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Some priests decline appointment as bishops, Vatican cardinal confirms

February 01, 2016

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, has revealed that priests today are more likely than in the past to decline appointment as a bishop.

"Nowadays you have people who do not accept the appointment," Cardinal Ouellet conceded, although he declined to say how frequently that happens.

The Canadian cardinal said that some priests say they cannot accept an appointment because of their health, or because of some incident in their past lives. Others, he said, feel that they are not suited for the job. In the latter cases, Cardinal Ouellet said, the Congregation for Bishops insisted, because candidates may be acting out of humility, and are not necessarily the best judges of their own abilities. However, he said, if a priest makes "a decision in conscience," the Vatican respects it.

Cardinal Ouellet said that Pope Francis has put top priority on finding pastoral skills in new bishops. He also revealed that since 2010, in a questionaire about potential candidates for episcopal office, the Vatican has asked whether the priest has ever handled a sex-abuse complaint. "We have to be able to verify that he is able to handle these cases well," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Ouellet spoke at the February 1 launching of a new book, Witnesses to the Resurrected, which is a collection of materials from the Vatican's annual orientation course for newly appointed bishops. More than 1,500 bishops have now completed the course, which is taken by all new bishops.


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  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Feb. 01, 2016 7:21 PM ET USA

    Given the heavy administrative burden, it's not a surprise. Better to remain a troop in the field close to the flock than a general.