Rock reports today on a possible “Jenny Craig” solution to Ireland’s bishops and dioceses. Math from the loggia:
Ireland: 26 dioceses for 4.5 million Catholics.
Los Angeles: one for 4.3 million.
SoCal’s seven bishops (one ordinary) compare to 23 Emerald Isle high hats (three vacancies).
The particulars of one proposal are laid out here in the Irish Times. Irish Catholics know the situation on the ground better than I, but a few things about this comparison bother me. I’m not convinced the big American metro areas have the best solution for Catholic governance. In fact, I’m sure that LA, NY, Chicago and others shouldn’t be emulated too closely.
Some dioceses may be too big. Some bishops may not be up to the task of pastoring. Cardinal George is one prelate I’ve thought has been stretched too thin with his humongous see, his many committee commitments, and the occasional sex predator on the loose in Chicagoland.
I’ve been asking for years where in the New Testament (Timothy? Titus? Bueller?) we have the precedent for assistant fathers, for associate shepherds, for “husbands” in training. Maybe Augustine or Ambrose would have been even better cutting their episcopal teeth in the boonies of present-day Libya or Sardinia. If an archbishop needs a few auxiliaries, maybe it’s time to subdivide the large sees.
A good rule of thumb for an ordinary might be the number of parishes the chief shepherd can visit fruitfully and effectively within a year. Juneau, Alaska’s nine might be too small. But closer to the ideal than a few hundred in the world’s big metro areas.