24 Aug 2016 Americas Europe Middle East - Africa News USA Vatican No comments

Pray For Italy: Earthquake in central Italy leaves at least 37 dead

A strong earthquake hit central Italy early on Wednesday, leaving at least 37 people dead, according to Italy’s civil protection agency. The magnitude six ea…

Read more

07 Oct 2014 Vatican No comments

Synod14: Full Text of Second General Congregation

Below is a translation of the Second General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops held Monday afternoon in the Vatican *** SYNOD 14 Summary Synod 14…

Read more

17 Aug 2016 Q&A No comments

Should we kneel at Mass?

Full Question I attend mass at the Newman Center of my college here in the United States. There are no kneelers and no one kneels. Should we kneel at Mass?…

Read more

22 Dec 2016 News No comments

Pope names first woman to head Vatican Museums

Barbara Jatta has been serving as vice-director of the museums since June Pope Francis has chosen, for the first time, a woman to head the Vatican Museums. …

Read more

27 Jan 2016 News Vatican No comments

Circus performers steal Vatican audience

“I think about so many brothers and sisters who are estranged from their families; they don’t speak to each other. Let the Year of Mercy be the time to end all …

Read more

20 Oct 2014 Articles Q&A Comments (12)

Does God have a body?

Of course not ! Though we read in the bible of God's arm, eyes, hand, his face etc. These are simply figurative ways of trying to speak of God's utter simpli…

Read more

10 Oct 2014 Articles Comments (24)

Are Catholics Born Again?

At least every mainstream Christian knows that to be saved one must be born again. Jesus says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot …

Read more

05 Nov 2015 Asia-Pacific News No comments

Philippine Bishops ban Usage of Ivory in the church

  The usage of Ivory in churches have been a thing of beauty to decorate the church with art works made out of them (like statues), but the Philippine Bis…

Read more

06 Apr 2016 Articles Comments (2)

Gossip: The worst Behavior of the Church today

"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?" The question posed by Jesus shakes the conscience of e…

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