Over the past few morceaux we’ve been examining the ministry of governance – often known by its Latin name, the munus regendi – which is exercised by bishops and the priests who are their coworkers in the Church. Along with the ministries of teaching and sanctifying, it’s a responsibility of their office.
But not every bishop and priest have the exact same task or personality. I know this seems obvious, but we often conveniently forget it. A bishop is a carbon-copy of no other one, in both personality and job. Priests are not clones of each other, interchangeable as if they were each equally-skilled and as if they all were asked to do the same thing. Just as one bishop may have charge of shepherding an urban diocese and a second the task of leading another, more rural one, and just as one priest may serve as pastor of a big parish and another of a small one – or even in a non-parochial setting – so too do the different personalities of the individuals affect the way they govern in the Church.
Our Holy Father emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, was fond of noting that he, when he was the successor of St. Peter, had a unique role to play and that he could only do so in the way he knew how, using the individual gifts and talents he had. He knew very well that he was not cut from the same cloth as his immediate predecessor, St. John Paul II. Now Pope Francis surely feels the same: he has to “be himself” in his role as Supreme Pontiff, and doesn’t seem to concerned that he approaches his job differently at times.
Where this strikes home, of course, is our natural tendency to assume that all priests, bishops and even popes will be similar in their personalities and vocations. When this doesn’t happen, we may tend to be uncomfortable, rather than rejoicing that so many different clergy can function in unity of faith and religious purpose. What we should be doing is learning from the diversity, not moaning and groaning that no two are alike!