In the Vineyard :: October 9, 2015 :: Volume 15, Issue 19

Bishop Selection Proposal

Oct. 2, 2015

Dear Cardinal O’Malley:

The Vatican Information Service bulletin for September 16th regarding the recent meeting of the Group of Nine said the Cardinals reflected “on the procedures for the appointment of new bishops, or more specifically on the qualities and requisites for candidates in view of the needs of today’s world and on the related issue of information gathering,” noting “the theme will need to be explored further and developed…”

I write in response to recall my letter to you of Sept. 6, 2013 sharing with you the proposal on this matter which we had sent to Pope Francis. You kindly acknowledged through a letter from your secretary that the material would be useful to you in preparing for meetings of Pope Francis’ Consultation Committee. Accordingly, Voice of the Faithful will shortly send to each member of the Group of Nine a copy of the proposal for its possible usefulness in their preparations for and deliberations at the coming meetings.

I also want to let you know that I wrote to the Holy Father on April 30, 2014 in response to his February 27th discourse to the Congregation for Bishops regarding the kinds of candidates he wanted the Congregation to recommend to him, suggesting that perhaps they were not searching the “fields” broadly enough to find such men. I am enclosing, for your information, a copy of my letter to the Pope (written in Italian as I was under the impression he did not understand English).

In that letter I said, “The fields of Holy Church are the priests and the laity who, with their bishops, constitute the local churches.” And I asked the Holy Father to consider modifying the canonical process to include a formal consultation with all the priests and laity of a local church regarding candidates for their new bishop. Whether or not Pope Francis saw this letter, I do not know, but I stated clearly that our proposal called for the local church only to recommend candidates for their bishop, that the appointment of the new bishop would remain solely the Pope’s prerogative.

The Holy Father’s recent visit to our country was memorable in so many ways both in his gestures and remarks, not least of all in his address to our nation’s bishops in Washington. As you recall, he told the bishops,”…we are promoters of the culture of encounter…and dialogue is our method….The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.”

Cardinal O’Malley, surely effectively engaging the (diocesan and religious) priests and all the laity of a diocese in the ecclesial task of recommending to the Pope candidates for their new bishop would be an apt expression of that dialogue. Moreover, in Philadelphia Pope Francis said to the bishops, “One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility…” I suggest that implementing this proposal could be a major contribution toward the realization of that goal.

How best to engage the priests and laity of a diocese in recommending candidates for their bishop needs to be arrived at through trial demonstrations under the leadership of willing national Conferences of Bishops, out of which would emerge a proven approach that could be promulgated for use throughout the Church. Such demonstration projects, you may recall, is what our proposal requests the Holy Father to initiate.
But the proposal also provides an Internet model by which the Holy Father in the interim could invite dioceses throughout the Church to engage their priests and laity in recommending candidates to him while the demonstration projects go forward. The Internet model was created for the United States, but with minimal modifications (as to addresses) could be used elsewhere. The model may be viewed at

In closing, Cardinal O’Malley, asking for your renewed and prayerful consideration of this proposal, please be assured that I would gladly assist you in your analysis of it and issues it may involve should you wish, and I would happily come to Boston to discuss our proposal with you.

Sincerely in Christ,
John P. Doyle Chair, Bishop Selection Committee


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