Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Collaborative Exercise of Ministry

Bishop Tim McDonnell of Springfield -- who, as a priest in New York, helped clean up Covenant House and took charge of his diocese under similarly unsavory circumstances -- shows that his knack for being a good manager continues apace:
Two years after the head of the Springfield Diocese resigned amid allegations of sexual abuse, the current bishop is reaching out to laity and clergy for names of possible candidates for appointments as bishops.

McDonnell... recently sent letters to all priests, deacons and some women religious.

Also, at least some pastors were asked to invite several lay people from each parish to participate in the process. McDonnell invited them to suggest priests who might warrant consideration to become bishops serving somewhere in the U.S. Catholic Church.

If memory serves, Springfield has had auxiliaries in the past.
"I am asking that you name three priests, in order of your preference, which you, in conscience before God, judge might be worthy candidates for the Office of Bishop," McDonnell wrote in the letter.

He included a one-page list of qualifications and attributes that should be considered in the process.

OK, despite my better judgment, this one's getting opened for comments. Say you got a letter like this from your bishop. Don't name names. But what qualities would you deem as being of eminent importance?

Please answer the question. No more. No less. And especially no fighting, please.

-30-

12 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

This is easy...

Anyone that you know of who wants to be a bishop, shouldn't be a bishop.

I think the most important quality in a bishop is someone who loves the church, but loves the gospel more.

Someone who knows that God probably laughs when we argue about communion rails.

And someone who is willing to be the bishop of his flock. Not the bishop of EWTN, or the bishop of the NCR, not the Pope's favorite bishop. Rather someone who only asks one question before speaking "Is what I'm saying for the good of the church?".

Oh...one more thing. Someone who has no desire to ever go to another see. Even if the see they are ordained and installed in is one that is in the most backwoods corner of the Earth.

2/2/06 15:27  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

If they can't bear the cross, then they don't deserve the crown.

That being said, in this day and age, the imperial, imperious bishop is not what the church needs. More and more the laity is being called upon to do more than pray, pay and obey. They also need to be treated as adults and talked WITH, not just to. This means consultation, collaboration and respect. Ditto for the overstretched, overworked priests who are the soldiers in the trenches. A good bishop will KNOW this already and not have to learn the hard way.

2/2/06 15:33  
Blogger Bill said...

Should have experience as a parish pastor.

Person known for a balanced spirituality.

Knowledge of scripture, theology, canon law, and management.

Someone who can reach out to various groups and get them pulling in a common direction.

2/2/06 15:44  
Blogger Adam Molnar said...

Someone that understands that scandal and hypocrisy are extremely damaging. In explaining Catholicism to 20-something and 30-something non-Catholics, those issues come up again and again.

Someone with experience in people management. "Because I said so", if it ever really worked, is not the most effective and loving way.

Someone experienced enough with Scripture to debate a good fundamentalist, and someone experienced enough with theological tradition to show why scripture alone falls apart.

Finally, and most importantly, someone kind enough to want to give everyone a rose instead of the thorns.

2/2/06 16:31  
Blogger Jeff said...

I think I would be inclined, rather than exercise my own judgment, to go to the people who ARE good bishops and ask them for recommendations. People like Chaput and Bruskewicz have had a good deal of influence for the good on the shape of the episcopacy of late.

I think better people than I are better at finding good people. But I think ENDS are important, not just means. Does orthodoxy matter? Or is it just "hypercultic" and an excuse to show how mean and exclusive you are? Or is what really matters a matter of orthopraxy, how kind you are to people regardless of what they teach and do? Those questions don't by any means exhaust the ones that need to be asked--orthodox bishops can be mean or perverts; kind bishops can be weak and unable to take decisions or unduly influenced by whoever surrounds them.

But the ENDS questions will be foundational and can't be gotten rid of.

2/2/06 17:48  
Blogger Scranton Priest said...

This is easy...
Someone who is willing to be the bishop of EWTN.

2/2/06 19:54  
Blogger Ed Deluzain said...

This is a test to see if I can post comments to blogger.

3/2/06 00:41  
Blogger Ed Deluzain said...

I have several criteria for a bishop.

1. A proven record as an excellent homilist.
2. Advanced academic preparation (a graduate degree) in a secular subject.
3. A proven commitment to the poor (e.g., Peace Corps work, living among the inner-city poor, missionary work in a Third World country, etc.).
4. A close circle of friends who aren't clerics, or even Catholics.
5. A good car and a willingness to be on the road every weekend in parishes around the diocese.
6. A willingness to wear secular clothes and to introduce himself by only his first and last names (without his title) to parishioners at "coffee hour" (after morning Masses) or "happy hour" (after evening Masses) on weekends.
7. A willingness to be a "supply priest" at parishes around the diocese when the pastor can't be there.
8. A willingness to tell a congregation he was late because a cop stopped him and gave him a speeding ticket.
9. A firm hand with child abusers, pompous pastors, and others who lose sight of what it's all about.
10. A published email address and a convincing record of having read and responded to emails from his constituents.

Deep spirituality, a palpable prayer life, and all-around holiness all go without saying. I guess I'm just asking for Jesus with a good car, secular clothes, and an email account.

3/2/06 01:03  
Blogger RightJack said...

Ed Deluzain's comments are excellent.

My own criteria:
1) a man who has a substantial history of parochial ministry
2) one who is not afraid to enter any venue or take a seat on any platform because he is confident that his ministry and what he will say in the particular setting at hand will be a proclamation of gospel truth
3) one whose preaching invites rather than condemns
4) a man for whom justice is a sine qua non and whose concern for the poor is a chief factor in his administration of the diocese
5) one who knows how to throw a decent dinner party - or at least knows how to enjoy one
6) a man who can sit down at a parish supper and talk to folks like a neighbor
7) one who appears in public in a simple black clerical shirt at least as often as he appears in full episcopal regalia
8) a man who doesn't need to go away to relax and enjoy himself but who can do that in the company of his priests and people - and one who has enough sense to get out of town every once in a while
9) one who celebrates the liturgy as if he's doing something for God, something for the people, and most of all: something *with* the people
10) one who preaches in terms and images that people in parishes understand so well that they begin to understand the ancient texts as speaking to their lives today

3/2/06 01:27  
Blogger Brian L. said...

A lot of these have been mentioned already, but here's my list:

1) Someone whose priestly ministry has been characterized by the fruits of evangelical zeal -- have young men entered the seminary citing his example and inspiration? Has a lukewarm parish become fervent while he was pastor?

2) Someone committed to being on the road, out in parishes, meeting the people, and mentoring his priests.

3) Someone who is an example of personal holiness. Not least in this area is living a life of actual simplicity and austerity -- some empirical evidence of humility.

4) Someone who can balance the legitimate role of the hierarchy with the principle of subsidiarity. Someone who won't insulate themselves with a house on a hill, a couple auxilaries, and 20% of the presbyerate working in the chancery.

5) Someone who is doctrinally orthodox and unafraid to demonstrate it, but who is gifted to communicate the Truth in a loving, gentle way.

3/2/06 10:14  
Blogger Chris said...

Boring as it sounds, a good administrator. Someone who delegates well and "manages by walking around."

3/2/06 10:53  
Blogger Fungulo said...

Hey Rocco

Some excellent posts above. I hope next time my place is due for a new Ordinary, the Nuncio consults your contributors!

I just want to share a story, which is not unrelated to the topic. I hope you'll indulge me (and talking of indulge, how about the wonderful Indulgence announcement?! Can this Petrine Ministry get any better?! ... but I digress . . . ).

So it was back in the days when George Pell had been accused of sexual abuse and Bernard Law was still defending the indefensible back in New England, and a group of us were sharing some pizza, vino and a long afternoon in Rome, as you do, not too far in fact from Santa Maria Maggiore (where, unknown to us at the time, Law would soon move his office, and from which he still makes most of the big decisions regarding the American Church ... but I digress) and we got to discussing the Sydney and Boston situations and related matters, and we eventually got onto the topic of 'the job description for a bishop'.

So, between us (eight of us English speakers from four continents), we mentioned pretty much everything that's been listed by the above contributors, and we were happy to have got such a comprehensive list together, while bemoaning the fact that no such job description actually exists.

Then one of our number broke his silence, and announced: 'Well men, I think it's been written' and he then proceeded to explain what he meant:

'I am the good shepherd ... I know my sheep ... they follow me ... I call each one by name ... they listen to my voice ... I lay down my life for them ... '

and then to seven incredulous, wide-mouthed fellow diners, he announced:

' ... and fellas, that's not Bernard Law and that's not George Pell.'

4/2/06 01:31  

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