Our diocese has been without a bishop for some time now, ever since our last bishop stepped down for medical reasons. Of course we pray for a new appointment, and in the meantime there are certain episcopal duties which must be carried out by visiting bishops who have assisted our diocese in matters such as ordinations and the like. But even in the absence of a bishop, our diocese continues to function. Masses are said, Sacraments are offered, and the bills are paid. We are still the Catholic Church in our region, just as we always were. Being without a bishop does not change what the Church is.
Thinking about this situation in our local church made me remember a rather poor argument sometimes made by Protestants against the papacy. They point to periods in history when the See of Rome was vacant, and they claim that these gaps in the papacy demonstrate a break in the line of Apostolic Succession from Peter down through the line of popes. Supposedly, when the papacy sits vacant too long, the Catholic claim to historic succession crumbles. The Catholic Church ceases to be.
Of course this is ludicrous. Whenever the papacy has been vacant (even for a year or more, due to war or some other impediment), the Church certainly mourns this lack of a shepherd, but no one can claim that the next bishop of Rome is somehow invalidated. The office of bishop may be empty, but the office is still a reality that continues to exist even when vacant - it does not disappear when the man occupying it dies or steps down. And the Church he formerly served does not dissolve upon his demise.
In the case of our local bishop: his successor will not be invalidated by the vacancy that we currently have in our diocese. No one could logically claim that the next bishop is a false bishop simply because we have gone for a year or more without one. We are still the same church, the same flock, awaiting our next shepherd. So too, the bishop of Rome is a shepherd to his flock. And when that post is empty, (no matter how long it is empty), the papacy still stands and always has.
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Ha ha!! This picture was pretty funny, especially considering what a mess Anglicanism has been over the past several years. I just had to share:
I think I might start sharing a picture every week, like the one above, in the Monday Musings post, just to break the monotony of so many words.
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Last week was a lazy week for me. I am committing myself to post more this week! We'll see if I can do it. ;)