December 15, 2009

How To Become A Bishop

I have noticed with delight that some kind and thoughtful (and no doubt devout) soul has graced the web with the text of Charles Merrill Smith's How to Become a Bishop Without Being Religious. This is certainly one of the funniest books I have ever read. It is a biting satire on church and ministry that somehow manages to be good-natured, light, and loyal at the same time. I recommend it.

Smith writes from a protestant perspective, so certain chapters, though very funny, are not directly applicable to us Catholics, e.g. "Selecting the Clerical Wife." "The most important one piece of equipment the aspiring clergyman will acquire."

Other sections are either directly or closely applicable to the Catholic ministry, such as Smith's advice on "pastoral counseling," "the theology of church finance," developing a preaching program, good and bad hymns, dealing with the committee structure of a parish, the differences between managing mens' and womens' organizations, religious education, wedding rehearsals, and achieving the crucial "humility/ability balance."

Here's a sample, from the section on learning the professional stance of the clergyman:

Perhaps the best single word to describe the flavor of personality, one must strive to achieve is “pious.” This implies that the preacher will gather up, in himself, a host of qualities and characteristics and distill them into an essence which he exudes at all times, and which advertises, unmistakably, that here is a man of much prayer, meditation and lofty thoughts; a man who has disentangled himself from the secular, soiling concerns which obsess most men — in short, a clergyman.

Now someone is bound to say that this means a preacher, to be a success, must be religious — a contention which this book is written to deny. Here, we must pause to make a distinction between “religious” and “pious.”

A genuinely-religious man is, as the sociologists would say, inner-directed. He has deep and abiding convictions, usually derived from his faith in God and what he believes to be God's will. Thus, he is likely to be socially-irresponsible, largely uninterested in the kind of impression he makes on people, often involved in unpopular causes. He tends to be a crusader, frequently intolerant of what he conceives to be injustice or evil. Unfortunately, he is usually tactless, making enemies unneccessarily and, thus, becoming an embarrassment to the church.

1 comment:

Warren said...

There's even an intentional nod towards Catholic priestly celibacy:

"If by now you are contemplating the advantages of clerical celibacy (which would not be an unreasonable reaction considering the problems involved in your
selection), dismiss such thoughts at once.

Protestant Christians expect their clergy to marry. The folklore of the trade holds that it is necessary for a minister to marry
in order to set an example of Christian family life.

You will want to pretend that this is true, just as you will find it expedient to pretend that you dwell in a state of marital bliss the calm waters of which are
never rippled by a cross word, let alone a quarrel. The nervous strain involved in such pretensions is of awesome proportions, and is known to have pushed parsonage wives into emotional breakdowns and turned parsonage children into
church hating delinquents."

Too true. :-)