Should Lay People Help Select Bishops? 

Part one:  Pesky Warnings

The first time I got a letter from the Papal Nuncio I thought I was being
excommunicated. But right before I finished making a call to Fr. Frank Morissey to be
my advocate, I got the first envelope open. Inside was another envelope with a line
down the middle. On one side, was a warning in Latin and on the other, the translation
of that warning in English. The warning was about as serious as a heart attack, telling
the recipient that if they ever, ever disclose the contents of the second envelope, they are
automatically excommunicated. It is all Pontifical Secret and open your mouth at the
risk of your Church membership. I digress here to say that in light of this, the rest of my
blog entry here is purely hypothetical.

 Oswald Cardinal Garcias of Mumbai, India, a member of Pope Francis’ Council
of Cardinals, has reported that the Council is considering recommending to Pope
Francis that consultation with Laity be mandated as part of the process of selecting
Bishops. This is not as monumental as it sounds, although it may be to anyone who hasnot gotten one of “those Nuncio Letters”. Until now it has been up to a country’s nuncio
to involve laity in the process. But no one would know that because of those pesky
warnings that go out to lay people et al. But hypothetically I would say with some
amazing certainty that lay people have been asked and have been extremely honored,
surprised and industrious at getting the Nuncio’s request to answer the questionnaire on
a particular priest under consideration. Hypothetically, I would say that the first time
you get one of these requests, it might take you over four hours to honestly and  completely answer the questions, and if the priest you have been consulted about is
ordained a Bishop, you might follow his work as a Bishop and pray for him, because you  helped put him in that incredibly difficult and often thankless job. Who would mind  having some lay people praying for you?  

So, lay people have been consulted in this process, and the Church survives. It is
tragic that it has been kept under wraps. It should be hollered from hill tops and
tweeted ad nauseum. It is pathetic that involvement of the laity in so many aspects of
Church administration is not marked but actively hidden. The Council should make a
recommendation to mandate consultation of the laity in this process, even limited as
they have discussed, for members of diocesan financial and pastoral councils. It’s a
modest start, but it would be out in the light and thank God for that.  

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