Quick Hits: Lay involvement in choosing bishop? Assisted suicide vs. manslaughter; A political prediction

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 16, 2017

As a chaotic week (for me, at least) comes to a close, forgive me if my thoughts are a bit disconnected. But:

The word from Rome is that Pope Francis wants lay Catholics to be involved in the process of choosing new bishops. But which lay Catholics would be invited to take part in the process? If the consultation is restricted to the lay Catholics on the chancery speed-dial lists—the people who are already deeply involved in diocesan affairs—not much will be gained. On the other hand there are many wonderful, prayerful lay Catholics who don’t pay much attention to the business of Church governance, and wouldn’t be anxious to involve themselves in the process. How could the process be designed to solicit opinions from faithful Catholics, and to bring out the thoughts of people who are more interested in the welfare of the faith than in their own particular causes? Sure, the diocese could circulate a questionnaire. But the survey results would be filtered through essentially the same process that is now used for selecting new bishops. Short of a popular vote—which isn’t going to happen, and shouldn’t—how could lay consultation work?

In Massachusetts today, a jury* ruled that a teenage girl was guilty of manslaughter when she sent text messages to her boyfriend encouraging him to kill himself. Keep that legal precedent in mind when, in a few months, liberal lawmakers launch a new effort to legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts. If a doctor had sent the unfortunate young man those messages, urging him to go through with what he said he wanted to do, would that have been better?

(* Correction: a judge, not a jury, delivered the trial verdict.)

Writing in the Irish Catholic, columnist David Quinn makes what looks to me like a shrewd political prediction:

The report into the country’s mother and baby homes is due out next February. I think that points very strongly to an abortion referendum within weeks of that, in other words in March or April of next year. The Government won’t want public anger at the mother and baby homes to go to waste.

The negative report on the mother-and-baby homes—with a detailed indictment of the poor treatment shown to unwed mothers—is sure to stoke the flames of anti-Catholicism, which (as Quinn observes) is already a powerful force in Ireland today. With the Church on the defensive, pro-abortion politicians are very likely to seize the opportunity.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: nix898049 - Jun. 22, 2017 4:49 PM ET USA

    Oh, Phil, you read my mind again! When I heard about that verdict my first thought was it would never have come to trial if she'd had 'MD' behind her name. But then PA doesn't have Dr. prescribed suicide on the books. Yet.

  • Posted by: iprayiam5731 - Jun. 19, 2017 11:56 AM ET USA

    With the extraordinary number of nonpracticing Catholics vs practicing, lay involvement is simply not a good idea. You couldn't do it without a hard standard for who is the "right" kind of Catholic to have a voice, and any objective standard would create more problems than it would help.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Jun. 18, 2017 9:56 AM ET USA

    The "intelligent" selection of Bishops by lay people would require a complete, no holds barred biography of each candidate. Considering how the Church keeps its cards very close to its chest the "intelligent" selection of Bishops doesn't stand a chance. The current selection process of Bishops will remain essentially the de facto standard.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 17, 2017 9:36 AM ET USA

    "But which lay Catholics would be invited...?" The question hits the nail precisely on its head. Two recent events, that don't inspire confidence in that type of process, come to mind: selection of participants for the 2014-15 "Synod on the Family" gave strong impression that outcome was decided before the "Synod" even started, and a messy "election" of new leader of the Knights of Malta appeared to have been rigged.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jun. 17, 2017 3:25 AM ET USA

    Re the selection of bishops. Maybe the people could vote on a pool of possible bishops and present the top three vote getters to the Pope to make the final selection.