Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yet Another Great Bishop

This morning Pope Benedict has appointed another Archbishop. This time to San Antonio. I follow these things pretty close. What strikes me is how much things have changed with this pope. It seems that John Paul II allowed himself to be manipulated in this area. He ended up appointing a lot of bishops that were nothing like him. In particular they were less orthodox. How does that happen? Basically there was a process that he trusted. That process ended up becoming a political game that bishops learned to play to get ahead and get other like minded bishops ahead. The most powerful positions went to those who played this game well.

Life has been quite different under Pope Benedict. Appointing bishops is one area that he has decided to spend a lot of his personal time and energy. I wonder if he sees the damage that was done to the church from his predecessor neglecting to do that and just signing the appointments put on his desk. Anyway, the pope now goes through the files of the prospective bishops very carefully. Normally there are three recommendations given to him with one indicated as the first choice. Often he would reject all three. He knew the kind of churchmen he wanted and he was not going to settle for less. Slowly he has been changing the process so they start to know what he is looking for at every level. It is working well.

So what is he looking for? Orthodox people for sure but not stereo-typical conservatives. He wants real thinkers. People who know why they are orthodox and can communicate it charitably. He does not want open warfare with the liberal wing of the church but he does want to get the faith right. In short, he wants bishops that are like himself. They are hard to find because Pope Benedict has many exceptional qualities but it is happening.

So what does it mean? One of the problems frequently identified in the church is the lack of strong, consistent teaching of the faith. John Paul II with the help of Cardinal Ratzinger has basically solved this problem in the Vatican. They published the Catechism. They write frequently and eloquently on the problems of secularism. Now it is getting pushed down to the next level. Slowly but surely the teaching is taking hold. Eventually it will get down to the people in the pews. When the church knows what it believes then those who are looking for the true gospel of Christ will have an easier time finding it. Right now if someone just talks to a Catholic they know or even to their local priest it is very hit and miss as to what faith is going to be presented to them. As this process moves on we should expect that the faith will be understood consistently and correctly. That will mean some will walk away but many others will be attracted.

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