"Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1972
The print edition of the Catholic Herald makes very interesting reading today. On Monday, Bishop Kieran Conry, who had earlier spoken to the Daily Mail, spoke also to this paper. The Herald report also carried a quotation from a member of the diocese, a voice from the pew, if you like.
I am struck by the ‘disconnect’ between what he has to say and what the member of his flock has to say. What this boils down to is something that we have heard many times: there is a lack of accountability and transparency in the governance of the Catholic Church. In a way, the sad outcome of Bishop Conry’s career is not really what is important here: what is important is to consider how we arrived at this point in the first place. What is needed now is something very simple: an investigation into the way bishops rule their dioceses, and the checks and balances that are in place, and the way that bishops are chosen, and supervised and supported after they are chosen. This does not simply concern England: this seems to be a universal problem, given the way several bishops have been sacked of late.
Of course, we all know that canon law and the customs of the Church make provision for all of these matters. But this is the real point: canon law is not working. Bishop Conry’s appointment as bishop was made according to the processes laid down in canon law, but these processes, which should have brought to light several red lights, or at least amber ones, on his path to the episcopate, failed to work.
Now that the current disaster has overtaken us, all these points might seem like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. But it is important to make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again. That it will not happen again, and that there will be an investigation as to why it happened in the first place, are the two things that the lay people of the diocese would, if I read them correctly, most like to hear.