Follow usTwitterFacebook


26 Sep 2016 News No comments

'He saw the priesthood as a gift' - Oldest bishop in the world passes away

Archbishop emeritus Peter Leo Gerety of Newark, the oldest Catholic bishop in the world, passed away Sept. 20 at the age of 104 - 77 years after his ordination …

Read more

02 Jun 2016 Americas Europe Middle East News USA Vatican Comments (2)

A Catholic in Ohio Sentenced to twelve Services in Baptist Church by Judge

An American Catholic who got into a fight with a street preacher has been sentenced to attend services at a Baptist church for 12 Sundays. Judge William Mall…

Read more

11 Jan 2016 News Vatican No comments

Stunning views of the Basilica of St Ignatius of Loyola; as recently captured by drones: Watch

The Sanctuary of Loyola or Shrine and Basilica of Loyola (Spanish: Santuario de Loyola; Basque: Loiolako Santutegia) consists of a series of edifices built in C…

Read more

06 Apr 2016 Articles Comments (9)

The Early Church Fathers: What the Early Church was Like

Q:  What was the early Christian Church like?  Shouldn't we try to be more like it today? To help answer this question, every Christian should be a…

Read more

25 Mar 2015 Q&A Comments (2)

Is it illicit for a priest to sing the words of consecration?

Full Question My understanding is that it is illicit for a priest to sing the words of the consecration. Is it so, and where is it written? Answer …

Read more

24 Mar 2016 Articles Comments (27)

Pope Francis' 13 Warnings against Satan

These are Pope Francis' thirteen (13) most popular warnings against the devil:   1) “When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldlines…

Read more

11 Nov 2014 Q&A Comments (1)

What are Mormons referring to when they talk about "the stick of Joseph"?

Full Question A Mormon missionary has been trying to argue for the Book of Mormon by discussing "the stick of Joseph" and "the stick of Judah." What on ear…

Read more

06 Jan 2017 Articles Comments (3)

Mulling the practical pros and cons of married priests

There are plenty of historical and theological arguments for and against married priests, but few stop to consider the practical pros and cons. Yet Catholicism …

Read more

02 Nov 2014 Articles No comments

Paganism, Prophecies, and Propaganda

Did you know that Catholic bishops are actually high priests of Dagon, the ancient fish deity of the Philistines? You see, the miter the bishop wears is a repli…

Read more
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

If we want better bishops we must first look at our seminaries

  • Written by:
  • 1 Reply

Seminaries need to be replaced with a new way of training our priests

That the Catholic Church needs a better way to select Bishops is a sentiment that every Catholic, I think, could agree with. It is the headline of an article by Robert Mickens in the National Catholic Reporter, which is worth reading for the way it summarises the Pope’s recurring harsh words about bad bishops.

The Pope is a Jesuit, and in the Jesuit tradition it is normal for superiors to pronounce regular ‘exhortations’ directed at their underlings to try and knock them into shape.

In recent times words have been followed up by deeds, and several bishops have been sacked, usually for one of two reasons: financial mismanagement or sexual misconduct (sometimes, no doubt, for both). The sacking of bishops does not really solve the problem, as it is an acknowledgement that the bishops in question should never have been appointed in the first place. What one really needs is a better way of finding good bishops.

The present system essentially relies on what Italians call ‘raccomandazione’, or what we call the old boys network or cronyism. Men get made bishops because bishops recommend them for promotion; it is not what you know, but who you know.

This used to be the way of appointing civil servants to public office in Britain until Gladstone’s great reforming ministry introduced competitive examinations. Competitive examinations are, at least in theory, impartial, and an impartial system of appointments would overcome the widely perceived favouritism that disfigures the current system.

There is something of the Ancien Regime about the way the Vatican works, despite the way the Pope has railed in recent years about the leprosy of courts. Incidentally, the people who work in the Vatican, lay and clerical – how are they appointed? Are they appointed after the same sort of scrutiny used for civil servants in Whitehall and elsewhere?

One thing Mickens mentions only to discount is the election of bishops. This could work, to my mind, but it depends on who does the electing. One bishop who is elected to office is the Bishop of Rome. Conclaves have a good record of producing high quality candidates. Why not have a conclave in each diocese? It was the traditional role of canons to elect the bishop, but canons, sadly, have become more or less purely decorative in the contemporary Church, as far as I can see.

Will the Pope’s words directed at inadequate and bad bishops have any effect? Given that this problem is a perennial one, that long predates the current pontificate, I doubt it. But they certainly highlight the problem the Church faces. At the same time the Pope has spoken about the inadequacies of many priests: there perhaps the solution to the problem lies, for every bishop is drawn from the ranks of the priesthood. We certainly need better bishops, but we will never have them until we have better priests. And as priests come out of seminaries, perhaps that is where the work of reform should start.

Seminaries were established in the wake of the Council of Trent. Perhaps they have had their day and need to be replaced by some other method of training men for the priesthood which involves living in the community. Then perhaps we may have a better chance of getting pastors who, as the Pope loves to put it, “smell of the sheep”.



1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Hmm very interesting. I’m a bit surprised that the Church would publicly admit that its processes are essentially corrupt. From this we can conclude that Bishops are of low quality, and the Church does not operate in an ethical and efficient fashion.
    Then there’s the problem that you have a smaller and smaller pool of good people to draw from as the next generation shuns the hostility and manic sexual obsession of the Church, such that you lose them and their kids.
    There certainly appears to be no divine inspiration!

Leave a Reply

  1. most read post
  2. Most Commented
  3. Choose Categories