Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Congregationalist ultramontanism

A fascinating little column by George Weigel which showed up in today's Catholic Exchange newsletter.
The Coming Crisis in Episcopal Leadership. He crunches the numbers and finds that the US will need at least 217 new bishops between now and 2025. But that's not all, he finds fault with the current system of episcopal appointments.
In the mid-19th century, the Pope had a free choice of bishops in a small minority of dioceses around the world; today, the Pope enjoys the freedom to appoint bishops in the great majority of dioceses in the world. This remarkable freedom, unprecedented in Catholic history, is one of the signal accomplishments of Vatican diplomacy since the French Revolution.
Moreover, there is virtually no consultation on the appointment of bishops with knowledgeable members of the Church outside the ranks of the clergy (and such consultation is exceedingly rare with the lower clerical orders). Reformed, evangelically-focused criteria for judging a man's fitness for the office of bishop, for which many rightly called in the wake of the Crisis of 2002, do not seem to have been devised, much less implemented.

And all of this is happening — or, better, not happening — at a moment when episcopal credibility remains the most severe casualty of the Long Lent of five years ago.

The risk of business-as-usual? Congregationalist ultramontanism, if you'll pardon the phrase: a Catholic Church in America in which people love their parish priests, love the Pope — and have little sense of connection to the local bishop. That's not what Vatican II intended in its reform of the episcopate, nor is it what Christ intended for his Church.

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