Sunday, 3 March 2013

How are Catholic bishops chosen?

The sad news about Cardinal O'Brien brings to mind other "problems" with bishops and archbishops who have resigned in different places. Not only that, but to be honest, we surely have to recognise less scandalous failures - but important ones - on the part of bishops. How are bishops chosen? I have often wondered about this. Are most bishops chosen from the ranks of ex-bishop's secretaries or from those who work in Curias or from the ranks of Vicars General? It often seems that a gift for administration is paramount. Should that be the case? Please understand I am not criticising any particular bishop, whether he has come from the ranks of administrators or not, but recent failures and scandals surely prompts questions about whether the usual process of choosing bishops needs to be changed, overhauled or simply torn up.
Scotland must be reeling just now. I remember, of course, the case of Roddy Wright. In the United States there have been serious problems with some top ranking archbishops and bishops. leaving aside major scandals, serious disagreements among bishops has caused delays and bad decisions. Disobedience has also played a part in causing lesser scandals and difficulties in the universal Church. Perhaps the process of choosing bishops is another thing a new Pope will have to deal with.


  1. Is it not a fact that compared with thirty years ago, the 'selectors' are fishing in a much smaller pool of talent. The same applies to senior posts in Catholic Schools. This demands extra care in finding the right person for the task, which may explain the inordinate delays in appointing new bishops in England and Wales. How long has East Anglia been waiting?
    To digress: how about a root and branch reorganisation of the National Diocesan Structure? In E.and W. we now have far too many dioceses for the number of Catholics. How about a Diocese of
    Yorkshire: the whole three Ridings on 1974 boundaries(let the Nottingham bit of Hallam go
    back home to Nottingham.)
    Leeds would be the logical site for the Cathedral with Vicars Apostolic in Sheffield, Hull, Midlesbrough and York. Bishop Drainey
    could take over as Bishop tomorrow. No more searching for non-existent talent.

  2. Thanks. I don't usually like to post anonymous comments, but this is a good one. I suppose it depends on what we expect a bishop to do. having more bishops makes them pastorally accessible. One bishop for such a huge area would mean that some people hardly if ever see him. But I do agree with the "lack of talent" suggestion up to a point - that being that all too often those who select bishops look in the wrong places.(I am not volunteering)