Monday, May 14, 2012

Cardinal Marc Ouellete On The Qualities Of The Modern Bishop---And Puzzlement That Priests Are Saying "No Thanks"


Cardinal Marc Ouellete is surprised priests are turning down promotion to bishop. I'm not. What sane priest wants to be part of this kind of 'pastoral' work?


A while back, I came across an article that quoted Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.  The article was a series of reflections on his first year as Prefect.  There was one statement I've found very intriguing and it has stayed with me for months.  He stated one of the surprises was the number of men who turn down promotion to bishop. The following is an excerpt from an article in Catholic News Ireland which has this observation:

RC priests reluctant to become bishops

An intimate of the present Pope, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Canadian, has just completed his first year as prefect of the congregation for bishops – the man who short lists possible bishops for appointment. In the interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper he reveals that more priests turn down preferment that he could have expected.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet was interviewed for “Avvenire,” the newspaper owned by the Italian episcopal conference.
In the interview, he revealed among other things that it often happens, “more than I could have expected,” that the candidate chosen to be made a bishop does not accept the appointment.
He indicated the reasons for such refusals in the growing difficulty of fulfilling the role, in a society in which the bishops are under public attack, “in part as a result of the scandals and charges concerning sexual abuse.”
As for career ambitions – the cardinal cautioned – if a priest or a bishop aspires and maneuvers to be promoted to a prominent diocese, “it is better for him to stay where he is.”
And he concluded the interview by sketching the profile of the bishop the Church needs most today. A bishop who is at the same time a theologian and an apologist, a public defender of the faith:
“Today, especially in the context of our secularized societies, we need bishops who are the first evangelizers, and not mere administrators of dioceses. Who are capable of proclaiming the Gospel. Who are not only theologically faithful to the magisterium and the pope, but are also capable of expounding and, if need be, of defending the faith publicly.”
This profile of the bishop as theologian and “defensor fidei” fits Cardinal Ouellet himself perfectly.

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There a number of statements from Cardinal Ouellete that are disturbing to say the least.  I have my doubts as to whether the abuse crisis and the less than flattering news coverage it has engendered is the main reason men are turning down promotion to bishop.  I can't help but wonder if this has far more to do with the final statements of Cardinal Ouellet in which he states bishops must be theologically faithful to the Magisterium and the pope and become professional apologists.  Cardinal Ouellete even puts an emphasis on proclaiming the Gospels, but says zero about living the Gospels.  Oh, and lest I forget, the word pastoral never even comes up.  

So much for the insight of St Francis: "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words." Or: "It is no use walking anywhere to preach, unless our walking is our preaching."  No, it sure looks like our bishops are to follow the insight of Newt Gingrich who says people don't care what he does, just what he says. I'm not thinking the original Jesus movement would have lasted very long if Jesus just talked His talk and hadn't done more than a few things to back up all His talk.  My how things have changed.  Perhaps secularism isn't the threat the Church wants us to believe it is.  Perhaps the real threat is a leadership who thinks loud defensive ranting is somehow more effective than quietly living the Gospel and actually converting hearts as well as minds.

Sadder still is the thought that Cardinal Ouellete is considered a front runner in the papal sweepstakes. Part of this is due to his long association with Pope Benedict and part of it due to his current position.  No question he has a lot of say in who becomes part of the Magisterium and who doesn't.  That's got to help his chances. On the other hand,  I imagine it is difficult for him to deal well with men saying 'thanks, but no thanks' when it comes to becoming part of his exalted club.  I can also imagine he finds it much easier to blame this trend on the news coverage surrounding the abuse crisis rather than to think a little deeper---deep enough to consider it might also have something to do with the demands of Cardinal Ouellete's style of blind obedience to the Magisterium and papacy which was directly responsible for the abuse crisis.  

But then just maybe this problem with priests saying "NO" is all about thinking feeling committed Catholic priests don't want to be part of a system where the price of conformity is their souls.  Just maybe.

10 comments:

  1. Though I agree that many who refuse are doing so because they like the idea of Conscience and don't want to surrender it for a pretty dress, I believe there is another factor in play as well.

    For myself, I would refuse any promotion that included the russian roulette of getting called up in front of the cameras because some slimy former employee diddled little kids a decade before I showed up (and, considering how systemic this 'problem' appears, it's a matter of when, not if, that gun goes off).

    And then I'm told it's a non-negotiable job element to publicly defend the b-d and cover up for my bosses?! Think again!

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    1. I wondered if Cardinal Ouellete didn't actually have your second point in mind. I know I wouldn't want to do it, and I sure wouldn't relish the first week when you know your going to get to read all those files you really don't want to read.

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  2. While I agree with you on the lack of pastoral qualities, Colleen: At least Ouellet is noticing the more highly educated laity and responding to that with an attempt to promote the theologically-grounded.
    Veronica

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    1. Maybe when he was still in Canada he ran into p2p. :)

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    2. No. I have never met Oullet. He is a learned man. In 2007 he apologized on behalf of the church in Canada. Among the errors he wrote about were attitudes, prior to 1960, which promoted "anti-Semitism, racism, indifference to First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals." At the time I thought he hit all the right notes.

      If ever there is an example of how orthodox, conservative Catholics in power should not behave it is in Quebec. The results are clear. Quebec, almost exclusively Catholic, went from most religious to least religious place in Canada in a generation. Authoritarians are not very insightful about their own behavior. They're either at your feet or at your throat. I don't think Oulette is naturally an authoritarian and probably would not be favored by those with those fascist tendencies in the Vatican.

      p2p's 2p

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  3. Ouellet doesn't appear to notice that not many priests are willing to sell their souls to apologize for the institutional sickness besetting the Catholic Church.

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    1. Or like Time points out, he does know and that's the basis of his reference to the abuse crisis having an impact.

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  4. ...I can also imagine he finds it much easier to blame this trend on the news coverage surrounding the abuse crisis rather than to think a little deeper---deep enough to consider it might also have something to do with the demands of Cardinal Ouellete's style of blind obedience to the Magisterium and papacy which was directly responsible for the abuse crisis.

    Yep, sharks don't show up for very long unless you keep chumming the water.

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    1. Interesting way of making the point John.

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  5. "So much for the insight of St Francis: "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words." "

    So much indeed, given there's no evidence he ever said those words, but ample evidence that he preached widely, forcefully, and often!

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