How are Catholic Bishops selected and appointed?


#1

In discussions here relating to Papal Supremacy and authority in general, it is often brought up that the Pope appoints bishops, noting that this is unique to Catholicism (especially as compared to the processes seen in Orthodoxy).

Leaving aside the Eastern Catholic Churches and focusing only on the Latin Church, is the process really as “top heavy” as often suggested? It seems that it is often assumed or expressed as if the Pope makes the decision, controling the entire process or conducting it rather independently. Practically speaking, this cannot be the case. Does (or how does) the process of nominating and appointing a Latin Catholic bishop show any similarities to the synodal processes seen in other Apostolic Churches?


#2

[quote="ByzCathCantor, post:1, topic:293031"]
In discussions here relating to Papal Supremacy and authority in general, it is often brought up that the Pope appoints bishops, noting that this is unique to Catholicism (especially as compared to the processes seen in Orthodoxy).

Leaving aside the Eastern Catholic Churches and focusing only on the Latin Church, is the process really as "top heavy" as often suggested? It seems that it is often assumed or expressed as if the Pope makes the decision, controling the entire process or conducting it rather independently. Practically speaking, this cannot be the case. Does (or how does) the process of nominating and appointing a Latin Catholic bishop show any similarities to the synodal processes seen in other Apostolic Churches?

[/quote]

Bishops are appointed by the Pope, with the Congregation for Bishops aiding him in narrowing down the choices.


#3

And how would the Congregation even know who to consider, given the expanse of the Catholic Church globally?

I know that you’ve given the short answer, but the curiousity is surely what happens before the Pope even sees a name.


#4

[quote="ByzCathCantor, post:3, topic:293031"]
And how would the Congregation even know who to consider, given the expanse of the Catholic Church globally?

I know that you've given the short answer, but the curiousity is surely what happens before the Pope even sees a name.

[/quote]

Yes, I would be interested to know. Is it something like a priest becomes notable for his leadership skills or holiness and when a spot is vacant people point to him as a possible choice?


#5

In the US, the papal nuncio submits a "slate" of possible Bishops to the Vatican. He gets input usually from the outgoing Bishop, other Bishops, any auxillaries that are in the diocese, etc. Sometimes the Pope selects someone from the list; sometimes the Pope asks for a new list to be prepared; sometimes the Pope selects someone not on the list at all. There are also situations where a priest was already considered for a previous see, not chosen, but who stayed "on the radar" so to speak.

As an added twist, there are Bishops who are already in one see that the Pope intends to later assign to a different see.


#6

[quote="Corki, post:5, topic:293031"]
In the US, ...

[/quote]

Does the USCCB have any involvement? Is there something akin to a nomination process, perhaps coordinated by the Papal Nuncio?


#7

[quote="ByzCathCantor, post:6, topic:293031"]
Does the USCCB have any involvement? Is there something akin to a nomination process, perhaps coordinated by the Papal Nuncio?

[/quote]

Not that I have ever heard of. Theoretically, the USCCB is not supposed to get involved with anything at the diocisan level - they are advisory only for national issues.


#8

[quote="ByzCathCantor, post:6, topic:293031"]
Is there something akin to a nomination process, perhaps coordinated by the Papal Nuncio?

[/quote]

No, there's no formal "nomination" involved. Remember that the process is hierarchical and not synodal in structure.


#9

[quote="Corki, post:7, topic:293031"]
Not that I have ever heard of. Theoretically, the USCCB is not supposed to get involved with anything at the diocisan level - they are advisory only for national issues.

[/quote]

I hate relying on Wikipedia for anything, especially this sort of subject matter, but an article there did state the following:

One important element in selecting a bishop is the list of priests, of both the diocesan and the religious clergy, that the bishops of the ecclesiastical province or the whole Episcopal Conference judge to be suitable generically (without reference to any particular see) for appointment as bishops. They are required to draw up this list at least once every three years, so that it is always recent.

source: Wikipedia - Appointment of Catholic Bishops

A footnote to that paragraph cited Canon 377 §2 of the CIC:

At least every three years, the Bishops of an ecclesiastical province or, if circumstances suggest it, of an Episcopal Conference, are to draw up, by common accord and in secret, a list of priests, even of members of institutes of consecrated life, who are suitable for the episcopate; they are to send this list to the Apostolic See. This is without prejudice to the right of every Bishop individually to make known to the Apostolic See the names of priests whom he thinks are worthy and suitable for the episcopal office.

I believe the USCCB would be considered the Episcopal Conference of the U.S., for example.

This suggests that the USCCB is charged with identifying suitable candidates for consideration. Further, the right of an individual bishop to make a nomination / recommendation is also affirmed here.

Wondering how that works in practice ...


#10

[quote="malphono, post:8, topic:293031"]
No, there's no formal "nomination" involved. Remember that the process is hierarchical and not synodal in structure.

[/quote]

That's sorta what I'm getting at (eventually) - does the process exhibit some [trace] elements of a synodal process?

I just posted with a reference to canon law, affirming the right of an individual bishop to make what might be called a nomination at best, a recommendation at the least.

As mentioned in the OP, this process is often spoken of as if the Pope acts alone, and there is no involvement of the episcopate. As a general premise, I find that hard to grasp both generally and in the context of other Catholic teachings on the role and nature of the Magisterium.


#11

[quote="ByzCathCantor, post:10, topic:293031"]
That's sorta what I'm getting at (eventually) - does the process exhibit some [trace] elements of a synodal process?

I just posted with a reference to canon law, affirming the right of an individual bishop to make what might be called a nomination at best, a recommendation at the least.

As mentioned in the OP, this process is often spoken of as if the Pope acts alone, and there is no involvement of the episcopate. As a general premise, I find that hard to grasp both generally and in the context of other Catholic teachings on the role and nature of the Magisterium.

[/quote]

Are you willing to accept a PM?


#12

[quote="malphono, post:8, topic:293031"]
No, there's no formal "nomination" involved. Remember that the process is hierarchical and not synodal in structure.

[/quote]

We are both NY metro folks, so let me use this as an example. Suppose the Bishop of Rockville Center retires and there is a vacancy. Do you suppose that Cardinal Dolan and the other six bishops of the suffragan dioceses of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of New York would have absolutely no say in the selection of a replacement?


#13

of course


#14

According to canon law, bishops must be:

—outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question;
—of good reputation;
—at least thirty–five years old;
—ordained to the presbyterate for at least five years;
—in possession of a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least truly expert in the same disciplines.


#15

[quote="ByzCathCantor, post:12, topic:293031"]
We are both NY metro folks, so let me use this as an example. Suppose the Bishop of Rockville Center retires and there is a vacancy. Do you suppose that Cardinal Dolan and the other six bishops of the suffragan dioceses of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of New York would have absolutely no say in the selection of a replacement?

[/quote]

In the case of a suffragen diocese, I can't imagine that the nuncio would **not **include the Archbishop as someone to consult. Not sure about the other six bishops.

But none of those have a say in the actual selection though they might have input into which names are on the list put forward.


#16

I think Byz has asked a simple question and the answer is found here: old.usccb.org/comm/bishopsfinal.pdf

The ultimate decision in appointing bishops rests with the pope, and he is free to select anyone he chooses. But how does he know whom to select?...

Stage 1: Bishops' Recommendations Every bishop may submit to the archbishop of his province the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops....

Stage 2: The Apostolic Nuncio By overseeing the final list of names forwarded to Rome, the apostolic nuncio plays a decisive role in the selection process...

Stage 3: Congregation for Bishops Once all the documentation from the nuncio is complete and in order, and the prefect approves, the process moves forward....

Stage 4: The Pope Decides At a private audience with the pope, usually on a Saturday, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops presents the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father. A few days later, the pope informs the Congregation of his decision....

While different from that used by the Orthodox, it certainly starts with local input and is well vetted...


#17

[quote="johnnykins, post:16, topic:293031"]
I think Byz has asked a simple question and the answer is found here: old.usccb.org/comm/bishopsfinal.pdf

While different from that used by the Orthodox, it certainly starts with local input and is well vetted...

[/quote]

A very informative link - thanks!

It would seem that the most significant differences between this and the common Orthodox approach is (i) it is not synodal and (ii) bishops do not have a vote, but can only influence the vetting process.

That said, as with all such processes in large, entrenched organizations, its probably not as simple as suggested on paper. The linked memo does give a good working summary, including a definition of key terms and players, yet understandably fails to capture the human dynamic involved.


#18

Thanks for that. I couldn’t remember where the document was - I was going by memory. :slight_smile:


#19

This was interesting (from the linked USCCB memo):

Stage 1: Bishops' Recommendations

Every bishop may submit to the archbishop of his province the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops. Prior to the regular province meeting (usually annually), the archbishop distributes to all the bishops of the province the names and curricula vitae of priests which have been submitted to him. Following a discussion among the bishops at the province meeting, a vote is taken on which names to recommend. The number of names on this provincial list may vary. The vote tally, together with the minutes of the meeting, is then forwarded by the archbishop to the apostolic nuncio in Washington. The list is also submitted to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).


#20

The dioceses in which I live currently has no bishop. Our previous Bishop died approximately 14 months ago. In the past year several other bishops have been appointed to other dioceses in this country.

The process for appointing a new bishop was described in a newsletter that was distributed around our diosceses about a year ago. I cant find it on the Website.
It contained some more plain languate detail about some parts of the process than the document from the USCCB that a previous poster linked to. The below description is from memory. I'm not trying to duplicate the parts or details on the USCCB description.

1) the process cannot start untill the existing Bishop dies or retires. It cannot start if a existing bishop is terminally ill (but not old enough to tender his request for retirement)
2) all clergy are permitted to retire at the age of 75 and not before. Their superior can refuse the request to retire.
3) a retiring bishop can submit his post-dated request to retire about 1 year in advance permitting the selection process for a successor to begin.

4)Once a vacancy has arisen, a dioscessan administrator is appointed to run the diosceses untill a new bishop is appointed (except in the post dated retirement case above)
5) The Dioscessan adminsistrator, together with the other clergy and lay members of a council carry out a detailed assessment of the diosceses. they are tasked with defining the needs and desires of the diosceses as a whole.
6) They may make advisory reccomendations regarding existing clergy within their own dioceses who they feel would be suitable candidates to fulfill those needs but that would be a seperate document.
7) There will be an existing recent list held by the national or regional heirachy of men who are eligible and potentially suitable for appointment to the episcopacy, and what their qualities are. This list amy be updated at this time if necessary (possibly by adding the name(s) submitted by the affected dioscess if they have not been previously added.

8) The needs of the diosceses is compared with the skills and qualities of the long list. This permits a shorter list of potential candidates who are considered worthy of closer examination.

9) the potential candidates on this shorter list are carefully investigated and assessed. - the aim being to assess them for suitability for the specific vacancy being considered. This includes confidential discussions with clergy and laity who know and have worked with the potential candidates. anyone contacted is sworn to absoloute secrecy. they may never disclose the fact that they were asked about the candidate. - It if were known that someone was considered but not selected this could be misinterpreted as a slur on that mans character.

10) The short list is narrowed down to 3 or more candidates. It may include a stated preference for one of the candidates. This list is submitted to the Vatican. The full results of the investigations into these men is included.

11) The appropriate Vatican congregation considers the candidates and then passes the list up to the Pope himself with their recommendations for his final decision and approval of a candidate or rejection of the short-list.

12) I believe it is permissible within the Roman Rite for the pope to reject the list and impose his own candidate, but this would be highly unusual.

13) Selection of Bishops in other Rites who are in commune with Rome have their own processes, but still require Papal approval for the final candidate. but this may be the submission of a single name.


This description is not intended to be comprehensive. There are more legal details of whis parts are done by which local national regional or Vatican bodies in the document from the USCCB previously posted.


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