Canadian Catholic News: Canadian church faces big challenges as more bishops near retirement age
OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – The Canadian Church faces major challenges in the next five years as more than 20 bishops reach the age of 75, several dioceses already lie vacant, and decreasing priestly vocations leaves a shrinking pool of possible candidates.
“It’s the challenge that we face in every aspect of ministry in the church,” said Halifax Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. “We have fewer young priests to be pastors and to be bishops in the long run. We have to pray that God will help us.”
Yet Archbishop Prendergast remains optimistic. “I’m confident we’ll find the right people.”
How does the pope find the right people? Is there going to be a difference in Benedict XVI bishop, or will there be continuity with those of John Paul II? How does the church combat the relativism, subjectivism and pluralism that the pope has identified in Canada? Is there a special kind of bishop needed for that job? What role do Canada’s bishops and ordinary Catholic play in the choice?
While Prendergast compares to trying to discern who might get appointments to tea leaf reading, some insight might be gained through a close look at the process for selecting candidates.
According to Father Frank Morrisey, a canon law expert at St. Paul University here, three men have a “significant influence” in the appointing of bishops. The pope, who makes the appointment, usually from a list of three names, though he is not bound to that list; Canada’s Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura; and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops. For some northern dioceses, still considered missionary areas, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is involved instead.
There have been two few major appointments under Benedict to tell whether there will be a difference between a Benedict bishop or a John Paul II bishop, Father Morrisey said, though he notes the late pope tended to pick “safe” or more conservative bishops in the latter part of his pontificate. “They were looking for doctrinal integrity.”
Archbishop Ventura, Father Morrisey said, seems to have been putting forward names of candidates with “good pastoral experience and that’s an essential quality.”
Archbishop Ventura arrived in Canada on Sept. 10, 2001, and Archbishop Prendergast describes him as “very pro-active.”
“Overall our bishops like him a lot,” he said. “The ones I know find him very friendly and pastoral to us. Very welcoming. I think he’s done a great job.”
The nuncio presents three names to the Congregation for Bishops, which goes then goes through the detailed dossier on each candidate. Archbishop Ventura, however, does not “just pick a name out of a hat,” according to the nuncio’s first secretary, Msgr. Michael Crotty, an Irish priest who has spent nearly three years in Ottawa after previously serving in Kenya. Archbishop Ventura relies on Canada’s bishops who, according to canon law, are to meet in their ecclesiastical provinces every three years and supply the nunciature with a list of prospective candidates. When there is a vacancy, the process of consultation begins. Msgr. Crotty said nunciature deals with five to seven vacancies a year in Canada.
The Edmonton Archdiocese, the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy, the Kingston Archdiocese and Saint John Diocese are vacant. Ottawa’s archbishop has announced he will retire in June. Five bishops reach the age of 75 this year, though that doesn’t mean the pope will accept their mandatory resignations. Some bishops are already past age 75. Each diocese has its own special needs, to be matched with the right candidate.
“[The bishops] have a major say,” said Archbishop Prendergast, noting the ecclesiastical provinces in the Maritimes meet together. There each bishop presents names of priests that would be good bishops. Prendergast also sends out a letter to priests to find out whom they would recommend. Each meeting comes up with 10 to 12 names.
“Some names are not found to be suitable. Some people don’t handle stress well. To be a bishop you have to handle stress. Some people have a hard time making decisions,” Archbishop Prendergast said.
The archbishop said doctrinal reasons may form an obstacle for a candidate. According to canon law, a candidate must be “outstanding in strong faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, prudence and human virtues,” and other gifts necessary for the job.
He said he never approaches a priest enquire if he’d be interested in being a bishop or to let him know he’s on a “bishop’s track.”
Archbishop Prendergast does not know about any jockeying for power or people actually seeking to be bishops. “Maybe I’m very naïve,” he said. Instead he finds that priests tend to have a have a high regard for the episcopacy, but do not seek to become bishops. Some will have that attitude out of humility, some from concern for the pressures of the office. “When they have a good bishop, they admire them.”
Msgr. Crotty and a staff of four Canadian priests assist the nuncio in the detailed process of consultations. That consultation includes priests, ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Americas News
- Is the 'human cost' in the war on drugs too high?
- High-tech Indiana Jones team discovers the fabled lost city of Ciudad Blanca
- Has the lost 'White City of gold' been found at last?
- Why did the world's laziest workers destroy a treasured Mayan pyramid?
- Scientists discover 'Brazilian Atlantis' off Rio coast
- Would emergency parachutes in high-rise buildings stave off another 9/11 disaster?
- Obama: Guantanamo 'is not in the best interest of the American people'
- Mexicans view U.S., Obama more favorably, 20 percent would immigrate illegally
- Declared the antichrist, three-day-old baby burned to death by Chilean cult leader
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?