A Proposal for the Selection of Bishops
A Working Paper prepared
by Eleanor McLellan, RSCJ,
for the "Voice of Renewal in the Spirit of Vatican II"
Working Group as of 12/02
We, the Voice of Renewal (in the Spirit of Vatican II) Working Group,
propose to the VOTF Executive Committee and Council that we write a letter
to the Apostolic Delegate mentioning the qualities we would like to see
in a bishop and possibly proposing names of people who possess these qualities.
The letter would make the following points:
The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law in accord with Vatican II
is premised on its declaration that, by virtue of their baptism "all the
Christian faithful have a true equality" and therefore have rights to
participate in the Church's advancement of the Kingdom of God. (The Right
of Catholics to Govern the Church, America, N.Y., Nov.14, 1992; William
The Vatican II Council "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity" (1965)
states: "Bishops, pastors and all priests should keep in mind that the
right and duty to exercise the apostolate is common to all the faithful."
Therefore it is essential that we, the laity, work in close communion
with our bishops and priests.
In order for this to be achieved, bishops must be accessible to the people.
They should live and work among the people, and thus experience first
hand, their joys and sorrows. In the current structure bishops are removed
from the direct contact that could enable them to become more sensitive
to the real needs of their people.
Bishops should also be willing and able to listen and discern together
with the people, through prayer and reflection, the direction in which
the Spirit is leading the Church. Lay people have insight and experience
that are not available to the hierarchy, and the hierarchy has experience
that is not available to the people. Therefore, it is important that each
listen to the other and that together they discern the direction in which
the Church should progress.
This requires humility on the part of the bishops. Their role is one
of leadership, but not one of domination. A true leader attracts followers
because he/she believes in their ability to contribute to the good of
the whole. A true leader calls forth the gifts and best efforts of those
whom he/she serves. The emphasis here is on service. A true leader inspires
others and enables them to offer their gifts. We need charismatic leaders,
not ones who are slaves to the "rules."
Bishops should not be afraid to be totally truthful regardless of what
this entails. The faithful should know "what is going on." They should
know how their contributions are being used, and they should be consulted
regarding these things.
We might want to name people who possess these qualities, and, in the
spirit of the early church, recommend them as bishops.