Although the number is not high, it is no longer “exceptional” to have priests turn down an appointment as bishop, according to Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
- Catholic News Service
Speaking yesterday about the annual course his office sponsors for new bishops, the Cardinal was asked about rumours that more and more priests are saying they do not want to be a bishop and declining an appointment even when the Pope, on the recommendation of Cardinal Ouellet’s office, has chosen them.
“Yes, that’s true. Nowadays you have people who do not accept the appointment,” he said, adding that he would not provide statistics on how often it happens, although he insisted the number was not huge.
Priests decline for a variety of reasons, Cardinal Ouellet said, pointing to the example of a priest who was chosen, but then informed the congregation that he had cancer and had not told others of his illness. “It was a sign of responsibility not to accept the appointment,” he said.
Others decline because of something in their past or because they think they cannot handle the responsibility, he said. In the latter case, he said, “normally we insist” because often people are not the best judges of their own abilities. But when a person makes “a decision in conscience,” the Vatican respects that.
As for the type of priests Pope Francis and the congregation are looking for as candidates, Cardinal Ouellet said the Pope “has insisted on the pastoral quality of the bishops. That’s very clear. It does not mean that they do not have to be masters of the faith because a bishop is, first and foremost, the first teacher of the faith in his diocese.”
“But the capacity to relate to people, to establish dialogue, to start from the point where people are – this is a quality that is also requested,” the Cardinal said.
Pope Francis’ “charism is to be very compassionate, very close to people, but at the same time, he knows where he leads people: to our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
Cardinal Ouellet also confirmed that since at least 2010, the confidential questionnaire sent to local bishops and priests asking about a potential candidate for bishop includes a question about whether the potential candidate ever was in a position of having to handle an accusation of clerical sexual abuse made against another priest or church worker.
Photo: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn places a mitre on Auxiliary Bishop James Massa during his 2015 episcopal ordination (CNS)