Q: What role, as a bishop, do you play in Catholic education?

A: Thank you for this question for as a successor of the first Apostles, I do not just govern (administrate), sanctify (offer blessing), I also have the responsibility to teach or share our faith with our fellow brothers and sisters. This entails a number of approaches, one of which is obvious to defend the Deposit of Faith. What does that mean? Think about it: When you have money in the bank you are keeping it safe, so that it does not disappear or diminish. Of course, the investment of which I speak of our faith has eternal consequences and is much greater than any material goods we have here on earth.

Another practice is that I share our faith with others through both my words and my actions. You see, in the Creed that we profess every Sunday, and for many of us each day, these are not just words that a bunch of people in our Church came up with over 15 centuries ago. No, what we proclaim, we are meant to live. In doing so, I as a teacher am sort of a “spiritual enabler,” in that I assist people to further delve into their faith. Our faith is not simply a bunch of do’s and don’ts in a book and a bunch of prayers invented by a number of individuals over time. No, all of this of which I just spoke communicates the very relationship into which our Lord Jesus Christ has invited us. In other words, all of our teaching centers on Jesus Christ.

Finally, and the one that tends to get bishops the most press, is when we have to stand up for the faith in times when it is not culturally or socially popular. That is the time when we have our integrity and courage tested. As a teacher, I constantly encourage us to reach out to the defenseless, such as our to-be-born brothers and sisters as well as those in the final days of their life. Their dignity of life is no less than yours or mine and merits our protection. Also, we reach out to our brothers and sisters who are poor; namely, have lost their jobs or are disenfranchised from or marginalized by our society. These brothers and sisters need our help as most often comes in our own self-sacrifice of time, treasure and talent. As you read in the paper or online, you see that there are other areas where the bishop, as teacher, will “take a hit” by members of our society who do not just disagree with the Church’s position but lower their method to a level of insult and/or vindictiveness. Of course, none of us can take ourselves to that level for it is our Lord Jesus who has reminded us to be patient, as well as courageous, just as the saints before us found themselves in challenging times.

I am honored to be your bishop, and I joyfully embrace the task of teacher. How can one not be delighted to assist the growth of our Church in the faith handed over to us by the Son of God, Jesus Christ himself?

Q: During the prayers at Mass, it says, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” I thought we were judged once at our death and that judgment was final. Are we judged again?

A: Thank you for the segue from the first question, for you address the very Creed which we proclaim at Mass. You rightly point out that together we profess in the Creed that Jesus Christ truly “will return to judge the living and the dead.” Reference we have here is that regardless of who you and I happen to be, we will sit before the judgment seat of the Lord to answer to how we lived our lives consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or not.

This is not meant to frighten us into blind faith, but to remind us that Jesus has entrusted us with our lives and with one another for which we have personal responsibility. Jesus has given us life as well as the gift of eternal life. We are asked to respond in a grateful and loving manner.

Before I get off the point of your question, I now address the question of being judged more than once. Do not worry, we do not live life in double jeopardy in which we could be judged a second time. God will not second guess his judgment on you and me. In the end, at the final judgment when Jesus Christ returns to our world for the final judgment, this will bring to conclusion the judgment of the human race and the complete destruction of evil. Not one of us will be overlooked, for each of us is responsible for our conduct.

How fortunate we are that we have a Savior who loves us so dearly and so deeply that he gave his life for us, in order that there is hope for us at the final judgment. It is quite clear that not one of us can save ourselves. Yet through a little baby born in a manger in Bethlehem to our Mother in Faith, Mary, and her husband, Jesus’ foster dad, Joseph, we witness firsthand that with God nothing is impossible.

Q: If God gives you forgiveness in confession and it’s done again, will you be forgiven again if it was an accident?

A: Most of us have learned in school or in parish school of religion that Jesus Christ gave us seven “ultimate gifts of grace” or sacraments of which the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is one. In confession, we do not just have our “souls marked clean of sin,” but Jesus fills that vacant space with grace, enabling us to be better people, in other words, to be more like him. This sacrament cannot be replicated by anything we human beings craft or conjure in our words and action. While it is always good each day to reflect on the events of our day and to ask God to forgive us for the times when we have misbehaved through our words and actions, this still cannot replace the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

You had mentioned, of course, in your question, what if we do the sin again, which I believe many of us know is not terribly uncommon! While I will not get into my own sins or transgressions, please know that yes, even your bishop goes to confession to a priest.

Frequently those sins of which we are constantly guilty are a reminder that perhaps we have made these sins a habit in our lives and should be addressed more thoroughly in order that we do not do the sin again. We should never resign ourselves to the misunderstanding that we cannot stop sinning (committing) the same sin. That would be, of course, what the Devil wishes for us to do. Yes, there is a Devil, but that would be for another “ATB” question.

You mentioned performing a sin by accident. Actually, for an action to be a sin, it must be deliberate. That does not disavow us of never doing wrong things by accident. We must ask ourselves if we put ourselves in a situation in which something may go wrong.

ow blessed we are to have such a great sacrament which has been handed on to us by 
Jesus Christ and is shared through the priests of our Church. Remember the next time you go to confession you are going to a priest who also is a sinner and needs God’s mercy. All the more reason that God’s mercy and love will be shared with you in the confessional.

May the Savior and Redeemer of our human race bless you and your loved ones as we celebrate the great Feasts of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Our Church extends beyond the people who walk this earth, for she also includes all the people who have gone before us and whose souls are now with God.

To “Ask the Bishop,” write: Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952, attention, Joseph M. Taylor. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator for the diocese, also can be emailed questions, jtaylor@diosteub.org.