Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Should lay people have a role in choosing their bishops?

With reference to the article in UCAN on whether the Laity should choose their Bishops, the answer is certainly yes. After all Laity would be exercising its right as "Co-partners", a right it has blissfully surrendered to the Clergy in spite of comprising more than 80% of the Church.

Isaac Harold Gomes (Kolkata)

The Laity should also exercise its right to select parish priests. The present practice of selection based on the consent of a few priests is full of gaping holes especially in light of Pope's November 2013 comment on priests. A number of parish priests are just wolves in sheep's clothing to feed their ambition and to line their pockets in the absence of transparently elected Parish Pastoral Committee and Parish Finance Committee. To do justice to Pope Francis’ desire to select “shepherds who smell of their sheep”, parishioners’ views should be sought before finalization of parish priests. For the Church to be strong, its foundation has to be strong made of good parish priests who are simple men dedicated to serve and not driven by ambition.  If they are ambitious they should leave priesthood and compete in the mainstream, without feeding on the Laity.

In an interview on the BBC’s Today programme, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby suggested where a good parish priest is present, churches grow. He further said: “Of course there are churches that are doing better and churches that are struggling more, depending on area and on leadership. But the reality is that where you have a good vicar you will find growing churches.

The selection of Parish Priests and Bishops by the Laity is all the more relevant in view of Pope Francis' comment on priests when he said men studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood should be properly trained or the Church could risk “creating little monsters” more concerned with their careers than serving people.

In comments made in November 2013, Pope Francis also said priests should leave their comfort zone and get out among people on the margins of society.  Otherwise they may turn into “abstract ideologists”.

Compared to Bangladesh, West Bengal, its predecessor, is a clear case of deprivation of its local talent. Vocation is being choked by systemic power play in the Church hierarchy, with hardly any concerted effort to nurture local talent. In keeping with the prevalent practice of the hierarchy in Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Jharkhand, North-east and Darjeeling, preference should be given to sons of the soil, though ideally the best man should be chosen. 

Isaac Harold Gomes
Member ICPA

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