficult for the lay to recognise the real shepherd’s voice when he does speak.

Nature indeed abhors a vacuum.  The same is true in faith formation.  When silent pastors cause the vacuum, the flock seek formation elsewhere.  Therefore, the problem isn’t Latin, the Traditional Latin Mass, a return to forgotten traditions, men in bow ties, or women in mantillas. The problem is that when the sheep ask their shepherd for formation, they are meet with crickets, and sheep are left to fill the void as best they can.

The result is sheep leading sheep.

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