Monday, 8 September 2008


I have just made a list of fifteen diocesan clerics who would (in my opinion) make fine bishops and are, ceteris paribus, eligible. Not all these men agree with me in every particular, but they are all highly talented men, all anxious for the Kingdom of God. It is, however, interesting that not a single one of them has at any stage been promoted higher than parish priest [pastor]. One has been a Dean [vicar forane], but none has achieved any higher office. The only thing they have in common (beyond the obvious) is that they believe in every doctrine of the Catholic Church and are concerned that things in this country are not progressing as they might. All are pastorally zealous, most are fine preachers, all are loyal sons of the Church and loyal to their own bishops. Yet they have seen others with none of these attributes appointed over their heads.

The difficulty is that, unless one achieves an office higher than that of parish priest, one is never in a position to be noticed for higher office.

Right now, though a great deal of attention has (understandably) gone into the successor to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, there are actually at least six or seven episcopal appointments pending. 

I have very little hope that even one of my list of fifteen will make it. Two on my list have never even been allowed to make it to priesthood.


gemoftheocean said...

It's a sad state of affairs. For what it's worth in too many diocese around the world we have had "magic circle" bishops inflicted on us. And talents are going to waste - the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bad bishops.

Jane said...

That's not sad; it's worse than tragic. Unfortuately the earthly part, at least, is true.

Pray to God to raise up another St Nicholas, Martin of Tours, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan etc, ete. Pray without ceasing.

Anonymous said...

I hope that one of those two on your list who have failed to make it to the priesthood isn't a certain deacon making a name for himself in trad liturgical circles. His growing body of admirers seem not to have penetrated the heidegerrian gobbledeygook characteristic of his professional writing to discover his unorthodox views on sexual ethics. God save the Catholic Church in this country from camp masquerading as serious Christian practice.

Francis said...


Rome could do a lot more to help matters if new nuncios were given the specific task of working as talent scouts, picking the (theologically sound) winners from amongst the rank and file clergy – and, where necessary, imposing candidates for the terna rather than just trying to keep the bishops’ conferences happy. And calling a few bluffs too.

Unfortunately, many nuncios seem to have “magic circle” tendencies themselves, theological liberals who share the ideology of the movers and shakers in the bishops’ conference rather than being able to maintain a critical distance from it.

Other nuncios seem to be “foreign office” types, career diplomats whose main aim is the maintenance of good diplomatic relations between the local episcopate and the Holy See – they would never dream of rocking the boat by nominating bishops who are not “spirit of Vatican II” types.

And yet other nuncios are good-natured and convivial men who just want a quiet life and are content to go native theologically when dealing with the bishops’ conference of the country to which they have been posted.

Nothing will change for the better unless Rome appoints nuncios who understand that there is a problem and that it is in their power to fix it.

Anonymous said...

Why not use your real name?
It is pretty obvious who you are making these vile allegations against. You leave Father open to accusations of libel, whilst hide behind a false name yourself.
I think the person in question, years ago made a certain speculation, I think he has since modified his view.

Anonymous said...

It might be wise to remove my post and Aquinatic's, but ask him for further information and his real identity.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how your concept of 'serious Christian practice' makes room for anonymous and bitchy gossip about the Church's ordained ministers.

Pastor in Monte said...

Dear Dr Mansfield,
Thank you for your two posts. If you seriously want me to remove your post I will of course do so, though I do not really think that there is any danger of libel. In fact, everyone is only guessing about the person I have in mind, though I acknowledge that the field is not large. And in any event, Christian charity suggests that it is good that nasty rumours be challenged, and thank you for doing so.
I should perhaps stress that any comments expressed in the comments box are the opinion of the writer, and my publishing them does not imply any agreement with what they contain. Clearly I do not agree with Aquinatic.

Fr Ray Blake said...

There has been a shameful waste of talent, but I see that slowly ending. Some good priests are even allowed to teach in seminaries now, though as you say not given serious responibility yet.

I presume the change is the fruit of JPII & BXVI and fewer numbers of priests

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pastor in Monte said...


Pastor in Monte said...

Oh yeah, I get it. And now I've got rid of it. Funny how people can be so nasty!

Anonymous said...

Surely the diocesan priesthood is not the only option, there are several religious orders and institutes that have a charism that has not been distorted by modernism.
(BTW I believe that the diaconate has on occasion been a deliberate choice for someone whose ministry lies in academic research and teaching.)

Ttony said...

Fr Blake wrote:"Some good priests are even allowed to teach in seminaries now, though as you say not given serious responibility yet."

There is a sense in which I can't imagine a more serious responsibility, though I understand the point Fr B is trying to make.

Adrienne said...

"The only thing they have in common (beyond the obvious) is that they believe in every doctrine of the Catholic Church and are concerned that things in this country are not progressing as they might."

Warning: snark attack

Well, that was their first mistake!

Auricularius said...

No discussion of episcopal desiderata can afford to ignore the Liber Regulae Pastoralis of Pope St Gregory the Great, particularly Chapters 10 and 11 of Book 1.

I like the following passage from Chapter 11:

“There are some who, not liking to be thought dull, busy themselves often more than needs in various investigations, and by reason of too great subtlety are deceived. Wherefore this also is added, “Or have a large and crooked nose”. For a large and crooked nose is excessive subtlety of discernment, which, having become unduly excrescent, itself confuses the correctness of its own operation. But one with broken foot or hand is he who cannot walk in the way of God at all, and is utterly without part or lot in good deeds, to such degree that he does not, like the lame man, maintain them however weakly, but remains altogether apart from them. But the hunchbacked is he whom the weight of earthly care bows down, so that he never looks up to the things that are above, but is intent only on what is trodden on among the lowest. And he, should he ever hear anything of the good things of the heavenly country, is so pressed down by the weight of perverse custom, that he lifts not the face of his heart to it, being unable to erect the posture of his thought, which the habit of earthly care keeps downward bent.”

With all due allowance for the difference in language and the physicality of the imagery, does this not describe precisely many of our busy episcopal bureaucrats who have got their priorities wrong?

Anonymous said...

Let us be clear - I am the deacon referred to by 'Aquinatic'. I am grateful to those who have come forward in my defence. 'Camp' is not normally how I am described.

Aquinatic seems unaware - with his accusation of 'gobbledegook' that in order to get into print everything I write(including the essay to which he alludes) is rigorously peer reviewed, normally by at least two academics in my field 'blind', which means their names are unkonwn to me. I have never shied from academic scrutiny and I do not now. In addition to the 'blind' reviewers of my last book, I submitted it to a large number of people, including several priests, for their comment and criticism. I am grateful to all who underook this for me, while continuing to take full responsiblity for every word I write.

In the essay to which 'Aquinatic' alludes I did not believe myself to be offering any view as such - merely to raise a question that I believed was worthy of enquiry.

I therefore issue this challenge to 'Aquinatic' - if he (I presume it is a he), writing privately to me (he can find my email address easily enough), can show me from what he already knows of it (I'm not inviting him into a heresy hunt through my published works) what in the essay is formally unorthodox - and this means what is ACTUALLY unorthodox (i.e. not 'what some could claim', 'could be inferred' etc), I will offer to a peer reviewed scholarly journal of our mutual choice within twelve months an article containing a full retraction, and I will offer him the opportunity to comment on that retraction before I send it. This is conditional on him (1) immediately revealing who he is on this blog, and (2) agreeing that if he is unable to demonstrate to me the unorthodoxy of my 'views', he retracts his own and apologises for them.

Pastor in Monte said...

Bravo, your reverence!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear Aquinatic
are you going to run for the hills? I hope not. Well defended Deacon Laurence. I think your approach smacks of that Aquinas thoroughness and charity which unfortunately, the initial challenge seems to lack. Me, I'd just threaten to break his legs.

Pastor in Monte said...

I received a rather sharp and unkind comment submitted under a nom de plume. I'm not going to post it because,
1) I think that when things get personal (whether ad hominem or not), real names of attackers should be provided if real names of the attacked are used.
2) This aspect of the debate has got far away from the original post.
3) I think we should stay away from personal uncharitableness as far as possible.
4) I personally like and admire Dr Hemming, and do not find him remotely 'camp'. And the whole debate has been predicated on a wild guess that he was one of my list of fifteen, something which may not even be true.