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
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./
The form bears the coat of arms of the Spanish
Nunciature, a six-digit serial number (N. 2099/09) and a heading including the
words «Sub secreto pontificio». The document concerned, to which
CRÓNICA has obtained access is the highly confidential examination used
to assess applicants for ordination as bishop. «Reverend... has been
proposed to the Holy See for the post of Bishop», reads the introduction.
« We would be grateful if you would answer the following questions, as
comprehensively as possible, on this man. This document will remain subject to
pontifical secrecy, binding you to maintain the greatest confidentiality on the
matter, on pain of mortal sin. In order to preserve secrecy, please return this
questionnaire with your response, and do not keep a copy». Signed Mons.
Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Apostolic Nuncio
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.
1. INFORMATION ON THE INDIVIDUAL. Behaviour, capacity for work,
family relationships, physical disabilities and any symptoms of hereditary
2. HUMAN QUALITIES. Intellectual, reflective and
practical abilities. Temperament and character. Internal balance. Judgement.
Sense of responsibility.
3 . HUMAN, CHRISTIAN AND PRIESTLY
FORMATION. Does he demonstrate the following human, Christian and priestly
virtues: intelligence, sense of justice, integrity, probity, objectivity,
faith, hope, love, obedience, humility, piety? Does he celebrate the Eucharist,
read the Bible and practice Marian piety on a daily basis?
BEHAVIOUR. Does he have ethical attitudes? Can he form friendships? Does he
maintain respectful relationships with State authorities?
INTELLECTUAL FORMATION AND CAPACITY. Continuing formation in ecclesiastical
subjects. Knowledge and awareness of current problems. Knowledge of other
languages. Published articles or books.
6. ORTHODOXY. Sincere
communion with the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium). What
does he think about womens ordination, sexual ethics, and in particular
the teachings of Humanae Vitae? To what extent is he loyal to the traditions of
the Church? Is he committed to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and
the papal teachings that arose from it?
7. DISCIPLINE. Loyalty
and obedience to the Holy Father, the Apostolic See and the hierarchy.
Respectful acceptance of celibacy for priests. Respectful observance of all the
general and particular norms relating to worship and Eucharistic celebration.
Does he wear long vestments or similar?
8. PASTORAL QUALITIES AND
EXPERIENCE. What abilities and experience does he have in pastoral
ministry? Is he trained and able to speak in public? Does he hear confessions?
Does he encourage religious vocations? Is he committed to the missions,
ecumenism and formation of the laity?
9. QUALITIES OF COMMAND.
Attitudes of service and of a father. Initiative. Capacity to lead. Capable
of motivating and integrating collaborators. Able to analyse and plan. Is he
capable of dialogue? Is he interested in the problems of the Church, at a
universal and at a local level?
10. ADMINISTRATIVE SKILLS.
Respect and husbanding of Church resources. Ability and keeness for
administration. Ready to consult experts when necessary to resolve specific
11. PUBLIC APPRECIATION. Is he valued by his
colleagues, his people and by the authorities?
APPRECIATION. In your opinion, does he have the qualities to be an
incumbent or auxiliary bishop? What type of diocese would suit him best: urban,
industrial, rural, large, medium or small?
13. OTHER INFORMATION.
Give the names, addresses and positions of other people (priests, religious
brothers or sisters, or lay people) who may have the judgement, impartiality
and discretion to respond to this questionnaire.