The secret examination of new Bishops
The papal Nuncio, in a document headed «sub secreto pontificio», sets out about one hundred questions to be asked about a candidate for the prelature. CRÓNICA has gained access to this document.
JOSÉ MANUEL VIDAL
CRONICA, El Mundo, Sunday 3 November 2002 Number 368
|If the responses from those questioned are favourable, the applicant will be included in a shortlist of three that the Nuncio then sends to Rome./ IÑIGO IBÁNEZ|
It presents a list of questions, divided into 13 sections, on such intimate matters as the physical disability and symptoms of hereditary illnesses of candidates for the mitre. It asks about the «faith (sic), hope and love», the three theological virtues, the «obedience, humility and piety» and also the candidates position on «womens ordination, sexual ethics and priestly celibacy».
Only a few organisations, such as the Church, could ask these questions, without being accused of an assault on the right to privacy or to honour. «As long as the questionnaire is not used for any other purpose, and is not divulged, there is no illicit invasion of privacy. The procedure is covered by article 6.1 of the Religious Freedom Act, exempting religious confession », explains the professor of Ecclesiastical Law at Complutense University (Madrid) and former director general of Religious Affairs, Dionisio Llamazares. The Spanish Nunciature sends the questionnaire to half a dozen people in the diocese that requires appointment of a bishop, who know the candidate very well. Normally these are priests or religious brothers or sisters, although a very committed lay person may be included. If the reports are entirely favourable, the applicant will be included on a shortlist of three that the Nuncio sends to Rome, where they are then subject to the placet of Cardinal Rouco Varela. Otherwise the shortlists are passed to the Vatican Congregation of Bishops, chaired by his friend, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.
In theory, any priest may become a bishop, but only some will achieve the position. All those who do will be very competent, older men (over 50), members of diocesan curias, or canons, orthodox and with friends in the Spanish episcopal elite and in the Roman Curia. Some cardinals and archbishops in post will have the authority to select or appoint their auxiliary bishops. The present bishop of Palencia, Monsignor Palmero, was given the mitre by the emeritus Cardinal of Toledo, González Martín, for whom he acted as secretary for 20 years.
Sometimes a lobby system applies. This was the case in Valencia, where 19 of its members were catapulted into the episcopacy: Carles, Ureña, Cañizares, Vilaplana, Reig, Gea, etc. In the majority of cases, Cardinal Rouco picks the shortlist from his own particular friends and preferences. Sometimes the Nuncio, Monteiro de Castro, uses his powers, especially to fill vacancies in small dioceses.
In such cases, the papal ambassador writes to his contacts: «Beloved in the Lord: For the purposes of appointment to the diocese of..., I would be very grateful to you if on the reverse of this page you would write the names of possible candidates from which a short list may be drawn up to fill the position of episcopal minister in this diocese, giving the reasons for your choice».Signed: Mons. Manuel Monteiro de Castro. Apostolic Nuncio.
| QUESTIONS THAT TOUCH ON PRIVACY
These are some of
the questions sent to half a dozen of those close to the applicants for the
position of bishop, asking them about the candidates qualities.
Are bishops, parish priests, theologians, etc. still bound by the oath of fidelity if they come to realise that the arguments against ordaining women are invalid?
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