Independent Electoral Office

The health of the Church depends very much on the People of God being served by spiritual and competent office holders. An independent international electoral office should oversee the correct implementation of the norms for election and/or selection of key church office holders, as laid down by the Central Synod of Bishops. The procedures for the election and/or selection of office holders in the Church should, to the greatest extent possible, reflect modern standards such as democratic fairness, accountability and transparency. While, of course, firmly rejecting the interference of secular governments in the appointment of church office holders – see note 1 below, the Second Vatican Council recommended proper democratic procedures for political elections – see note 2 below. By implication the Council wanted such values to prevail also in Church appointments to the extent possible. Such elections should apply especially to the election of bishops. According to ancient Church practice, the laying on of hands [= the sacramental ordination] was clearly distinct from the procedure of electing a candidate to be a bishop. As in days of old, this procedure should involve the local people and clergy of a diocese. The election should conform to modern democratic standards. The college of cardinals plays a crucial function in the Church because this college elects the future pope. The norms of selecting cardinals should be fair and transparent. Cardinals should be taken from among residential bishops and not from functionaries in the Roman Curia. The members of international committees of experts should be chosen for their expertise as judged by their professional peers. After all, experts will only serve the Church well, not by parroting the official views of Church authorities but by presenting the genuine outcome of their professional research. See note 3 below.

Many Catholics believe, and so apparently does Benedict XVI, that the Bishop of Rome is free, by the will of Christ, not only to appoint all bishops in the Roman Catholic church, but to dismiss them as well. This is an incorrect assumption, and the recent firing of Bishop Morris provides us with a teachable moment in ecclesiology.From the very beginning of church history, bishops were elected by the laity and clergy of the various local churches, or dioceses. This also applied to the bishop of Rome himself. Professor Richard McBrien — read his words

The Church borrowed the institutional practices of the Roman Empire and the papacy is the last remaining example of the absolute monarchies that dominated Western Europe a few centuries ago. There is no reason why the Church cannot adopt the democratic procedures of election and representative government. To suggest that politics is not inherent in the life of the Church betrays an ignorance of Church history. Aristotle described human beings as political animals and we know that by their very nature, human beings act in political ways. One might ask what the cardinals were doing in Rome before they elected Benedict XVI, if they were not politicking. In the Church today politicking is routine among the power elite who do not hold themselves answerable to the faithful as a whole. Professor Joseph F. O’Callaghan — read & hear

Inbreeding of Leadership

By controlling the process of appointing all key office holders in the Church, the Pope and a small number of helpers in the Roman Curia are, in fact, perpetuating leaders in their own image. Only dramatic reform in this area can enable reform and thus save the future Church.

Loyalty to What?

The tool successfully handled to restrict leadership to like-minded men is the prescription of an secret examination – under oath – of loyalty. This oath is prescribed before candidates are chosen for the office of bishop. The oath requires commitment to doctrines and practices favoured by the present elite – doctrines and practices which, however are not part of revealed faith or ancient Catholic tradition.

Read more here.

Note 1Since the apostolic office of bishops was instituted by Christ the Lord and pursues a spiritual and supernatural purpose, this sacred ecumenical synod declares that the right of nominating and appointing bishops belongs properly, peculiarly, and per se exclusively to the competent ecclesiastical authority. Therefore, for the purpose of duly protecting the freedom of the Church and of promoting more conveniently and efficiently the welfare of the faithful, this holy council desires that in future no more rights or privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation for the office of bishop be granted to civil authorities. ” Vatican Council II, Christus Dominus § 20.

Note 2 “It is in full conformity with human nature that there should be juridico-political structures providing all citizens in an ever better fashion and without any discrimination the practical possibility of freely and actively taking part in the establishment of the juridical foundations of the political community and in the direction of public affairs, in fixing the terms of reference of the various public bodies and in the election of political leaders. All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good.” Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes § 75.

Note 3In order that they may fulfill their function, let it be recognized that all the faithful, whether clerics or laity, possess a lawful freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought and of expressing their mind with humility and fortitude in those matters on which they enjoy competence.” Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes § 62.