More On Bishops

I noticed a Friday bit on the whispered “page three,” regarding San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy. I first registered Rocco’s comment, ” about fierce, years-long campaign by some progressives, any illusion of +Bob McElroy as Abp of Washington has now effectively imploded.” In the current climate, I’d think nearly every “campaign” has been suspended. If somebody was close to picking up a US diocese, I can imagine that even the Congregation of Bishops is checking dossiers on any possible connection to guys with skeletons in their closets.

My second thought would be, “What progressives?” Certainly not your host here. I’ve likely alienated a few lurkers with my occasional but consistent suggestions that bishops be selected from the clergy of the diocese. For a significant situation of disaster, I could appreciate a priest from another diocese being named. But mostly, I think bishops could have a minimum age of sixty, sixty-five. They could be appointed after a long period of experience as a parish pastor, and well-regarded by the people of a diocese. A younger bishop might have a term limit of about a decade, then return to parish service.

Then I clicked on the link Rocco provided, a letter from recently deceased psychotherapist Richard Sipe. The contents are pretty brutal. I don’t know how it paints Bishop McElroy. Did Mr Sipe send letters to other bishops? Does San Diego have a reach into the East Coast?

Most troubling for me was the account of behavior of one of my former bishops, now deceased. Originally, I thought I’d comment more in depth on this, but it’s not a topic I believe I have anything significant to add.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to More On Bishops

  1. Liam says:

    Who has been dubbed a “progressive” in the American Catholic episcopate has dialed notably rightward since the early 1980s. How easy it is for people to forget.

    One other aspect of this current spate of unveilings (but not nuptially apocalyptic….) is how it should remind us that laity should not be viewed with magical thinking about grace to acts as light-shedders either, as it’s in the nature of clerical-congregational relationships that grooming and bonding happens in a way that can deepens closets of secrecy.

    I’ve certainly shared your concerns about the lateral prelatial promotion ladder. My usual bleats have been to remind Catholics that our current process for selection of bishops is relatively new in historical terms (dating effectively to the concordat between Rome and the new Kingdom of Belgium in the 1830s, when Belgium was a newly created country of Catholics under a constitutional monarch from a small German Protestant dynasty) and can and should be changed. Involving laity in the nomination process (and acceptance process on the back end – the lone residue of which still exists in non-legal form in the acclamation of a new Roman pontiff), the presbyterate (and ideally religious) in the election process, Rome in the confirmation process, and the use of lots at various stages to throw a wrench into machinations – the last point not only inspired by Acts 1:26, but also the centuries-long example of the Republic of Venice, which no less than S. E. Finer, the great comparative historian of governments around the world, considered the best-governed state in the world for roughly five centuries. The Venetian republic also had two other important practices: a cursus honorum that made eligible families responsible for the training of the next generation of governors into a fiduciary mindset, and a remorseless audit after governors left office – these helped nurture a communal sense of accountability and responsibility that was extraordinary as compared to any other governmental model.

    By contrast, the current Roman model relies all too heavily on magical thinking about grace (particular what was long called the “grace of state” – that is, that God gives each of us the graces needed to fulfill the state of life in which we find ourselves put).

    • Liam says:

      PS for readers unfamiliar with the mechanics of the Venetian system, here’s a readable summary:

      • Liam says:

        And a PPS to thank link re the mechanisms of the Venetian republic: it’s not surprising to me that they matured during the High Middle Ages of Europe – in the 13th century. People today forget that, while monarchy was the principal form of sovereignty in the European Middle Ages, it was *not* the monarchy of the early Modern period. It was a more collegial monarchy that was complemented by a variety of reciprocal relationships and statuses. And that collegiality did not only have deep historical roots in the limited forms of self-governance in the Hellenic city states and Roman republic, but very much in the evolution of self-governance in Western Christian monastic and then religious orders. That is, the Venetian engaged in a critical comparison of the weakest hinge points in self-governance because there was, comparatively speaking, a hefty bit of cultural experience to draw from, of which one important group of threads arose from medieval Catholicism.

        I note this because it’s a mistake for the seemingly pious to imagine that these considerations ought to be relegated to the profane (secular governance), and never intrude on the sacred (Church governance), precisely because they arose together.

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