May Faithful Catholics "Criticize" Bishops?
Depends what you mean by "criticize." Deal Hudson, former editor of Crisis magazine, and now director of InsideCatholic.com, offers a qualified yes here.
Hudson: "A Catholic journalist may, therefore, criticize a bishop in editorial fashion so long as he shows respect for the office, maintains a non-offensive tone, and keeps the unity of the Church at the forefront of his mind. As stated in canon 212: ’Expressing opinion . . . should aim at the edification of the Church as a whole, not at its splintering into various groups.’
The Church does not legalistically forbid a Catholic journalist, or any qualified layman, from offering criticism of a bishop. But the Church does require that the criticism not demean the authority of the bishop or his office or create harmful divisions in the Body of Christ."
But the greater problem in the church is not simply disrespecting bishops, it is disrespecting anyone with whom you disagree. For an example of this, check out Michael Sean Winters’ experience, written about in post below. Or the responses to the furor over the recent news about the Vatican’s actions against Roger Haight, SJ, over at Dotcommonweal. Or, well, you can probably fill in the blanks. Too often Catholics writers, bloggers, speakers, authors, commentators forget that being Catholic also means being Christian.
James Martin, SJ