Benedict and his bishops

A friend recently noted that, for all his greatness, Blessed John Paul was not necessarily the best judge of character or ability when it came to appointing bishops.  This piece from Vatican Insider/La Stampa may help to explain why; it also points out what his successor is doing differently:

Not many are aware of the fact that a great deal of Benedict XVI’s time and effort is spent on mysterious work which does not and should not attract the media’s attention but is fundamental to Church life: this is in order to prevent giving the media any negative reasons to start focusing on it any time soon.

Benedict XVI is adamant that the strength – and weakness – of the Church is found first and foremost in the dioceses, in local Churches. During John Paul II’s pontificate, the choice of bishops was often left to presidents of Episcopal Conferences, to nuncios and to other components of the central and local Churches. If what is told to us is true, – and we have no reason to doubt it is so – the Pope has, in recent years, been reluctant to sign anything. John Paul II delegated; he trusted those he worked with, sometimes unsuccessfully, as history has shown us.

Benedict XVI’s has a different style. He studies every dossier prepared for the three candidates in each diocese, he examines the course of studies and professional experience of potential future bishops and finally takes a decision. Indeed, he often asks for other candidates to be presented to him if he is not satisfied by the individuals who have been shortlisted. It is a tedious and not particularly glamorous task, but one for which the Church of the next few decades will be very grateful to him.

This is Benedict XVI’s style and it remains unchanged since his cardinal days. It is a solitary one for sure; a part from the occasional visit to elderly German speaking cardinals, it is impossible to recall a time when Ratzinger showed a social streak during his time in the Curia, inviting and being invited to the homes of colleagues and friends.

Read the rest. And happy birthday, Papa!  Ad multos annos!


  1. ron chandonia says:

    Lumen Gentium correctly insists that bishops should be seen not “as vicars of the Roman Pontiff” but as “vicars and legates of Christ.” That is very, very difficult when the pope not only hand-picks the bishops but moves them about at will–and even (as in the infamous case of Bishop William Morris) fires those who displease him. The fact that Pope John Paul got mixed results from his appointees is actually proof that he at least made an effort to select them in a collegial fashion.

  2. I love the way he writes: clear and deep at the same time. He is wonderfully accessible.

  3. Mark Greta says:

    Looking at the qualifications of Bishops does not seem to make them automatically vicars of the Roman Pontiff. I see nothing here stating that he is doing anything wrong in this matter except doing his best to make sure the dioceses have qualified people which they might have to live with for decades.

  4. While collegial selections are important, close attention from the Pope does not seem to be at odds with that.

  5. Deacon Norb says:

    History proves that there is no one way to select a bishop.

    –When Jesus selected the Twelve, his reasons were certainly not the same reasons used by many popes in the following generations.

    –AND, in those later enerations, the actual selection was often not papal. Perhaps it was a secular leader’s choice; perhaps it was the choice of the Presbyteral Council (by whatever name the “chief-priests” of the local diocese were called; perhaps it was by acclamation of the laity. BUT, in all cases, the actual installation/ consecration of the respective bishops was approved by the pope or his delegate.

    The one advantage of the pope himself being directly involved in the choices is that there is a degree of consistency. Benedict seems to be emphasizing the notion of “bishop as teacher.” IMHO, that seems like a wise and spirit-filled focus.

    Benedict knows he cannot do it all. As wise and as intellectually brilliant as JPII was, I’m not sure he understood that simple bit of wisdom.

  6. David Jackson says:

    When the most important quality for a bishop is absolute agreement with the positions of the pope we have lost so much. Perhaps bishops should be chosen on their ability to preach and teach.

  7. midwestlady says:

    What? You don’t like that he takes his responsibilities seriously and does a good job?

  8. midwestlady says:

    They have to be preaching and teaching the truth, or it does no good for them to preach & teach.


  1. [...] may very well end up being transformational. He is sagely stocking the church with what Deacon Greg calls “teaching bishops” — the better to serve an era of New Evangelization and, [...]

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