Look to Tradition

The Case for Electing Bishops


Across Canada and the United States, many Catholic dioceses are without bishops, and nearly thirty more could be without bishops this year if all those eligible to retire do so. Vacancies are piling up as the system that produces appointments is increasingly backlogged. But that system-in which the nuncio collaborates to produce a terna, a list of three candidates whose names are sent to Rome for examination before the pope makes the final decision-presents problems more severe than an excessive workload. The system fell apart in early January in Poland in a spectacular and ugly way. There, the pope appointed Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus to Warsaw, only to see Wielgus resign just before his installation because of a massive controversy that erupted when it came to light that he had collaborated with the Communists when they were in power. Two aspects of this tale are especially egregious: First, Wielgus was already a bishop and thus had passed Rome’s scrutiny when he was appointed in 1999. Second, even when these revelations came to light and the massive outcry grew, Rome vigorously defended the appointment and initially refused to back down. When it finally did so, its spokesman, Federico Lombardi, SJ, issued a statement crankily blaming unnamed “persecutors of the past and other adversaries” for the fiasco. The whole affair undermines trust in the Roman system, which obviously failed to scrutinize Wielgus...

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About the Author

Adam A. J. DeVille