Sometimes you don’t even have to make it up. According to the latest papal Nuncio to Ireland, the witty and urbane American Archbishop Charles Brown, a man straight out of Father Ted, the new Pope wants true shepherds who know their sheep when he appoints bishops in Ireland.
More disturbingly, according to Charlie Brown, he doesn’t want people who are detached from their people, or who want to lord it over their people. He wants shepherds who are with their sheep.
According to Charlie, the Pope wants bishops who have the smell of their sheep on them.
Now, let’s be clear here. We don’t want any sniggering. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a smell of sheep on you, and it certainly beats the hell out of other smells. At least the Pope didn’t say he wanted bishops who smelled of altar boys, God forbid! Or women. Jesus Christ, the very thought of it.
There was a time when lonely rural men in Ireland, Wales and New Zealand found themselves with nobody to turn to but a sheep, so let’s not sneer. A little bit of closeness can be a good thing. It’s better than complete isolation and who’s to say that it can’t lead to a fulfilling relationship? Don’t mock.
Obviously, Pope Francis is turning to the roots of Christianity and turning back to the early gospels when everyone had a sheep or two.
How do educated Christians feel about being treated as sheep? Does this mark a huge change from the attitude of the bishops who treated their people as sheep in the way they dealt with the child abuse scandal?
Well, that wouldn’t be for me to say.