The Pope (or another Bishop) is just a man

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI announced a new bishop for our diocese. I was so happy that I made the new bishop’s picture my desktop background image. Upon doing so, I’ve been asked why by a non-Catholic. I’ve been told that the new bishop, and even the Pope, is just a man like everyone else and it seems silly to be so excited about it or to have him as a background image. What are some good responses to that?

I’ve already mentioned that while the Pope and the bishops are men, they are also the successors of the apostles and are the shepherds of the Church here on Earth. I’ve also mentioned that people love to put pictures up of other people (sports stars, movie stars, etc.) but that seems normal. For me, I think it’s better to be excited about a faithful religious leader than a star of pop culture. Aside from these thoughts, are there others I could use if/when this comes up again?

Thank you!

I think you pretty much said at all. protestants dont have the understanding of the Church and the leaders, so they dont care. we cannot make them see what we see, so just ignore them.
for us Catholics is different. we honor the Saints, the Apostles and their successors to this day. protestants have none of that so they cannot understand it.

continue doing what you are doing. you are honoring the one leader and showing appreciation for him. good for you.

Personally I would ask why they had no issue with me (or someone else) using a movie star, musician, sports hero or my children as a background but then have an isue with me (or anyone) using a man that has devouted his life to God. Would they prefer Paris Hilton? And if so why?

It might give them pause to reflect upon their own priorities…

Just a thought.

God bless…

You mentioned your co-worker was non-Catholic, so I don’t know if they are some other type of religious or agnostic. I would then also ask “why do people put up pictures of these other famous people?” It is because they admire them or enjoy watching what they do for a living or are proud of them or appreciate them or (maybe in a secret way) want to really be like them. I would then say that all of these might apply to a true sucessor of the Apostles. This may be a great chance to educate someone in the faith or invite them to find out more about it.

P.S. - Your new bishop, unless I miss my guess, is our old Pastor. I think you are going to find him a humble, holy man (who would probably blush if he new he was your computer background!)

Agreed, the pope/bishops are men. However, they are leaders in their area of expertise. The are what I would call “very beautiful” people. Inner beauty that is.

Now that might not go well for you if you just tell them that you think the bishop is beautiful. Especially if you are a single guy. :stuck_out_tongue: However, you can mention that you see something in him that you admire. As the others have said… like having a poster of Micheal Jordan. But I might continue further and mention that true beauty comes from the inside, and that these are very beautiful people. Very Loving people who care for many.


The Pope, a bishop, or even a normal priest for that matter are not “just” men. When they receive holy orders, there is a “change” so to speak that happens in their souls. They become an “Alter Christus” (spelling may be wrong): Another Christ. And when a priest becomes a bishop there is another change. Only a bishop can consecrate a priest, by his authority. I don’t fully understand it all, but priests, bishops, and our Beloved Holy Father are no longer mere men. Christ resides in them as He cannot in a layperson/religious.

I think you said all you could. I mean, Michael Jordan is just a man, but people put up posters and cardboard cut-outs all over the place. Well, they used to. You know what i mean.

Much better to be excited about faith matters. Congrats on the new bishop. May he lead you all well! :slight_smile:

Thank you, all, for the responses! By the way, TheDoctor, the new bishop is for the Harrisburg Diocese and is from Philadelphia. His name is Joseph McFadden. I was at his weekday Mass the day they announced him as bishop, and he indeed seemed very nice. I’m excited to have him here!

Apagano, while I understand what you’re saying and appreciate the suggestion, I’m not sure that’s the best way to explain things right off the bat to a non-Catholic (specifically a non-denominational Christian). They tend to not understand or agree with the concept of Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession, so claiming that a priest is “Another Christ” (or physically standing in on Earth for Jesus) would likely turn them off from the rest of the conversation. I think that would be something I’d want to bring up much further into the conversation when I’ve started to make some headway in getting them to understand the Catholic viewpoint.

Could argue from the Apostolic fathers:

I found a few quotes from Bishop Ignatius of Antioch’s letters to 2 (of 7) churches. He was an Apostolic father writing somewhere ~98-117 AD. Seems he taught a high regard for the Bishop.

Ignatius to the Ephesians 1:3,
seeing then that in God’s name I have received your whole multitude in the person of Onesimus, whose love passeth utterance and who is moreover your bishop [in the flesh]—and I pray that ye may love him according to Jesus Christ and that ye all may be like him; for blessed is He that granted unto you according to your deserving to have such a bishop.
Ignatius to the Ephesians 6:1,
And in proportion as a man seeth that his bishop is silent, let him fear him the more. For every one whom the Master of the household sendeth to be steward over His own house, we ought so to receive as Him that sent him. Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself.
Ignatius to the Magnesians 6:1,
Seeing then that in the aforementioned persons I beheld your whole people in faith and embraced them, I advise you, be ye zealous to do all things in godly concord, the bishop presiding after the likeness of God and the presbyters after the likeness of the council of the Apostles, with the deacons also who are most dear to me, having been entrusted with the diaconate of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the worlds and appeared at the end of time.
Ignatius to the Magnesians 6:2,
Therefore do ye all study conformity to God and pay reverence one to another; and let no man regard his neighbour after the flesh, but love ye one another in Jesus Christ always. Let there be nothing among you which shall have power to divide you, but be ye united with the bishop and with them that preside over you as an ensample and a lesson of incorruptibility.
Ignatius to the Magnesians 13:2,
Be obedient to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was to the Father [according to the flesh], and as the Apostles were to Christ and to the Father, that there may be union both of flesh and of spirit.

I only searched 2/7 letters, there is more about this in his other letters, if you’re interested I’ll post more.

We have to be careful how we put this, in order not to be misunderstood. Yes, only Bishops can ordain priests, but it is by their authority given to them by Christ in succession.

In one sense, yes, they are mere men, in the sense of being human beings just like the rest of us. But they are men of God. :thumbsup:

I guess another way to put it is that it’s the position, rather than simply the individual that occupies that position, which we conside special.

All good responses. Good luck and keep the conversation cordial even if others want to take it elsewhere sometime. It never hurts to read up more about the Pope, Saints, or your Bishop and just tell people that you admire them for reasons X, Y, and Z.

You coworkers claim that your bishop is “just a man” is a comment that lacks meaning and fails to comprehend why any picture of any human has ever been taken. Afterall, would he prefer you put up a picture of a dog or something? And if so, why?, since all dogs are just dogs. He misses the point. Putting a picture up of someone indicates that the person holds a special place of honor for you. While it is true that all men are men, not all men are your Bishop and your bishop may inspire you or whatever and holds a special place of honor in relation to you than do other people. That position of honor uniquely distinguishes the Bishop from all other men, and placing his picture up testifies to that unique place of honor he holds. As an example, President Obama is “just a man”, but he is also President of the US and the first African American to be so. Being your president means he holds a special place of honor for you and through that special honor he is distinguished from other men.
Im sure you realize that everything that I stated is perfectly obvious to you without my having stated it. It is no less obvious to your co-worker, but he probably has a bias which he is not comfortable articulating directly to you so he introduced this red herring to “discuss” it. Once the discussion begins you will see how quickly the conversation turns from the appropriateness of putting a picture of someone up to what is wrong with the Catholic Church and why you should not consider the Bishop worthy of special recognition.


Does he put up any pictures in his work space - say, of his wife and children, or of someone important to him? If so, just say, “Well, I happen to admire him in the same way that you admire (the person he has a picture of).”

Seeing as a bishop is a father to everyone in his diocese, you’re just putting up a family picture. :slight_smile:

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