From up close or from afar many of you know about the story being told that a Benedictine Abbot in England declined to become or postponed becoming the next Archbishop of Westminster, which is normally brings a red hat.
My friend Fr. Ray Blake, of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has some pointed comments about the whole scenario to which any man who thinks he should be a bishop might pay close attention.
As you go in, remember that there is a strong current of hearsay going on in the background. But certain rumors have that ineffable….sorry… that’s a hard word for some enemies of Liturgiam authenticam… an ineffable quality of being true.
My emphases and comments.
I am not too sure I believe the rumour about Dom Hugh Gilbert, Abbot of Pluscarden being offered then turning down or delaying taking the diocese of Westminster, because of problems in the monastery.
If the story has a basis in truth then the implications are pretty radical. I do not know much about Abbot Hugh, except he is known for his holiness and Pluscarden has a reputation even amongst monastics as being ascetic and contemplative and conservative. It has no school, no parish, the community is small, less than thirty. There is really no comparison here with the appointment of Basil Hume. Ampleforth with its school and dependent parishes is comparable to a small diocese, Pluscarden is more like a small isolated country parish.
If this story has a basis in truth, [and here is the meat of the nut] then the Pope has passed over our present bishops, therefore he is not looking to administrative ability, or to those who have "proved" themselves in the present narrow and narrowing system. [What Damian of Holy Smoke and others have dubbed "the Magic Circle"]
He is looking to a radical commitment to Christ and holiness, and a rootedness in Tradition, and from what I have heard of Dom Hugh an ability to draw people to Christ. [Which one might consider a good quality in a bishop.]
Like many priests I have become increasingly concerned by the way in which bishops have been appointed in England and Wales. This is apparently the questionnaire that is sent by the nuncio to gather information on candidates. [It is sent out confidentially] Amongst other things it asks about Orthodoxy:
Doctrinal orientation. Loyalty to the Doctrine and Magisterium of the Church. In particular: the attitude of the candidate to the Documents of the Holy See on the Ministerial Priesthood, on the Priestly Ordination of Women, on marriage, on sexual Ethics and on Social Justice. Fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church and commitment to the authentic renewal promoted by Vatican 11, and adherence to the "Statement of Conclusions, 1998".
but nowhere does it ask if the candidate actually believes in God or can communicate that belief. [Not an idle question. Though if a man adheres to the "Doctrine and Magisterium" I suppose it can be assumed that he adheres to the Creed.] Some readers might be scandalised by this suggestion that a bishop might not believe but today the Church needs bishops whose belief in God transforms them and their priests and [here it is…] is immediately evident.
It is not unusual to sit through a sermon preached by a few of our bishops, which never mention God or refer to the scriptures, [But may in fact mention "fair trade" and "global warming"] which not only fail to inspire, but leave one wondering if the preacher believes anything at all. Nor is it unusual to attend a confirmation that seems more like a rather shoddy graduation ceremony rather than the completion of Christian Initiation and bestowing of the Seal of the Holy Spirit. [Well done, Father.]
England and Wales desperately needs evangelisation, evangelisation isn’t about clever techniques or sociology, it is certainly not about cunning schemes, [Amen and amen.] small groups or large groups, it is about holiness which comes from living faith and a deep personal desire for Christ, and a firm hope in Divine Providence. I pray that I am wrong about the Abbot, and he really will be the next Archbishop of Westminster. If it is true, then his appointment will be criticised for his lack worldliness and of administrative experience, but quite frankly I suspect holiness trumps administrative ability, and we all know about worldly bank managers nowadays.
If His Hermeneuticalness can’t be the next Archbishop… then maybe … after this Abbot?
Good work, Fr. Blake. WDTPRS kudos to you.