Protestants do not receive nearly the credit they should for seeing 500 years ago what George Weigel recently observed (and it took Hillary Clinton — a Methodist).
First, marriage can be a good thing:
The Church’s unique, Christ-given structure invests great authority in bishops. And that, in turn, puts a high premium on the ability of the bishop to know his weaknesses and learn from his mistakes. But to know and learn from his weaknesses and mistakes, the bishop has to recognize them – or be invited to recognize them, if one of a number of vices prevents him from seeing himself making mistakes. Wives and children do this charitable correction for husbands and fathers. But Catholic bishops don’t get that form of correction because they don’t have wives and children. So it has to come from somewhere else.
Second, regular assemblies of clergy (think presbyteries or classes) also have their advantages:
“Fraternal correction” among bishops is an ancient and honorable tradition in the Church. Patristic-era bishops practiced it with some vigor, the most famous case being the controversy between Cyprian of Carthage and Stephen, Bishop of Rome. Today, bishops’ respect for each other’s autonomy tends to mitigate against the practice of fraternal correction. Still, if “affective collegiality” means anything, it ought to mean having enough care for a brother-bishop, no matter his position in the episcopal college, to suggest to him that he is off-course, if that is one’s conscientious judgment, tempered by prayer.
Fraternal correction is a delicate instrument, to be used with care. If its use completely atrophies, however, the Church risks becoming an ecclesiastical version of Clintonworld.
Hello! The conciliarists of the 15th century knew this. But when you hold on to “venerable” institutions, it’s hard to change (or admit when you do).