Daily Archives: March 23, 2010

On Removing Bishops

Just a quick thought. One of the main objectives of the current critics of the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis is that the Pope has not “sacked” bishops who are revealed to have “covered up” or “concealed” cases of abusive priests.

This contrasts with another call that was heard more regularly in the past, namely a call for decentralisation that would allow a greater autonomy to local bishops, often in areas of morality or liturgy. Then, any action by the Holy See in the matters of a local Church were called “interferance”.

I wonder if one of the reasons we have seen few bishops “removed” from office is the fact that the Vatican has a high respect for the place of a bishop in a local Church. Bishops are not “employees” of the Vatican. The Bishop of Rome is not their “boss”. They bear the responsibility for the mission and governance of the Church in their diocese. If you are looking for where the buck stops, the Vatican seems to be saying, it stops with the local Bishop.

I wonder if a comparison with that infamous event in Australian political history – the 1975 dismissal of the Government (and Prime Minister) of the day by the Governor General – is not perhaps illustrative. While constitutionally it is the Governor General who appoints the Prime Minister, and constitutionally he had the power to act to dismiss the Prime Minister, the nation was horrified that such power be used for the latter purpose.

Should the Pope have exercise his real – but rare – power to remove a bishop? What are the historical precedences? It seems to me that the Holy Father would prefer the bishops to take responsibility for thier own actions – and their own mistakes – and to act justly on their own initiative. What do you think of the reading of this situation?


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An interesting article on the Pope

Here is an interesting article on the Holy Father (“Is this pope a reactionary or a prophet?”), from The Guardian by John Hooper. It isn’t available on The Guardian website for some reason. It repeats much that we know, but has some interesting quotes, such as:

“It would be interesting to know how he is viewed in a hundred years’ time,” muses a professional Vatican-watcher who also requested anonymity. “It will be either as a reactionary or a prophet. Benedict may be behind or ahead of his time, because one thing is certain – he certainly isn’t of his time.”

The idea that today’s Catholic church – hostile to abortion and contraception, antipathetic to homosexuality and dismissive of the idea of women priests – might be a bastion of enlightened values is one many Britons will find hard to accept. But then it is difficult to think of a society that provides Benedict with a greater challenge to his ideas than multicultural Britain


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